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 is a fun category, as none of the nominees has previously won and three out of five are first-timers.
Keith Carradine exudes his typical laid-back world-weariness, as the ex-oil rig worker JD in Hands on a Hardbody. It’s a solid performance in a mediocre musical — which only garnered two other nominations, including Best Original Score — but it’s not enough to earn him his first Tony.
As the mustache-twirling music teacher John Jasper, Will Chase is hilariously histrionic as the titular character’s villainous foil in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In his velvet robe and ludicrously extravagant cravat, Chase’s Jasper hopelessly endeavors to control his facial twitches and erratic right arm in an attempt to pass as the preening leading man Clive Paget. It’s a fiendishly fun portrayal, but considering the competition, not one that will likely earn him his first Tony.
Charl Brown’s nominations here was a surprise (especially when coupled with Brandon Victor Dixon’s supposed snub in the lead category), but a generally happy one. The lanky Brown nicely embodies the music icon — soft-voiced, slightly-ambiguous-sexuality and all. Unfortunately, Motown The Musical —Berry Gordy’s love letter to himself — is so poorly written that the characters are sketches at best, and while the endearing Brown does his best, there’s simply not much for him to do. Even his irrefutable charm can’t win him this Tony.
As Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s crooked and shameless dad, Gabriel Ebert is amusingly and flamboyantly tacky, slinking across the stage in a green and black plaid suit, capped with a white fedora. His vaudevillian elasticity as the sleazy used-car salesman is put to especially fine use in the second-act opener, a hilarious homage to the wide-ranging benefits of “The Telly.” It’s a cartoonishly energetic — and even weirdly endearing — performance by the first-time nominee who has serious potential to spoil here.
But Broadway musical veteran Terrence Man has been nominated twice previously (Les Mis, Beauty and the Beast), and has yet to claim the big award. Voters are sure to note this oversight, which will only provide them all the more reason to — rightfully — reward Mann this year. As Pippin’s despotic dad, Charlemagne, Mann plays up the bawdiness of the aging ruler. Resembling a cross between a majestic Gandalf and a leather-pants-clad Donald Sutherland, Mann takes gleeful enjoyment in proclaiming the king’s favorite decree (“Denied!”), tossing off the show’s rusty jokes with an easy and gratifying hamminess as he shakes and shimmies across the stage, Fosse-style. The portrayal is one part grave, two parts goofball and all delightful.