Neil Patrick Harris gets cheeky in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
As I write my opinion of this year's Tony Award nominations--announced this morning by Lucy Liu and Paper Beautiful Person Jonathan Groff--I'm listening to my Stephen Sondheim Pandora station and thinking about the 12th Annual Tony Awards in 1958 when West Side Story was competing against The Music Man in the Best Musical category and then just two years later Gypsy was pitted against The Sound of Music and Fiorello! in 1960. I don't envy those early Tony voters (The Music Man and The Sound of Music ended up winning), but this year is shaping up to have some pretty hard decisions as well. Here is an abridged list of nominees (minus most of the design categories) with snubs and winner predictions from Paper's resident Broadway Baby.
Act One by James Lapine
All The Way by Robert Schenkkan
Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein
Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally
Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley
Pick: I'm seeing Casa Valentina and Act One this week but having done my research, both seem deserving. In Casa, Fierstein highlights a group of "straight" men in the Catskills who dress as women. Act One is based off playwright Moss Hart's seminal theater autobiography and All the Way is a sweeping historical work that gave me a new appreciation for what Obama has had to go through with his healthcare bill. I'll have to come back to this next week.
Snubs: Will Eno's cerebral The Realistic Joneses starring big names like Toni Colette, Marisa Tomei and Michael C. Hall is missing. Mothers and Sons felt so preachy and stuck in 2004 -- at least Joneses seemed like it was moving the theater forward.
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Pick: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and After Midnight were both highlights of this theater season for me but GGTLM is a true new musical whereas After Midnight is more of a revue. Each show was thrilling and I'll be happy with either!
Snubs: If/Then, Bridges of Madison County, Rocky and Bullets Over Broadway were left off this list. I would maybe replace Aladdin with Bridges or Rocky but I don't feel super strongly about it. Aladdin was the best Disney musical I've seen in a while, but having grown up with the 1992 film version I love the songs from the movie. The songs that were added to the musical, however, were not at all memorable.
Best Revival of a Play
The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Picks: Ugh two categories in and I already feel like I have to make Sophie's Choice, I have never enjoyed or appreciated A Raisin in the Sun more then I did this season. Denzel (more on him later) and the rest of the cast made the perfect ensemble, but Cripple is also so, so good, managing to be funny and heartbreaking, sometimes within the same breath.
Snubs: A whole new generation of theatergoers was attracted to this year's productions of Waiting for Godot and No Man's Land thanks to the Reddit-ready bromance between Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, so I'm surprised to see those shows missing here, especially Godot. I also really liked the star-studded Of Mice and Men despite lukewarm reviews and I would have voted for Machinal, starring an amazing Rebecca Hall, as well.
Best Revival of a Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Pick: Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Not to get all "mean girl" on you guys but this musical is so much cooler than Violet or Les Mis and that's refreshing to see on Broadway every now and then. Plus the old guy next to me thought it was just as funny and entertaining as I did, so everybody wins.
Snubs: Cabaret was the only musical revival to open this year that didn't get nominated and there's supposed to be four slots. The only thing worse then being the last kid picked for dodge ball is not being picked at all! But maybe this is because the production was created by the same team who produced the well-received 1998 revival. They've already had their turn on the swingset.
Best Book of a Musical
Aladdin by Chad Beguelin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical by Douglas McGrath
Bullets Over Broadway by Woody Allen
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder by Robert L. Freedman
Pick: I don't want Woody Allen to win anything these days, so let's go with the clever Robert L. Freedman. I also have respect for Douglas McGrath who smoothly--and without too much cheese--adapted King's story for the stage.
Snubs: I liked the Bridges of Madison County book by Marsha Norman, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it.
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics)
Aladdin-- Music: Alan Menken Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
The Bridges of Madison County-- Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder- --Music: Steven Lutvak Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak
If/Then-- Music: Tom Kitt Lyrics: Brian Yorkey
Picks: If/Then represents the kind of new musical that I am not into -- one that's trying to be modern but really just sounds tuneless, canned and shout-y. Idina Menzel gives it her all with her big 11th hour ballad but I found myself wondering how long the song was, because it felt like I was about to miss Memorial Day. On the other hand GGTLM's score was witty and memorable. Bridges' score also had some nice folk-y surprises.
Snubs: It's a shame that Hedwig's score by Stephen Trask wasn't eligible. It was decided that Hedwig is not a new musical since it debuted off-Broadway in 1998. Everyone now! "I put on my makeup..."
