Tony Time: Broadway Honors its Own

May 23, 2014
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Brian Cranston as LBJ and Brandon J. Dirden as MLK in

Brian Cranston as LBJ and Brandon J. Dirden as MLK in “All the Way.”

By Philip Dorian

The 68th annual American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards will be presented on Sunday, June 8, during a live telecast, as usual, on CBS.

Also as usual, there are some closely contested categories, but we’ll begin our annual predictions with a no-brainer.

Best Musical: Fast-paced, laugh-filled and tuneful, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is gaining traction across the theater-going spectrum, while each of its competitors is aimed toward a niche market. The Duke Ellington-scored “After Midnight” is essentially a revue; “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” is a baby-boomer jukebox show (a fine one, to be sure); and Disney’s “Aladdin” is a live-action cartoon that won’t be touring any time soon. (A significant number of Tony voters are national tour operators.) “A Gentleman’s Guide” will dominate the musical field.

Best Play: This is a two-horse race. Watching “All the Way,” about the lead-up to the passage of President Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Bill, is like being a fly on the wall in the Oval Office. “Act One,” adapted from legendary writer/director Moss Hart’s autobiography, is a strong contender, but propelled by Bryan Cranston’s splendid LBJ, “All the Way” should triumph.

Best Leading Actor in a Musical: Neil Patrick Harris faces off against Jefferson Mays for this Tony. Mays is excellent in eight zany roles in “A Gentleman’s Guide,” and Harris amazes as the he-to-she sex-changed rock singer in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” This could go either way, but Harris’s TV popularity – and his having hosted the Tony telecast four times, including the last three – will tip the balance to him.

Neil Patrick Harris in

Neil Patrick Harris in “Hedwig and the Angry Itch.”

Best Leading Actress in a Musical: All five nominees are Tony-worthy. In “A Night with Janis Joplin,” Mary Bridget Davies channeled the singer to eerie perfection; Sutton Foster plays the facially disfigured “Violet” without a visible scar (they call it acting for a reason); Idina Menzel raises the vocal roof in “If/Then;” Jessie Mueller is a beautiful Carole King; and Kelli O’Hara’s sixth nomination, for “The Bridges of Madison County,” is well-deserved. While this ***ITALcould***END be Kelli’s first win, it ***ITALshould***END be Sutton’s third. (Or Jessie’s first or…OK, it’s a five-way guessing game.)

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Best Leading Actor in a Play: This is another two-man duel, between Bryan Cranston and Tony Shalhoub. Shalhoub’s “Act One” triple-role feat is admirable, but as a tireless LBJ for nearly three hours, Cranston will go all the way.

Best Leading Actress in a Play (and Best Revival of a Play): Two infamous Tony oversights have been addressed with the nominations of  “The Glass Menagerie” for Play Revival and the production’s Amanda, Cherry Jones, for Leading Actress in a Play. Believe it or not, neither the play nor that role has been nominated in the play’s five previous Broadway revivals. (It premiered in 1945, two years before the Tony Award was established). The recent production and Jones’s performance were widely praised, and although the limited run ended in January, both are sentimental favorites.

Best Revival of a Musical: “Hedwig,” starring the aforementioned Neil Patrick Harris, is the favorite against the re-re-revival of “Les Miz” and the lesser-known, inspiring “Violet,” which would be my choice. (Alas, critics have no Tony votes.)

Best Featured Actors and Actresses In a Musical: Danny Burstein and Linda Edmond complement each other perfectly as Herr Schulz and Frau Schneider in “Cabaret.” In a Play: Bet on Mark Rylance in the all-male “Twelfth Night” (he played Olivia) and either (hedging here) Sophie Okonedo or Anika Noni Rose, who played Walter (Denzel Washington)’s wife and sister respectively in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Best Directors Of a Play: It’s John Tiffany’s (“Glass Menagerie”) to lose with Tim Carroll (“Twelfth Night”) snapping at his heels. Of a Musical: Darko Tresnjak is odds-on for “A Gentleman’s Guide,” which will likely take Best Original Score and Best Book as well.

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Best Choreography: If there is any justice, this Tony Award will go to Warren Carlyle, for the nifty tapping and gliding that infuses “After Midnight.” The cast of this exhilarating re-creation of Harlem’s Cotton Club in the 1930s will perform on the June 8 telecast – reason enough to tune in.


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