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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Stage Addiction: 2008 Tony Nominations

Wow. Leave it to the Tonys to pull a few surprises, most notably the rejection of major titans of the theatre: Mel Brooks, Harvey Fierstein and Walt Disney. AND no love for Hollywood royalty, including the complete absence of Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Morgan Freeman, Peter Gallagher, Terrence Howard, James Earl Jones, and more.

And what do we find in their place? Scrappy little musicals with Off-Broadway roots, and one helluva play from Chicago. Read on...

Best Play (ModFab Predix: 4 out of 4 correct)
August: Osage County
Rock 'N' Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

No surprises here. But read on, my friends, the shocks await you further down the page...

Best Musical (3/4)
In The Heights
Passing Strange

I'm at a loss as to how anyone thinks Cry-Baby is a better musical than A Catered Affair, but it's definitely a more commercial show, with a better chance to make money on the road. And there are some great people working on it, so I can't be too upset. (Still, I'd hate to be the poor guys and gals who have to have a production meeting with Harvey or Mel today.)

Best Book of a Musical (3/4)
Douglas Carter Beane, Xanadu
Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Cry-Baby
Quiara Alegria Hudes, In The Heights
Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange

See a trend developing? Clearly, the nominators liked Cry-Baby more than most critics, or most people, have. In this particular case, it was a moment of paying tribute to Meehan, who has in recent years become Mr. Broadway in this category.

Best Original Score (3/4)
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights
Alan Schlesinger and David Javerbaum, Cry-Baby
Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, The Little Mermaid
Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange

Seeing the other trend? Boy, I totally missed the distaste the nominators would have for A Catered Affair...especially if they're willing to nominate the score of a 15-year-old animated film instead. I'm honestly surprised at the vitriol; it's an unexpected and difficult musical, but not an abysmally bad one. (For that, you'd have to go see Young Frankenstein, the other mega-musical skipped in the major categories.)

Best Revival of a Play (3/4)
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Steve On Broadway was right, as I half-expected: The Homecoming gets the final slot, over Top Girls. Sheesh, not a good day for complex material, huh? Not to say that Pinter isn't complex, but director Daniel Sullivan's got a showman's gift for crowd-pleasing, which he brought to the Pinter play. Seems to have worked.

Best Revival of a Musical (4/4)
South Pacific
Sunday in the Park with George

The only shock would have been to see Cry-Baby in this category, because the nominators liked it so much.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play (4/5)
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'N' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

I'm a little surprised at the inclusion of Sewell over Nathan Lane, the belle of Broadway...I figured he was a bit of a shoo-in, considering how much audiences love seeing him in comic performances. But clearly the Tony folk were in a British mood; all of the nominees save Fishburne are from the U.K. That may not be a first-ever, but it's certainly rare.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play (3/5)
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

The British obsession continues, with the inclusion of Best and Fleetwood here...but this time, it's far harder to understand the logic. Especially when it comes to Fleetwood, who by any measure just isn't very good in the part. (My take: she makes very obvious choices, and telegraphs them to the back row without any dexterity.) This is also not a very good sign for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof...a nomination for Anika Noni Rose would have sent a subtle signal of support for the popular but panned revival.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical (4/5)
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

While I'm overjoyed that Evans scored a nod for his bravura turn as Georges Seurat, it comes at the expense of ModFab Boyfriend Cheyenne Jackson, so it's very bittersweet. Also of note: Catered Affair finally gets on the board, with a nomination for the eminently deserving Wopat.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical (5/5)
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George

And finally, ModFab gets a perfect 5 out of 5...but truthfully, this wasn't very difficult. No one else even came close to these five ladies this season.

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play (1/5)
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raúl Esparza, The Homecoming
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
Jim Norton, The Seafarer
David Pittu, Is He Dead?

My shakiest category, and I knew it would be. But who would have predicted five nominees, all of whom are from already-closed shows? I'd say that Norton was the frontrunner, but he may split votes with his scene partner Hill. Does that give Tony magnet David Pittu (Lovemusik) -- who I didn't even mention as a long shot -- a chance at a win? Or shall the Tony voters try to address last year's sore loser for Company, and give a consolation prize to Esparza?

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play (3/5)
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'N' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

The most egregious omission so far, in my opinion, has to be Elizabeth Marvel, who lived up to her last name with a near-Shakespearean turn in Top Girls. But who can question the inclusion of Rondi Reed, so memorable as the loud, bitter aunt in August: Osage County? I certainly can't. (Well, I can say one other thing...Marvel should have been up for Leading, not Supporting.)

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical (4/5)
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Danny Burstein, South Pacific
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy

It is one thing to skip Harvey Fierstein as a book writer for A Catered Affair. But to also skip him as a performer? It's unthinkable. Sure, I don't think it's his best work, but it certainly surpasses the mugging Feldman impression of Fitzgerald's Igor. I bet the Walter Kerr Theatre is a really unpleasant place to be this morning.