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One
Picks: God, I'm so over Mark Rylance, but apparently I'm the only one because here he is yet again and he'll probably win for his stuffy performance as King Richard III. It would be nice if Chris O'Dowd won to give OMM a little love, but my vote is for Bryan Cranston. Now there's an actor who hasn't had enough praise this year. Just kidding! But seriously he was really good as LBJ.
Snubs: Daniel Radcliffe and Denzel Washington really got screwed here. They are both giving revelatory performances in The Cripple of Inishmaan and Raisin in the Sun respectively. In other, revelatory-related news, isn't there a "hottest leading actor" award we can dig up for James Franco? I just have a whole new appreciation of the multi-hyphenate after seeing what he can do with those eyebrows in OMM.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn
Picks: LaTanya! Samuel L. Jackson's wife killed it in A Raisin in the Sun and it's even more amazing when you realize that she was brought in last minute after Diahann Carroll dropped out just a few weeks before previews started. Audra was also really moving as Billie Holliday... but I really feel like she should be nominated in the best musical category. It's hard to compare these two performances.
Snubs: I was never really that sold on Rebecca Hall before her Broadway debut in Machinal, but her performance as the first woman to die in the electric chair really won me over.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les MisÃ©rables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Picks: The men in this category really have to sing for their supper this year. In Hedwig, NPH jumps on top of cars in high-heeled gold ankle boots and sings and dances his way through more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert. Andy Karl endures actual punches each night in the fight of his life as Rocky and Jefferson Mays dies eight times as eight different characters in GGTLM. I can't pick. I'm too tired just thinking about these energetic performances.
Snubs: Alan Cumming is also working his ass off eight times a week as the sexually ambiguous Emcee in Cabaret, but he already won a Tony for the role in 1999. Steven Pasquale was also pretty good as a rugged visiting photographer in Bridges, but compared to what these nominees do as their characters he might as well be taking a Sunday stroll each night.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County
Picks: Jessie Mueller is amazing as Carole King and I've heard that Mary Bridget Davies was a dead-ringer for Janis Joplin, but that show closed. I would choose Mueller or Sutton Foster who, like Mueller, really became her character.
Snubs: GGTLM's Lisa O'Hare was amazing. I'm not sure if she eligible in the leading actress category, but her performance as the sassy Sibella really stuck with me and she should be nominated somewhere.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie
Picks: I haven't seen Casa yet so I'm going to wait on this category as well, though Brian J. Smith made a very impressive Broadway debut.
Snubs: Michael C. Hall was pretty great in The Realistic Joneses. He along with Toni Colette really made that play human for me. Dexter deserved a nod.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina
Picks: I'm so happy to see both Sophie and Anika nominated here. They were both incredible. If I had to choose it would be Anika's performance as the ambitious Younger sister Beneatha.
Snubs: Dearbhla Molloy from Outside Mullinger and Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna who played Cripple Billy's aunts in The Cripple of Inishmaan made their native Ireland proud this year, but apparently they didn't make enough of an impression on Tony voters.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Picks: James Monroe Iglehart is my wish. He plays the Genie, get it? He is the best part of the musical. I hope they perform "Friend Like Me" on the Tony Awards just so I can see it again!
Snubs: I really liked Hunter Foster as the clueless husband in Bridges and I liked him in the ill-fated Hands on a Hardbody last year too. I also like to watch this after closing an issue of Paper. Maybe I should consider joining his fan club. Does he have one? I'll have to look into it.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Picks: I'm too sad about Lisa O'Hare not being nominated to vote for her co-star Lauren Worsham. Lena Hall, however, is becoming a bonafide Broadway star in Hedwig. A rendition of Whitney Houston's ballad "I Will Always Love You" flows from her lips just as easily as "It came true" flows from Anne Hathaway's.
Snubs: LaChanze was actually really great in If/Then, but she already has a Tony on her mantle for The Color Purple so don't feel too bad for her.
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight
Picks: Isabel Toledo, William Ivey Long and Arianne Phillips are all personal Paper favorites but Toledo's Broadway debut redefines what theater costumes--often ill-fitting and out of style--can be. Her Harlem renaissance-era attire accentuates the musical's mind-blowing choreography.
Snubs: This will be a hard enough decision without throwing anyone else into the mix!