The Tony Awards are getting closer every minute, and if I want to finish these prediction articles before next weekend I don’t have time for clever intros! As you read on, 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 (a distinction that will be further discussed in the body of the article).
Moving right along, here come the supporting men.
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Nominees: Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher; Michael Cumpsty, End of the Rainbow; Tom Edden, One Man, Two Guvnors; Andrew Garfield, Death of a Salesman; Jeremy Shamos, Clybourne Park
I’m not sure how Michael Cumpsty managed to pull himself out from under the massive shadow cast by Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow, but good on him for securing one of the five Best Featured Actor nominations. I hope he is proud of his accomplishment, because a nomination is where his Tony journey ends. I suspect the same is true for Tom Edden in One Man, Two Guvnors. While the British import received a host of nominations, I just don’t think it has enough industry buzz to actually win any of the big awards, especially with such strong competition among this season’s plays.
Jeremy Shamos plays two miserable human beings in Clybourne Park, and the fact that he can make you understand where they’re coming from is a testament to both his performance and Bruce Norris’ writing. But the lack of nominations for his costars seems to indicate Tony voters are more impressed with the work as a whole then the individual performances, even though all are stellar. Shamos is a long shot for the Featured Actor trophy, but he does have a shot, which is more than I’ll say for both Cumpsty and Edden.
I think this race boils down to Christian Borle versus Andrew Garfield, which raises the eternal acting debate of comedy versus drama. Which is more difficult, and therefore more worthy of praise when executed successfully? Tony voters have shown a proven bias toward both serious drama and Hollywood stars making strong Broadway debuts. In Death of a Salesman, Garfield holds his own against some established stage veterans while bringing new life and immediacy to a well-known Arthur Miller role. This same trick won Scarlett Johansson a Tony two years back, and I think Garfield has a good chance of repeating her success.
Borle, on the other hand, has been handed a gem of a role as Peter and the Starcatcher’s scenery chewing villain Black Stache. After years of solid performances, Stache seems to be Borle’s breakout role, and his work on NBC’s Smash has raised his profile to the point where Tony voters can pretend that in picking him, they are honoring one of the Hollywood stars they love so much. Borle is also the well-liked Starcatcher’s best shot at an actual win, and I think we’ll be hearing him gush about what a fantastic year he’s had when they call him up to the podium on Tony night. Poor Mr. Garfield will just have to count his upcoming Amazing Spider-Man royalties in consolation.
Will Win: Christian Borle, Peter and the StarcatcherShould Win: Andrew Garfield, Death of a Salesman (not because Borle is bad, but because in this case I genuinely believe what Garfield accomplished was harder)
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Nominees: Phillip Boykin, Porgy and Bess; Michael Cerveris, Evita; David Alan Grier, Porgy and Bess; Michael McGarth, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Josh Young, Jesus Christ Superstar
I was distinctly unimpressed with David Alan Grier’s performance when I saw Porgy and Bess back in January. The actor didn’t seem to have a proper handle on his character, and the Sportin’ Life who sang “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon” was vastly different than the one who proclaimed “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Revisiting the show last month, I’m happy to report that Grier has smoothed out a lot of inconsistencies in his characterization, but I still doubt most voters would consider the performance Tony-worthy.
Michael Cerveris is probably the best thing about the current Evita revival, at least from an acting standpoint. Unfortunately, the role of Juan Peron is even more underwritten than most Andrew Lloyd Webber roles, and even an actor Cerveris’ caliber can’t quite hide the fact that he’s working with pretty poor material. Similarly, Michael McGarth deserves a better show than the misguided Nice Work. Despite being the most reliably funny aspect of the show, I suspect a general indifference towards Nice Work will keep McGarth out of serious contention.
Phillip Boykin deserves to win this award, as his supremely menacing Crown is the sort of operatic presence Porgy and Bess demands even in this revised musical version. Boykin is the only cast member who can hold his own vocally against Audra McDonald, and he breathes full life into what could easily become a cartoonishly evil character. If you need any proof of how well Boykin does his job, just listen to the cheers that erupt from the audience when Norm Lewis’ Porgy finally triumphs over the brute.
But a part of me fears that Josh Young might just rain on Boykin’s parade. Young is the only nominee in this category I haven’t personally seen, as he was out the night I saw Superstar. In fact, he was out for a large portion of the preview period and the month immediately following. While I know these actors are only human, missing so many shows so soon in the run does make me question someone’s Tony worthiness. Theatre acting is about being able to turn in a stellar performance eight times a week; if you can’t keep yourself healthy, or worse yet blow your voice due to poor singing technique, then I don’t think you’re ready for theatre’s highest honor. The fact that Young got nominated despite all his missed performances indicates he is either excellent receiving a large pity vote, or both. I’m going to go with my heart and predict Boykin wins, but I would not be surprised if Young’s name is called on June 10th instead.
Will & Should Win: Phillip Boykin, Porgy and Bess
Catch up on my other Tony predictions below:
Book & Score
Direction & Choreography