a theatre, film & pop culture review
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.
This category is hilarious, partially because of my (lack of) viewings. I did see Nice Work If You Can Get It, but it wasn’t until I sat down and opened my playbill that I discovered I wouldn’t be seeing the Tony-nominated Judy Kaye as the stern teetotaler Duchess Estonia Dulworth (think of Sarah Brown, but an older doll — each has a delicious moment of blissfully comic boozing). Apparently, the rule is that unless the actor’s name is billed above the title, the Powers That Be aren’t obliged to tell you of the replacement, and you’re not allowed to ask for your money back — yep, officially the worst rule ever. The steadily working Kaye, who earned a Tony in ’88 in this same category for her origination of Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera, received the most solid notices across the board for being “utterly delightful.” That should be good enough for Tony.
My other mis-viewing, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, is more of a loss (for me) for missing the smooth vocal stylings of Harry Connick Jr., but critics nearly-universally agreed that his leading lady Jessie Mueller (not sure why she’s only “featured” here) was a standout who deserved better than the material she was given. Speaking of that material, it received a critical bashing, which, along with its being closed for many months, will strongly work against Ms. Mueller.
So you saw Once, but have no idea who Elizabeth A. Davis is, and really, who can blame you: the lanky brunette, in her Broadway debut, plays Reza (yet the leads are still vaguely named Guy and Girl — wtf, Enda Walsh?). Still having trouble? She played the violin. Wait, you still don’t know? Um… she danced around a lot and said a few words to Girl….? Yep, that’s right: this nomination makes zero sense.
Not quite as eye-raising, but still a bit baffling, is the nominating committee’s signaling out Jayne Houdyshell‘s one-song performance from all of the other one-song performances in Follies. To be sure, Houdyshell’s brassy, sassy belting of “Broadway Baby” was a breath of fresh air, injecting much-needed energy and winking wit into an otherwise ambivalent production. But Houdyshell replaced Linda Lavin (who turned down the Broadway transfer to cut her teeth on The Lyons off-Broadway — smart move, Lindy!), who surely would’ve been (more?) stellar. But the problem is that the entire performance is that one song, and though it’s a great one, it’s not bring-down-the-house-amazing.
What is more than great is Da’vine Joy Randolph‘s sassy spin on the role that won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar in 1990. As the swindling medium who possesses serious misgivings about the Ghost that has entered her life, she may be playing up the Big Black Woman bit, but she does so with such easy facetiousness and spunk, you can’t help but grin whenever she’s onstage (which, thankfully, is a lot). The joy of her performance may just be infectious enough for her to nab that Tony right out of Judy Kaye’s hands.