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. Those that are listed but not ranked are performances that I was not able to see.
Not only is this category entirely bizarre — really, these are the best featured performances of the year? — but I have no idea who will win.
I saw Jesus Christ Superstar, but missed Josh Young, and apparently I’m not the only one: the actor had vocal problems and was out for half of the press performances — meaning many critics actually reviewed his understudy Jeremy Kushnier (who I saw and was terrific). Those who saw Young declared him a well-voiced, sensitive, and sensual Judas Iscariot and the highlight of an otherwise uneven production, but the fact that he was MIA for many Tony voters will work against him.
A critical favorite, Michael Cerveris garnered a number of great reviews for his turn as Juan Peron, but not everyone high-flying adored his super-psychological interpretation of the politico in Evita. While in fine voice as always, Cerveris consistently strikes me as cold and, well, creepy, and with his incredibly stiff posture and that ridiculous hair piece, he was awkward and looked rather foolish to boot. He has a decent chance of winning here, but it’s almost as if by default.
In Porgy and Bess, as Porgy’s rival for Bess’s love, Philip Boykin offers some major heft with his deep-voiced and sinister Crown and is terrifyingly good in his Broadway debut. Second-time nominee David Alan Grier (Race), in addition to his flashy pin-stripe suit and derby hat, sports some fine vocal chops. His Sportin’ Life is a soulless dope dealer who verges on cartoonish, but his raffish performance of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is a show highlight. But, working within the same show, Boykin and Grier will likely cancel each other out, votes-wise.
With the only purely comedic performance represented in the category, second-time nominee Michael McGrath (Spamalot) is one of about two performers actually working — and enjoying that work — in Nice Work If You Can Get It (both Broderick and O’Hara are just going through the motions). As the bootleggin’ New Yawker pretending to be a butler, McGrath effortlessly earns laughs through a combination of great energy and dry humor — and the general sense that he’s not too good to sing for his supper.
I’ll wager this is a war between the two Michaels — they grapple with the most prominent roles (Josh being largely MIA) — but as to who will win? Your guess is probably better than mine. But if it means anything, McGrath did win the Drama Desk Award…