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. Firstly, because only one other show was eligible and its eligibility was dubious at best (Cabaret — the revival of a revival). Secondly, because two of the shows have never been on Broadway, so their “revival” statuses are equally dubious. And finally, because there is 100% certainty that Hedwig and the Angry Inch is going to win. If Violet beat Hedwig, that would be the surprise win to best all surprise wins. It’d be akin to Crash beating Brokeback Mountain (except that Violet is actually very, very good).
Kudos to directors Laurence Connor and James Powell (you obviously need two to tackle this behemoth of a megamusical) behind the ten millionth production of Les Misérables, because they actually tried to do something semi-new with this production (no turntable!). But with the exception of the remarkable and literally pitch-perfect Ramin Karimloo as ex-con Jean Valjean, many were miscast (Nikki M. James, Caissie Levy) or overacting (Keala Settle). This old warhorse of a musical is showing its age.
The Leigh Silverman production of Violet is the best possible version of this little musical on the Great White Way. With simple and straightforward storytelling and design, the superb cast — from Sutton Foster‘s sparkling and defiant Violet to Joshua Henry‘s heart-melting soldier and Annie Golden’s darkly hilarious Hotel Hooker — shimmers and shines. Jeanine Tesori’s score is a bluegrass, country,and gospel-infused wonder and Brian Crawley’s book, though flawed, is touching and funny. We need more musical magic like this. (As you can see, I like to root for the underdog.)
But this is Hedwig’s award to lose — just try to pry the Tony Award from this saucy, spurned lover’s hands. A hard-working Neil Patrick Harris gives what folks like to call a tour-de-force performance, commanding the stage with an electrifying presence. Helmed by Michael Mayer — the maestro of the visceral musical experience — Hedwig and the Angry Inch is one helluva 90-minute ride. As funny as it is fierce and as poignant as it is punk, this production of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s musical is a sensational stunner. Hedwig is about to be a Tony Award winner — take that, Tommy Speck.