a theatre, film & pop culture review
If you’ve read my Oscar predictions post, you know how long this type of post can be. Unfortunately, because I’m a bit behind schedule, this will be mostly just predictions, with the just the barest of criticism. But yes, let it be known: I did see every last nominated performance/production and so this will be an informed prediction.
So, without further ado, here are my picks (*), as well as my predictions. Enjoy!
Dividing the Estate
Author: Horton Foote
God of Carnage
Author: Yasmina Reza
Reasons to Be Pretty*
Author: Neil LaBute
Author: Moisés Kaufman
This is a rather dismal category. Actually, all of them are, but Broadway plays always seem to bring forth rather lackluster material as of late years. I wasn’t floored by any of these: I wanted more carnage (and fewer cliches) in Carnage, less Amadeus and more originality and emotional connection in Variations, and I frankly could’ve done without Estate altogether (zzzzzzzzzzz). I’m not a huge LaBute fan, but he seems to be softening up a bit, which I enjoy, creating characters that are a little less hateful and a little more sympathetic. The amazing performances by Thomas Sadowski and Marin Ireland didn’t hurt either.
Billy Elliot, The Musical*
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical
This category is a no brainer. Next to Normal is the clear winner in voters’ eyes, but my fingers are crossed for the little boy who just wants to DANCE! Normal tries too hard to be “edgy” and “important,” but the music is uninspired, the lyrics oftentimes insulting (the bipolar lead sings “I saw this movie,” and continues to parallel her experience to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as she stands defiantly on a gurney…ugh), and the book just all around underwhelming as it fails to take any risks beyond its initial concept (ie. a musical about mental illness!). I like Rock of Ages more now that I’ve seen the YouTube series, but it’s just shallow good fun, and Shrek is…well, Shrek. Billy”s book is heartwarming and topical, though Sir Elton’s music is by far the weakest link in the show (someone please tell this man to stop writing musicals) — he has no theatrical sensibility when it comes to developing character and themes — it’s just pop music. But god damn if I didn’t love every minute of this show.
[Unfortunately, the only nominated productions that I did not see were the “special theatrical events.” Somehow, I think Will Ferell will be successful with or without my vote…or money]
Best Book of a Musical
Billy Elliot, The Musical Lee Hall *
Next to Normal Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show] Hunter Bell
I actually have no idea what the committee will go for here, but my vote goes to Hall. I wouldn’t be surprised if [tos] lands this one, as this is the only nomination that show received (and you know I feel vindicated because of that :)).
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Billy Elliot, The Musical
Music: Elton John
Lyrics: Lee Hall
Next to Normal
Music: Tom KittLyrics: Brian Yorkey
9 to 5: The Musical *
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Shrek The Musical
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
I hope I’m wrong with my prediction, but I doubt it. I can’t lie: I had a FANTASTIC time at 9 to 5, and though that was mostly due to the book and choreography, Dolly does have a knack for lyrics and tunes — if not showtunes. And if I didn’t know Tesori brought us those fine scores in Caroline, or Change and Violet, I’d think she was hopeless.
Best Revival of a Play
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot
The winner here is so clear to me, but since I’m not voting, the only one we can really count out is Godot (zzzzzzzzzzzzzz). The critics loved Joe, audiences and (most) critics loved Norman (my least. favorite. show. of. the. year.), and most all adored Mary. Forget the guys, the gal-dominated production trumps them all with its fierceness and intensity.
Best Revival of a Musical
Guys and Dolls
West Side Story
This category may be the saddest of all. I’m not sure how you screw up classic musical comedy gold, but Lauren Graham & Co. sure figured it out with Guys and Dolls, possibly the worst production of a musical I’ve ever seen on the Great White Way. Pal Joey wasn’t much better, and we all know how I feel about West Side Story. I am not a fan of Hair, and this production did not change my mind, but everyone adores it, and so it’s winning, like it or not. If I have to pick one to win, I’m — shockingly — going to root for WSS. But only because of the incredible score, choreography and (some of the) performances. Lord knows it wasn’t the direction, design, or the added Spanish.
Best Performance by a 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*
Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty
I don’t know how he can’t win. Seriously. And I thought all the other guys were terrific, too.
