2007-08 Tony Award Predictions, Part 2

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George

These women are my predictions. There is no one else on Broadway right now that is giving impressionable enough performances to compete with these women. There are a few worth mentioning (Mandy Gonzalez for In the Heights and Sierra Bogess for The Little Mermaid), but the recognition in this blog is all they could ever hope to get.

Faith Prince was one of the few saving graces for A Catered Affair. The show is pretensious and boring, but Prince manages to engage in a performance that will soon be forgotten come Summer. Kerr Butler delighted audiences and critics in her Olivia-Newton-John-imitation in Xanadu. Considering Xanadu was the first musical to open the season and still remain strong throughout the year is a testament to the talent involved. She won't win, but being nominated truly is the prize.

The remaining 3 actresses remain the strongest lead musical portrayals of the season along with their male couterparts Paulo Szot (South Pacific) and Daniel Evans (Sunday in the Park with George). And it's no coincidence that they are all from revivals. It was a particularly weak year for new musicals, but an exceptionally powerful one for revivals (with 3 masterpieces being reveived in considerably exceptional productions).

Jenna Russell's sure to be nominated performance in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.Jenna Russell has already won countless awards overseas for her portrayal of one of Stephen Sondheim's greatest character creations, Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George. One can easily argue that she has no shot of winning based solely on her previous accolades. However, what Russell accomplishes in Sunday is, in my opinion, more innovative and creative than what either O'Hara or Lupone have done this season. That's not to take anything away from those 2 women; it's just that the revival of Sunday is a landmark production of a landmark musical. With the vision of Sam Buntrock and the help of some technical wizardry, audience members with fond memories of the original production (with the great Bernadette Peters) were able to engage themselves with this interpretation and leave behind any biases. The piece is one of the most challenging in the musical theatre repertoire and there is definitely something to be said for challenging, complex work.

Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara in SOUTH PACIFIC.Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Kelli O'Hara will get a nomination for her portrayal of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific

Yet Kelli O'Hara and Patti Lupone are providing classic protrayals of classic characters. And they are simply marvelous. O'Hara is maturing nicely into a wonderful woman actor. She is confident, beautiful, poised and ambitious. Her prtrayal of Nellie Forbush is subtle and deep. She gives the character shades of nuance previously not found in other productions. At times naive and at other times a bit snobbish, she simply embues the part into a real actor's delight. She has provided many strong performances over the years, but this is the one that can lay claim to her transition from solid Broadway ingenue into powerful musical theatre icon.

And yet, we have Ms. Patti. While Russell provides complex, challenging material and O'Hara brings forth character shading and depth, Lupone simply is. The fact that Lupone exisits is enough justification for her performance to be considered legendary. MaCurtain up! Patti Lupone's Rose is a work of art.ma Rose may be a treat for any actress to have the opportunity to play, but Lupone was born for this part. If she had been around during Merman's time, we would have been listening to her on our original Broadway cast recording of everyone's favorite showbiz show. And given the opportunity of a lifetime, Lupone tackled it and delivered. The moment she takes the stage, it's like being transported back to another time when the likes of Broadway stars were the celebrities everyone wanted to know. The material is so suited to her respective talents, it's hard to believe that the authors didn't create the role around her gifts. Not only can she sing the songs (less sing, more delivering them as natural progression of the book and dialogue), but she is perhaps the only other actor to tackle the role with beig enough chops to portray the maddening, complex, deep, and comic deftness the role requires. Simply, Patti Lupone is a force of nature. And her Mama Rose is a force to be reckoned with.

This post was not intended as a Tony Award winners prediction, but Lupone is taking it home. And deservedly so. I can't wait to see her perform on the telecast. "Rose's Turn" anyone???



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