2008 Tony Award Predictions – Part 3: Who Should Win (the Big Ones)

So everyone is aware that the American Theatre Wing’s 62nd Annual Tony Awards will be presented on Sunday, June 15 at 8/7c on CBS. And if you’re a theater lover, well you’ve probably been blogging away on all things Tony for the past month. Or you’ve been giving your end of the year round-up on your favorite shows of the season.

Well now it’s my turn in the spotlight. Steve on Broadway has done a fantastic job of consistently wrapping-up awards season with an almost daily roll of posts. (That SOB. How do you make the time? Jealous.) Me? I haven’t posted in almost a week.

I’ll admit - I’m not proud. A bit ashamed to be honest. But now all you bloggers can suck it up and get over it and just read who I think should win at this year’s race. This blog is pretty new and I’m still working on a lot of design thingies. So I’m whoring myself out to all the theater blogs. And because I’m a comment whore, I cordially invite you to leave your thoughts and comments. Nay – I DEMAND YOU!! (and scene)

Best Musical
In the Heights
Passing Strange

In the Heights was my favorite of these four shows. Cry-Baby was my least favorite (along with everyone else). The 2 best shows here are Passing Strange and In the Heights. And while Passing Strange is getting lots of kudos for its innovative use of story telling and musical funk, In the Heights touched my heart a lot more.

Yes, it has a cheesy book – ok a really cheesy book. But the actors portraying the characters had so much energy and talent; I was touched by all their performances. Maybe it’s because I found myself relating to soooo much of what was happening – I am a Hispanic male lest I try to forget – but I was crying a lot throughout the show. Very sweet and very fun. When the cast begins to dance in ensemble numbers such as “96,000” and the opening number “In the Heights,” it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen on the stage – it’s electrifying. Kudos to Andy Blankenbuehler! And Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latino infused score is nothing short of impressive.

Should have been nominated: Adding Machine
Now that is the best new musical of the season. Too bad it was Off-Broadway.

Best Play
August: Osage County
Rock ’n’ Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

I’m on board here with the rest of the English-speaking world (minus Ben Brantley; his choice is Rock ‘n’ Roll!) August was stupendous. Great writing, great directing, great acting… Everyone else has talked about this show and its uber greatness, so I’m gonna just gonna relax on this one and let you read the other blogs. But I will admit, The 39 Steps is the most enjoyable time I’ve had at a play all season long.

Should have been nominated: Meh… I’d say these were the best of the season.

Best Musical Revival
South Pacific
Sunday in the Park with George

You’ve heard me say it before, Sunday is absolutely brilliant. While South and Gypsy have their own beautiful merits, Sunday stood high above any production I saw this year. It was glorious. And mad props to David Farley and Timothy Bird & the Knifedge Creative Network for making the second act of the show a complete success. For once, the show was complete and didn’t suffer from a second act slump. The use of modern technology actually lifted the piece to even higher stakes. Already a masterful work of art, Sunday in the Park with George is now meaningful to the current state of the artistic world and has a lot to say. Brava!

Should have been nominated: Meh… Grease just shouldn’t have been nominated. Leave the category alone with just the best 3 revivals of all time to speak for themselves. By adding in Grease, the nominators have done nothing but allow the inherit badness of the show to be highlighted even more.

Best Play Revival
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereuses

I adored this show. So cinematic in its staging, Macbeth remains one of the most powerful visual odysseys of a play that I have ever seen. Images from this production are the stuff of nightmares (Hollywood could learn a thing or two about horror from this production. Oooh, who’s gonna make me cream and do a movie version??? William Friedkin? Please say yes.). Oh and not to mention the best Macbeth you’ll probably ever see in Patrick Stewart. And trust me, Kate Fleetwood is an underrated gem as his trophy wife.

Should have been nominated: Top Girls and Cyrano de Bergerac. Sorely missed. Enough said.

Best Original Score
Cry-Baby, David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange, Stew and Heidi Rodewald

Injecting the Broadway stage with a dose of kinetic energy, Miranda catapulted the current state of music to the stratosphere on the Great White Way. In the Heights has its moments of blandness, but when it shines, it sparkles. The orchestra pit sounds like they are having as much fun as the actors on stage. Miranda’s lyrics are also genuinely smart (“Too darn hot!”) and are an homage to great shows from the past (“L’chaim!”) Stew’s contributions to Passing Strange can’t be overlooked, though. Two fantastic scores. Two fantastic shows.

Should have been nominated: Adding Machine’s Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt. The closest to Sondheim in recent years. Buy the album if you haven’t already!!!

Best Book of a Musical
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In the Heights, Quiara Alegria Hudes
Passing Strange, Stew
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane

For me there’s no competition. Beane provided such a refreshing and hilarious take on the God-awful movie musical Xanadu and really made the show a success. There is no doubt that show would have bombed if it weren’t for Carter Beane. Now if only his damn viral campaign would just shut the hell up and stop annoying me. Runner up – Stew for his creative story telling in Passing Strange.

Should have been nominated: I’ll give you one guess… it begins with an 'A' and ends with a 'dding Machine.'

