Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2011 Tony Awards: Best Featured Actress 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 ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

1. Victoria Clark
Sister Act

2. Nikki M. James
The Book of Mormon

3. Tammy Blanchard
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying

Laura Benanti
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Patti Lupone
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown 

I’m not sure what’s going on in this category. It’s as though all the mediocre roles were tossed into the pot, creating some kind of bland musical stew. This isn’t to disparage the ladies, but rather a comment on the writing and directing. Why are these roles — and by extension, performances — so utterly underwhelming? Why aren’t we demanding better?

Admittedly, I didn’t catch Women on the Verge before it closed, but by all accounts — it averages a C- in reviews — it’s nothing worth remembering. This includes the performances (most critics barely even acknowledge Patti Lupone — PATTI LUPONE! I don’t care for her, but c’mon..), and the fact that scene-stealing Laura Benanti is the frontrunner seems to sorely disappoint most everyone.

Nikki M. James is winning as The Book of Mormon‘s wide-eyed ingenue love interest, but truth be told, she doesn’t have a whole lot to do outside of her “I want” song (“Sal Tlay Ka Siti” — say it out loud). My top pick — by default, I hasten to add — is Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza, How to Succeed ’95 revival). Perfecting the prickly exterior of the Mother Superior, she knows when to lower the armor and reveal that great big heart underneath. Unfortunately, her character has been slimmed down for the stage, and she never quite manages to make you forget the brilliance of Maggie Smith. But she’s pitch perfect in voice, as always.

The best-written role in this category — and the most fun — is Heddy LaRue. When I first saw How to SucceedTammy Blanchard, who plays the scatterbrained secretary, was equal parts vapid and guileful, va-va-vooming her way through the secretarial pool in a clever stylistic nod to Mad Men. But upon second viewing just last week, it appears she’s taken to playing ditzy as drunk: repeatedly striking the pose of hand on hip, torso wobbling slowly back and forth, mouth slightly agape,and speech slow and thick, she simply wasn’t funny or charming. Just disappointing — rather like this category as a whole.

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2011 by in Award Predictions, Broadway, Musical, Theatre, Tony Awards.

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