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical (1/5)
De'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, South Pacific

Again, the Tonys reject the old guard (Priscilla Lopez, Sutton Foster, Sherie Rene Scott, Mary Testa) in favor of new faces...three of these performers are making their Broadway debuts! This probably clears the path for Benanti, who has been working in the trenches for the last few years (Nine, The Wedding Singer) and deserves her moment in the sun. And I'll say it again: Martin's inclusion here, as much as I like her personally, is appalling. Just like her work in the show, which is mere parody of Chloris Leachman.

Best Direction of a Play (2/4)
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing

I've only seen two of these so far (I see 39 Steps on Sunday for my birthday, and Boeing the following week), so it's hard for me to judge this category personally. But again there is the trend of rejecting established directors like Trevor Nunn (Rock 'N' Roll) and Daniel Sullivan (The Homecoming) in favor of Broadway newcomers like Aitken and Shapiro. And the inclusion of McPherson, who directed his own play (and didn't help it very much in that department...the play was great, the directing was merely adequate), seems curious.

Best Direction of a Musical (3/4)
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, South Pacific

Since we've now established that we hate all things related to A Catered Affair, I can see how John Doyle got skipped. And Kail is a perfectly fine choice to put in his place.

Best Choreography (3/4)
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Christopher Gattelli, South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu

Yeah, I probably should have put down South Pacific, as I mentioned in my predictions...I just thought Susan Stroman might still have some fans out there. This is a very strong category, though.

And although I didn't make picks in the following categories, here they are, for your amusement, enjoyment, and discussion in the comments...

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In the Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County
Anthony Ward, Macbeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday in the Park with George
Anna Louizos, In the Heights
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Michael Yeargan, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Costume Design of a Play
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell, Boeing-Boeing
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps

Best Costume Design of a Musical
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In the Heights
Catherine Zuber, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison, Macbeth
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Howell Binkley, In the Heights
Donald Holder, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid

Best Sound Design of a Play
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork, Macbeth
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), in recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations, as represented on Broadway this season by Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

In The Heights, 13
South Pacific, 11
Sunday in the Park with George, 9
August: Osage County, Gypsy, Passing Strange, 7
Boeing-Boeing, Macbeth, The 39 Steps, 6
Les Liaisons Dangereuses , 5
Cry-Baby, Rock 'n' Roll , The Seafarer , Xanadu, 4
A Catered Affair, The Homecoming, Young Frankenstein, 3
The Little Mermaid, 2
Come Back Little Sheba, Cyrano de Bergerac, Grease, Is He Dead?, Mauritius, November, Thurgood , Top Girls, 1

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Blogger Vance said...

Other than the Cry Baby surprises (and yeah, I guess they really did hate ACA) I thought it was generally a pretty good nomination list. I wished Jackson, Testa and Hoffman got noms, but I like the general shift to the new guard over the old or "stars".

Especially yay for Breaker and Aziza!

5/13/08, 11:10 AM  
Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

ModFab, I'm as flummoxed as you over the crass act (Cry-Baby winning nods over the class act (A Catered Affair).

I may have been the least surprised person when David Puttu's nod was announced. He was truly exceptional and stole the show every time he appeared in the funny Is He Dead?. His nomination is deserved, but I think it will go to Norton by a nose.

The big story that I haven't heard anyone really discuss yet is Stew's breathtaking number of nominations: four categories!

5/13/08, 1:27 PM  
Blogger John T said...

I live in the middle of America-far, far away from the Great White Way, but as a filmgoer, I'm bumming that Linney didn't make it. Why'd they leave out this particular national treasure? ModFab, any insight?

5/13/08, 1:33 PM  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i dunno. i always worry about TONY's thirst for new talent since one of the biggest problems (as i see it) with Broadway is the way it doesn't foster big careers within itself. Someone is great in their debut and then nobody puts them in anything or writes anything for their talents and then we're on to the next person. argh.


happy that Xanadu got some nods but i also think TESTA shoulda been there (hilarious)

and i'm sorta stunned that Laura Linney missed (given the role)

5/13/08, 2:18 PM  
Blogger will g said...

Can you say: Lowest. Ratings. EVER.

5/13/08, 2:37 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

JOHN T: The omission of Linney is probably due to the general feeling that she isn't very good in the role. I, personally, think the director sent her astray, choosing a character interpretation that's too brittle for a piece about sex and betrayal. Still, it's a shame.

5/13/08, 4:34 PM  
Blogger Vance said...

Nath R. Really? I find that too often the Tony's vote for the same people over and over again whether deserved or not (or same with the big stars).

I'm glad that the new guard is getting nominations (like Aziza and Breaker for Passing Strange)

5/13/08, 11:54 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I actually liked Linney's take on the role, but I had a feeling she'd get snubbed. It's just too subtle/low-key an interpretation of a part people will inevitably compare to Glenn Close's phenomenal-but-BIG performance.

Direct quote from elderly woman sitting next to me during intermission: "She's no good, this Laura Linney. She's not cruel enough."

From her mouth to Tony voters' ears apparently.

5/14/08, 12:56 AM  

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