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.
Shoulda been here (like really shoulda been here): Norbert Leo Butz, Big Fish; Steven Pasquale, The Bridges of Madison County
Let’s start with the easiest one because, well, it’s been a long day/week/season, and because we all know Neil Patrick Harris has got this one in the bag. Donning more fabulous wigs than Lady Gaga and gold lamé boots as sky-high as last year’s winner‘s, NPH’s Hedwig — she of the botched surgery and titular angry inch — is a spurned lover and enraged rocker who skillfully struts across the stage, flashing her lacerating wit. Harris maintains an electrifying command of the stage from the moment he descends on it until the moment he departs mascara-streaked, half-naked and soaking with sweat. Sure, we can see the intense amount of effort here, but when was the last time it was so much fun to watch someone work so hard? No one’s gonna tear him down; he’s earned this Tony.
Speaking of last year’s winner — Kinky Boots‘s fabulous Billy Porter — and last year’s runner-up — Matilda‘s Bertie Carvel — is anyone spotting a trend? Gentlemen, take note: Dress and act like a woman, and Tony-dom is yours. (Don’t worry, Rylance, we’ll get to you.)
With that theory intact and boasting at least a 99% accuracy rate (according to no real statistics whatsoever except my keen observations), Jefferson Mays in the only potential spoiler here. In A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Mays — who won a Tony in 2004 for, surprise! playing his Own Wife — portrays eight D’Ysquith victims through a dazzlingly swift assortment of costume changes, and he works it. His bookend victims are his best: the daffy priest who plunges to a dizzying death and Lord Adalbert, the pompous grump who preposterously carts around a fox hide for old-fashioned-crazy effect, but of course a female victim or two (I lost track) are thrown in for good measure. Mays’s stamina and spirited humor are admirable, but it feels more like role playing than character building. Nevertheless, if he does manage to squeeze past Neil, he’d better thank his lucky stars — and those super-speedy dressers who made it all happen.
As the murderous Monty, Bryce Pinkham (one of the best parts of Ghost the Musical, remember?) is boyishly charming, exuding a dashingly desperate devil-may-care attitude when it comes to his victims — and his lady loves — and he does it all in superb voice. But sorry, Bryce: Mays has got the Gentleman’s Guide edge over you.
As the Italian Stallion, Rocky‘s Andy Karl boasts Stallone’s tall, dark, lean look (but without those famously droopy eyes) and his slow, goofy drawl. His Rocky tightens and toughens up in the ring, and softens and sweetens when he’s not. This mix of macho sensitivity is especially endearing in his tenacious courting of the shy and self-conscious Adrian. But just as in his bout with Apollo Creed, this underdog remains just that — Karl’s not going out a champ where this award is concerned.
If anyone represents real competition for NPH, it’s Ramin Karimloo. Making a superb Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in the (too, too) oft-revived Les Misérables, the Iranian-born Canadian performer is a tall, lean (incredibly lean) drink of water (sorry, but good lord) who renders the famous bread-pilfering ex-con as a muscular vision with honeyed pipes. He maintains such a purity and focus that his “Bring Him Home” is actually miraculous in its restraint — not to mention simply gorgeous in its execution. Due to this perfect portrayal, henceforth there shall only ever be one reason to revive Les Mis: to let Karimloo do that beautiful, beautiful thing he does.