Best Actress (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

Yes, Jenna Russell was remarkable. Yes, Kelli O’Hara brought life back into the ingénue. But it’s Mama Rose. And it’s Patti LuPone as Mama Rose. This is legendary. When you can honestly and without hesitation say that Ethel Merman’s claim to this role is forever diminished, you have something to savor. Perhaps the best actress to tackle the role (along with Angela Lansbury), Patti is a force of nature. And no one can act a song quite like she can. Her closing act numbers are a master class in nuanced breaking-downness. Never has “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” been so devastating. Congratulations Ms. LuPone. You will now live on forever.

Should have been nominated: I would have loved to have seen Mandy Gonzalez from In the Heights; but there’s only room for 5. Buy the album and enjoy her gorgeous voice in the song “Breathe.”

Best Actress (Play)
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

While Eve Best remains one of the best new talents to hit Broadway and Deanna Dunagan provides a definitive portrayal of a soon to be classic, my head bows to Kate Fleetwood as the power-hungry trophy wife of Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth. Providing a different take on the character, Fleetwood brings out the evil and humanity in a role too many have attempted (and failed). The best Lady Macbeth I have ever seen. She stands right up to Patrick Stewart and acts the hell out of herself, keeping up with the legendary actor. Her breakdown is second only to Patti LuPone’s in Gypsy. The use of her hands and walk throughout the show was inspiring to watch as an actor. I know she has her detractors, but when I look back at the season, this is the performance in a play that remains with me.

Should have been nominated: Elizabeth Marvel from Top Girls. Gosh, I wish this show would have been nominated for so much more.

Best Actor (Musical)
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

Daniel Evans is the only one of these performances that made me forget that I was watching an actor. I was immersed from the start with his portrayal of Georges Seurat and was transported to another world entirely in the second act as George. Never beore have the Georges been so empathetic. Never before have they been so driven. Never before have they brought such humility to a piece that some consider pretentious.

Should have been nominated: Cheyenne Jackson in Xanadu. At least just for his Cubby Bernstein and [title of show] show appearances.

Best Actor (Play)
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock ‘n’ Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Mark Rylance provided such a wonderful entertainment; however, Stewart is legendary. Ben Brantley says it better than I could ever hope to:
What makes this one a must-see is Mr. Stewart’s thrilling recognition that his character is as close kin to the fatally introspective Hamlet as he is to
power-wielding men of ill will like Richard III. His performance is the first I
have seen to realize completely what the scholar Harold Bloom means when he
calls this play “a tragedy of the imagination.”

Should have been nominated: Kevin Kline for Cyrano de Bergerac. I mean, come on!!! It’s Kevin Kline!!!

From here on out, I’m gonna try and keep my writing to a bare minimum. My boss is lurking in the dark corners of my office somewhere.

Best Featured Actress (Musical)
Laura Benanti, Gypsy: Her transformation from Louise to Gypsy Rose Lee is the first time it has ever worked for me in a near-perfect show.

Best Featured Actress (Play)
Laurie Metcalf, November: Best thing about the show.

Best Featured Actor (Musical)
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy: Daniel Breaker in Passing Strange is a close second, but Gaines helped to make Gypsy a production for the ages.

Best Featured Actor (Play)
Jim Norton, The Seafarer: My heart goes to Raúl Esparza, but I have to admit that Norton was the best.

Direction (Musical)
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George: Yes Bartlett Sher provided an amazing presentation, but Buntrock made Sunday even more meaningful than ever.

Direction (Play)
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County: Classic in the making.

Whoopi is set to host this year. Hopefully she'll bring in some entertainment to the already boring show.


Esther said...

Thanks for the add to your blogroll! I will definitely return the favor.

It's fun reading everyone's lists and the reasons behind their picks. I'm definitely with you about Mandy Gonzalez. I really loved her. In fact, I think I developed a bit of a woman crush on her! She was so sweet and appealing and innocent. She carried the whole weight of her family and the neighborhood on her shoulders and she felt like she let everyone down. And she's absolutely beautiful in "Breathe."

It's funny about Macbeth, I am incredibly squeamish and I was very nervous reading all the reviews of how bloody Macbeth was, and watching the video on the New York Times site. Strangely, though, I didn't feel the least bit nauseous. OK, I did take my glasses off briefly when Mrs. Macbeth came out all bloody. But it was just for a minute. In the end, I was disappointed. I found it all a little bit hard to follow.

Joseph Gomez said...

Shakespeare in general is hard to follow. Honestly, I would probably have a hard time following any production of any Shakespeare if I wasn't already familiar with the text. I believe reading the text to the Bard before seeing any production helps monumentally in appreciating a full scale staging. Macbeth was a great production in my opinion. And I was blown away by the two lead performances. I consider myself lucky that I'm not really squeamish and was able to sit through the whole show without any reservations. Then again, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is my favorite musical of ever-ness. And I adore horror movies.

Plus Esther, thanks for being the first blogger to leave a comment on my site (well, Cubby Bernstein was technically the first, but I just don't like the kid.) on June 3rd for the post "The Best Musical Revivals of All Time???" Keep up the great posts on your blog!

And yes, Mandy was great.

Esther said...

You're totally welcome. I love leaving comments. (As you can probably tell!)

And I forgot to mention that I loved "The 39 Steps" when I saw it in Boston last fall. What an incredibly fun, entertaining afternoon at the theater. I definitely agree with you. I never realized how much you could do with four actors and a few props. The actors who played the two "clowns," Cliff Saunders and Arnie Burton, are so talented.

Joie Mayfield said...

You did a great job with your predictions. I love your blog. I'm adding you to my "Blogs I Read" section. :)



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