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Monday, June 01, 2009

 

I Swear, I Don't Like Billy Elliot That Much: ModFab's Guide To The 2009 Tony Awards

The 2009 Tony Awards® are upon us! And after 364 days that revealed a surprisingly accomplished and intelligent season (good on you, Broadway!), there's nothing left to do but pick the winners...and to grouse about who should have really won.

BEST PLAY
Dividing The Estate
God Of Carnage Will Win
reasons to be pretty
33 Variations Should Win

Carnage, the star-studded diamelle of the bunch, has the added benefit of being a crowd-pleasing comedy, the only one in the bunch. You can't fight farce; it should waltz easily to a win, provided sentiment for the late, great Horton Foote doesn't push Dividing The Estate into contention. (For what it's worth, I didn't think any of these plays were all that; the best works of the season, Ruined, Wig Out and Black Watch, all premiered Off-Broadway instead. But if I had to choose a favorite, I'd go with the elegant symmetry of 33 Variations.)

BEST MUSICAL
Billy Elliot Will Win/Should Win
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical

Honestly, it's really adorable how Next To Normal fans think they actually have a shot. Just adorable. Adorable, and ridiculously myopic. Because they don't. (Though I still find Rock of Ages, pound for pound, to be the most entertaining of the four.)

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Billy Elliot, Lee Hall
Next to Normal, Brian Yorkey Will Win
Shrek The Musical, David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show], Hunter Bell Should Win

The widespread infection obsession with Next To Normal edges out Billy Elliot here...but don't count out Hunter Bell, a well-liked actor/writer in the industry, whose tiny cult musical has a more rabid following than Normal. Die vampire, die!

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Billy Elliot, Elton John and Lee Hall Will Win
Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
9 to 5: The Musical, Dolly Parton
Shrek The Musical, Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire Should Win

It's quite possible that the fervor for Normal will move it to the winner's circle here...but it's hard for me to believe that Elton John isn't foolproof insurance for Billy. I really don't care for any of these scores, to be frank...but since I'm of the opinion that Shrek is better than the reviews gave it credit for, I'll put a mark in its column.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Mary Stuart Should Win
The Norman Conquests Will Win
Waiting For Godot

2009 was the best year for play revivals in my lifetime, period. In addition to these four stellar examples, consider the ones that weren't nominated: All My Sons, Blithe Spirit, Desire Under The Elms, Equus, The Seagull, Speed-The-Plow, and the season's most surprising masterwork, Exit The King. I loved loved LOVED the queens of Mary Stuart, but with the momentum of precusor awards Drama Desk and Outer Critics, I don't think there's any question that Norman will succeed with the Tony conquest.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Guys and Dolls
Hair Will Win/Should Win
Pal Joey
West Side Story

It seems that industry opinion has swayed strongly to the hippies of Hair in the last month. But it's not much of an accomplishment, frankly...the other three efforts are flawed at best (and horrific at worst).

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT
Liza’s at The Palace Will Win/Should Win Slava’s Snowshow Soul of Shaolin You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush

I'm sorry to burst your bubble of hope, Shaolin monks.

LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King Will Win/Should Win
Thomas Sadoski, reasons to be pretty

In a rare trifecta, Rush took the Drama League, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics prizes for King. As well he should...it's nearly irresistible awards bait, a showy tour de force that attracts attention like moths to a flame. It's a shame there are no runner-up prizes at the Tonys, though. Esparza is overdue for a statuette, and would have had it if Rush hadn't swept in this spring. Sorry, dude, better luck next time.

LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations Might Win
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage Might Win
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart Should Win/Might Win
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart

Honestly, I think the three-way race between Fonda, Harden and McTeer is almost too close to call. My heart leans toward McTeer, who gave, IMHO, the performance of the year. But Harden exhibited a surprising flair for comedy, and Fonda dazzled in her dramatic deterioration. So I'm guessing McTeer...but just barely.
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot Should Win
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical Will Win
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal

The early awards coalesced around James, a Broadway veteran who does the heavy lifting in his musical. It's not a dazzling performance, but it's solid, yeoman's work. Personally, I'd lean toward Creel or the Billy boys, but James is such a great guy (and such a talented artist) you can't be upset with his win.

LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical Should Win
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal Will Win
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story

The chatter says that Ripley is a shoo-in. But Janney upset her at the Drama Desks, and Scaglione and Foster tied at the Outer Critics. That means she's 0 for 2. Still, it's the most natural place for Normal fans to make their ardor evident. As good as Janney is in 9 To 5, her poor singing keeps me from pulling for an upset. So I'll go with my beloved, Foster, who hams it up beautifully in Shrek.

FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations Should Win
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone Will Win

With Ritter probably pulling a few votes from the (more appropriately laudatory) turn by Mangan in the same play, I think this category finally began to coalesce last week in the minds of the voters for a winner -- Robinson. He's not only a revered character actor finally getting his due, but his win does double duty of recognizing Joe Turner, which isn't seriously figuring into any other major category. But if I had my way, I'd fete Grenier's marvelously tormented turn as Beethoven.

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, reasons to be pretty Should Win
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit Will Win
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests

At least a small sentimental vote will be going to Hallie Foote (her late father wrote her play), and Marin Ireland, in the toughest of parts, was also the best in this category. (And also a LEAD, not a supporting performance, no matter what the Tony eligibility gods say.) But I'd be shocked and awed, frankly, if Lansbury didn't strut away with this. She's widely loved and enjoying rave reviews (in an otherwise uninspired revival). She's won many times before...but not in a while. And she's Jessica Fletcher...don't think it doesn't matter. It does.)

FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Bologna, Billy Elliot
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot Will Win
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair Should Win

Yes yes, I know you need me to pick a winner. But may I completely gay out for a minute? I'm madly in love with Swenson and Sieber, and Kudisch ain't bad either. Who to choose, among my fantasy theatrical paramours? The answer is easy...none of them. Bologna, the fey friend in Billy Elliot, is a charming memory for voters, one of the great comic relief turns of the decade. And as Billy's father, veteran Jbara brings pathos to the (admittedly silly) procedings. I'm hoping Swenson has paid enough dues to pull it out, or that Sieber benefits from a surprise Shrek uptick in votes. But damn, that Bologna is going to be formidable.

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot Will Win
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey Should Win
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot

When assessing this category, it's important to remember three things:
1) The best thing in West Side Story is Olivo.
2) The best thing in Pal Joey was Plimpton.
3) The best thing usually doesn't win Tonys.

Now, I'm not saying Olivo or Plimpton won't win...actually, I'd put even money on Olivo to pull it out. But of the five, the truly memorable performance is Gwynne's...she's already won a slew of trophies for her portrayal in London, which she'll add to on Sunday night.

And quickly, my other guesses:

SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King Should Win
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations Will Win
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot Will Win/Should Win
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal

COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King Will Win
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart Should Win

COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages Should Win
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical Will Win
Michael McDonald, Hair

LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations Will Win/Should Win
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Kevin Adams, Hair Should Win
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal Will Win
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paul Arditti, Mary Stuart
Gregory Clarke, Equus
Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King Will Win
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone Should Win

SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Acme Sound Partners, Hair
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical Will Win
Peter Hylenski, Rock of Ages Should Win
Brian Ronan, Next to Normal

DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart Should Win
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage Will Win
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests

DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair Will Win/Should Win

CHOREOGRAPHY
Karole Armitage, Hair Should Win
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical Will Win
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

ORCHESTRATIONS
Larry Blank, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Should Win
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal Will Win
Danny Troob and John Clancy, Shrek The Musical

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