Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2011 Tony Awards: Best Actor in a Musical

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winners will be in orange.

BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

1. Tony Sheldon
Priscilla Queen of the Desert

2. Norbert Leo Butz
Catch Me If You Can

3. Andrew Rannells
The Book of Mormon 

4. Josh Gad
The Book of Mormon

5. Joshua Henry
The Scottsboro Boys

Missing: Daniel Radcliffe, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying

A great year for leading men in musicals, this category is full of some super-strong performances. So let me just start with the performance that is obviously missing: Daniel Radcliffe was snubbed for his the adorable, energetic, super-dedicated portrayal of corporate climber J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed. I’ve said everything I need to about  Daniel and the production here, so I’ll just say he deserved a nomination and leave it at that.

Unfortunately, I saw The Scottsboro Boys off-Broadway where Brandon Victor Dixon played Haywood Patterson, the angry-earnest, wrongfully-accused young man, with a heckuva lot of rage. Though critics almost universally praised his Broadway replacement Joshua Henry‘s brooding take on the most indignant (and well-developed) of the boys, the other four nominees are still beltin’ and hoofin’ it on the Great White Way, so Joshua is but a distant memory.

The Mormon boys charmed critics and crowds alike:  the adorable  Andrew Rannells plays Elder Price, the ambitious believer longing to baptize tourist and Tarzan alike in Orlando, with utterly infectious, super-sunny optimism. The aimless schmuck he’s unluckily paired with is Elder Cunningham, hilariously played by Josh Gad with all the shlubby charm of Zak Galifianakis, in a fitting follow up to his original take on William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. But because they’re competing against one another, they’ll more than likely cancel each other out.

Norbert Leo Butz is that rare breed of performer who fully captivates critics and audiences over and over again. Just try to find a disparaging or disappointed remark about the beloved Butz –go ahead, I’ll wait. Because even in the dismal Catch Me if You Can, he is wildly praised for his energy and dedication to the most thankless of roles: as the schlubby and obnoxious FBI agent, Butz is somehow endearing in his dogged pursuit of the con-boy, and he dances and sings the hell out of his one big silly number. That Butz — so good, he’s predictable. Just go ahead and give him the Tony already.

Except… there’s a dark horse here. In a production that was almost entirely snubbed  — strange, considering its rather decent reviews — Tony Sheldon stood out as the bright, shining, aging transsexual in the campy, fluffy, silly, super-duper-colorful Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His broken and beautiful Bernadette may make you forget about the wonderful Terence Stamp from the film. Offering a fully rounded and heartfelt performance that grounds an otherwise light-as-air production, Tony Sheldon is remarkable — even more so considering that this is the Australian actor’s Broadway debut after 40-plus career in the theatre. Bravo, sir: if I had a vote, it’d be yours.

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This entry was posted on June 1, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Musical, Theatre, Tony Awards.

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