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage*
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart
This is a bit harder than the guys. The Mary ladies were fantastic, and Marcia Gay Harden was hardcore fierce. I think the Marys may cancel each other out with half the committee voting for one, half for the other — but who can say for sure? Janet is the critical darling (though I tend to think the performance is a bit affected), but I’m going to go for Marcia. If only for her amazing ability to beat the crap out of James Gandolfini, while spitting verbal fire at everyone else. Fun stuff.
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot, The Musical*
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal
This category is boring. What a sad year for musical theatre all-around — except for the dynamite performances by the trio of Billys. (side note: I found Constantine utterly charming. There, I said it.)
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal*
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story
This isn’t even a competition. (and what in god’s good name is Stockard doing up there? The woman can. not. sing. (yes, she has gotten worse since Grease! No, I am not kidding). Then again, neither can Janney…but I love her too much to fault her for that).
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone*
And I thought the last category was underwhelming, but I had to look half of these gentlemen up in ibdb.com just to remember who they played. Roger Robinson gets my vote, as he was both charming and smart in Joe Turner. Glover would be my second vote, but I have a feeling voters will go for one of the Norman boys. I can’t be bothered to look them up, as I disliked this trilogy — and everything associated with it — so much. Sorry, guys: it’s not you–it’s Ayckbourn.
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, Reasons to Be Pretty
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit*
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests
I cannot even fathom that voters won’t give this one to Angela. So, so charming and funny and still so sprightly at age 84, her Madam Arcati steals the show each time she’s on stage. No one else even holds a candle to her. The only way I’d forgive Tonys voters for not voting for Jessica Fletcher is if they vote for the fabulous Marin Ireland.
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical*
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair
I have a feeling the funny guys are going to win the day here. Kudisch is great as the smarmy womanizer, Franklin Hart, and Christopher Sieber’s pint-sized, egomaniacal Lord-Farquaad made me laugh so hard I cried. Unfortunately, he’s in that big green show, so he’ll probably get the cold shoulder. Shrek’s not gettin’ any Tony-love, guaranteed.
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story*
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo is fierce (word-of-the-day). That is all.
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King*
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
I didn’t get the Norman design (what was with that miniature cityscape that disappeared as soon as the show began?) and Joe Turner’s was a bit overly-conceptual for my taste, but Exit’s was pitch-perfect with the crumbling, rich asthetic. Too bad it’s not showy enough to win — this may be the category that earns 33 Variations its sole Tony (though I thought the twirling bookcases were a bit over-the-top, they were fun and helpfully distinguished between the two worlds within the show).
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical*
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal
What was up with the projections in Guys and Dolls? And that ridiculously tall staircase in Pal Joey? Discluding those missteps leaves us with the “edgy” Normal and the never dull let’s-move-in/up/down-a-set-piece-every-five-minutes Billy. I vote for the latter, if only because I have the attention span of a 6 year-old.
Best Costume Design of a Play
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart*
I love the contrast between the men’s contemporary suits and the women’s period pieces (especially that gorgeous red velvet number that Janet McTeer sports at the end).
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages*
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, ShrekThe Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair
I want Gale to costume my next 80s party. Amazing. If Shrek gets any love, it clearly will be for its clever fairy-tale creature costumes.
Best Lighting Design of a Play
David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations*
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart
MacDevitt’s design gave Joe Turner the magical realism-quality that it needed, but I like the more elegant and musical-quality of Lander’s. (If that makes sense. I’m not sure it does, but there you have it.)
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hair
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical*
Binkley designs for pretty much every major musical that comes to Broadway, but unfortunately, I cannot forgive him for the mess that was Parade’s Bway design. Fisher’s alternately subtle and flashy design wins my vote.
[I’m skipping sound design, as I know nothing about that…]
Best Direction of a Play
Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart*
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Best Direction of a Musical
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical*
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair
I cannot even tell you about the genius that is Stephen Daldry’s staging. Go see Billy and discover it for yourself.
Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical*
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
This was a tough call, but Billy IS the dance musical, so Tony voters are going to gravitate towards it when it comes time to cast ballots (as they should: the dance numbers are phenomenal). But my boy Blankenbuehler (of In the Heights fame) takes a fluff piece and elevates it with his office-like choreography. I can’t explain it — just go see it. We haven’t seen such a distinct style of musical choreography since Fosse. So great!
[I don’t know anything about orchestrations either.]
There you have it. Happy Tonys Day!