Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 Tony Predictions - Best Revival

Now that we’ve discussed the creative categories and the acting nominees, all that’s left to predict are the production awards.  These awards are arguably the most prestigious, as theatre is a collaborative medium and a production win is an acknowledgement of excellent in all aspects of a particular show.  As I prepare to predict the season’s best revivals, please keep in mind my two caveats: 1) I have not necessarily seen all of the nominated productions; and 2) I am predicting who will win, which is not necessarily the same as who should win.  Any discrepancies in the two will be discussed in the body of the article.

Best Revival of a Play

Nominees:  Death of a Salesman, The Best Man, Master Class, Wit

Master Class is an extreme long shot in this category, as it opened and closed during the summer of 2011.  Tony voters have notoriously short memories, and given the sheer number of shows that have opened since then, Master Class should consider itself lucky for having been nominated at all.  It is particularly telling that the production’s star, Tyne Daly, failed to receive a Best Actress nomination despite her much ballyhooed turn as opera diva Maria Callas in a piece that is essentially a one woman show with interruptions. 

Wit suffers from a less severe version of the same problem.  Historically, winning a Best Revival trophy has been very difficult when a show isn’t being performed nightly to remind voters how good it is, and Wit has been closed for months.  Cynthia Nixon’s Best Actress nomination proves the show is still present in people’s minds, but despite being highly regarded I don’t think the production as a whole made enough of an impression to secure a Best Revival win.

The Best Man has the distinction of being the only nominated revival that is still running, an invaluable asset in any Tony race.  Unfortunately, it also received the least encouraging reviews of the bunch.  While many critics praised the star-studded cast, they found the show itself a tad slow, indicating that for whatever reason the individual performances aren’t adding up to a satisfying whole.  A show perceived as a disappointment, whether due to unreasonably high expectations or actual shortcomings, rarely wins the big awards.

I think Death of a Salesman will easily win Best Revival tonight.  The play is an acknowledged masterpiece, and you couldn’t ask for much better material.  But rather than rest on their laurels, Mike Nichols and his entire team pushed themselves to deliver the most universally praised revival of the year.  The presence of Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman made the show a box office bonanza, and the level of buzz surrounding the production was deafening.  Critical acclaim, a towering central performance by an A-list celebrity, and box office success amount to a Tony-winning trifecta, and I would be shocked to see anything other than Salesman win this award.

Will and Should Win:  Death of a Salesman

Best Revival of a Musical

The Tonys have often been accused of being too commercially-minded, favoring box office success over artistic merit.  While there is certainly some truth to this (producers of touring houses make up a large percentage of Tony voters, and they want to be able to book Tony-winning shows that will also make them lots of money), the revival categories seem to be less prone to this phenomenon.  That is why I think despite Evita’s enormous financial success, it has very little chance of winning the big prize.  This current revival has been unfavorably compared to memories of the original 1979 production.  Leading lady Elena Roger has proven to be a divisive Eva, and I would agree with the many audience members who feel her voice simply isn’t up to the challenge of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s demanding score.  Despite a visually stunning physical production and top-notch direction by Michael Grandage, this Evita lacks spark, and has been deemed a disappointment by many of the show’s fans.

The other Lloyd Webber revival of the season, Jesus Christ Superstar, is a much stronger contender.  Though Superstar is far inferior to Evita as a piece of musical theatre writing, director Des McAnuff and his team have polished it to a high gloss.  The end result, which wisely emphasizes the pseudo-love triangle between Jesus, Judas, and Mary, is so good that it managed to win me over despite my deep dislike of Lloyd Webber in general and Superstar in particular.  It helps that McAnuff cast leads that are actually capable of handling the insane vocal demands of the score, but Superstar’s low number of overall nominations indicates it will have a tough time winning against its stiff competition.

The real contenders here are Follies and Porgy and Bess, two fantastic shows which have received first rate productions.  The Stephen Sondheim revival boasted an impeccable cast, a sumptuous physical production and excellent direction, and I truly believe that it will be talked about for years to come as a definitive version of that landmark show.  While there is much to love about Porgy, including an astounding central performance by the incomparable Audra McDonald, purists have been vocally upset about director Diane Paulus’ retooling of a four hour opera into a two-and-a-half hour musical.  Even though Porgy is still running (a major advantage for any Tony-nominated production), I expect the ire over Paulus’ judicious cuts to keep it from taking the big prize, which is as it should be.  Follies was a truly transcendent theatrical experience, and deserves to be recognized as the best revival of the season.

Will and Should Win:  Follies

The only races left to predict are the two biggest, Best Play and Best Musical.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on each, and catch up on the rest of my Tony predictions in the meantime:

Best Actress
Best Featured Actor
Best Featured Actress
Best Book and Score
Best Direction and Choreography

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