Now we get to the meat of the Tonys, the acting awards. Given the sheer volume of eligible work, someone always gets snubbed when the nominations are handed out, and even then there are still several deserving candidates for each statuette. Before reading any father, please remember my two caveats: 1) I have not seen all of the nominated shows; and 2) I am predicting who will win, which may be different from who should win, especially in the acting categories. As always, I will point out those discrepancies in the body of the article.
Since any gentleman knows that its ladies first, here are my predictions for the Best Supporting Actress categories.
Best Featured Actress in a Play
Nominees: Linda Emond, Death of a Salesman; Spencer Kayden, Don’t Dress for Dinner; Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher; Judith Light, Other Desert Cities; Condola Rashad, Stick Fly
Right off the bat, I think we can count out Spencer Kayden and Condola Rashad. Kayden is the only bright spot in a critical and commercial failure, and if it weren’t produced by the not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre Company I’m sure Don’t Dress for Dinner would have already posted a closing notice. Rashad could be called a dark horse candidate, but while critics loved her, Stick Fly as a whole didn’t make much of an impression and closed months ago. One of the biggest advantages a Tony nominee can have is being in a currently running show, which leaves Rashad with an uphill battle that I doubt she can win.
While I have not personally seen Peter and the Starcatcher, my understanding is that all of the actors play multiple roles, which always impresses Tony voters and is a major plus for Celia Keenan-Bolger. Unfortunately, Peter isn’t as “serious” a work as Death of a Salesman or Other Desert Cities, which probably negates any advantage the multiple role trick gave her. In straight plays, Tony voters tend to reward dramatic acting or its exact opposite, full-on farce; anything in-between like Peter goes underappreciated.
If we rule out Keenan-Bolger, we are left with Judith Light and Linda Emond, with the edge definitely going to the latter. Emond is clearly the female lead in Salesman, with all of the accompanying stage time and character development, giving her more and better material to work with than her fellow nominees. This same situation led Nikki M. James to a somewhat surprising but wholly deserved Featured Actress in a Musical win last year, and I expect a similar outcome for Emond. And lest you think it all comes down to politics, I have seen Salesman and can assure you she is devastatingly good, easily holding her own against Phillip Seymour Hoffman and making even the play’s most famous lines sound fresh and alive.
Will & Should Win: Linda Emond, Death of a Salesman
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Nominees: Elizabeth A. Davis, Once; Jayne Houdyshell, Follies; Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Jessie Mueller, On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever; Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost the Musical
For me, this is a somewhat odd list of nominees. It’s not that I think any of the included ladies are bad, but I don’t quite understand what some of them did to edge out other equally fine performances. For instance, as hilarious as she was singing “Broadway Baby,” was Jayne Houdyshell really that much better than her Follies costars Elaine Page or Terri White? And how did Elizabeth A. Davis, even with her striking good looks and beautiful singing voice, get herself nominated when the rest of the ensemble of Once went unrecognized? I suspect I am not the only one who feels this way, and it is a sentiment that will probably prevent either of them from leaving the Beacon theatre a winning next Sunday.
Now, I hesitate to say I don’t want Da’Vine Joy Randolph to win, but…I don’t want her to win. I haven’t seen her in Ghost, and the problem is I don’t need to in order to know exactly what her performance is like. I’m sure she’s sassy, fires off a succession of one-liners, and sings the hell out of her big, gospel-tinged solo. Add in one or two “serious” moments masquerading as character depth, and you have the same performance given by almost every featured black actress in the past ten years. It’s such a cliché that someone even wrote a song about it, although in fairness to the writers of Ghost they at least had the decency to make Randolph’s character integral to the plot. But it still isn’t the sort of thing that should be rewarded with Tony Awards, especially because such a win will only encourage musical theatre writers to continue using this stereotype rather than creating roles of substance for black women.
Judy Kaye is perfectly fine in Nice Work If You Can Get It, but I don’t think this role will net the Tony Award-winner a second statuette. The show as a whole is too run-of-the-mill, and Kaye doesn’t do enough to rise above that. On the other hand, Jessie Mueller did rise above her subpar show and gave one of the most praised supporting turns of the season. Everyone who actually saw On a Clear Day agrees that Mueller’s big number was the highlight of the evening and a genuine showstopper. Plus, Broadway loves a Cinderella story, and what could be more fairy tale-esque than a young woman playing the lead in her Broadway debut, stealing the show, and winning a Tony for it?
Will & Should Win: Jessie Mueller, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
That’s all for now. Check back soon to see which Featured Actors should be practicing their acceptance speeches. And check out the rest of my Tony predictions here: