Friday, May 3, 2013

2013 Tony Nomination React

Emmy Award-nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson and two-time Tony-winner Sutton Foster announcing the 2013 Tony Award nominations.  Interestingly, both of these self-professed Broadway babies have left the Great White Way for the big, fat paychecks offered by Hollywood.

Well, that was interesting.  The 2013 Tony nominations were announced this past Tuesday, and it was a curious case of the predictable and the surprising.  It seems like most categories shaped up the way prognosticators (including me!) predicted, and yet almost every race includes one curve ball either in the form of a surprise inclusion or omission.  Below you can see a list of the official nominees in the eight categories I predicted, with the starred entries indicating the productions and people I guessed correctly.

Best Play
*The Assembled Parties
 *Lucky Guy
 The Testament of Mary
 *Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Thoughts:  Three out of four ain’t bad, and to be honest I doubt many people could have predicted the surprise inclusion of The Testament of Mary (even among this season’s solo shows, I wouldn’t have called it a frontrunner).  The fact that the show posted a closing notice hours after the nominations came out is even more puzzling, and pretty much guarantees that Mary has no chance of actually winning this award.

Best Musical
(*)Bring It On: The Musical
* A Christmas Story: The Musical
 *Kinky Boots
 *Matilda: The Musical

 Thoughts:  I’m actually pretty thrilled with this category.  It lines up with what I consider the four strongest new musicals of the season (although to be fair, I haven’t actually seen Matilda or Motown yet).  I’m especially happy the highly entertaining Bring It On made the cut, as I had thought the show too long gone to be in serious contention.  Occasionally the Tony committee surprises us all by getting things right.

Best Revival of a Play
*Golden Boy
 *The Trip to Bountiful
 *Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Thoughts:  Orphans?  Really?  I never even considered the Alec Baldwin vehicle for this slot, as the reviews ranged from “it wasn’t terrible” to “this script should never have made it to Broadway.”  But this has been a two horse race between Woolf and Golden Boy since late fall anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Best Revival of a Musical
 *The Mystery of Edwin Drood
 *Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Thoughts:  A perfect score in this category.  Not that picking these four was hard, as there was no way in hell the Tony committee would bring itself to nominate Jekyll & Hyde.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
 *Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
 *Nathan Lane, The Nance
 *Tracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
 (*)David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
 Tom Sturridge, Orphans

Thoughts:  The moral here is never, ever bet against David Hyde Pierce.  I think a lot of people (myself included) were surprised to see Alan Cumming shut out of this category, as a nomination for him would have been a way to acknowledge both his performance and the production itself.  And I don’t think Tom Sturridge was on anyone’s radar heading into Tuesday morning; getting nominated is an accomplishment in and of itself, but beating out his high profile costar Alec Baldwin is the real win here.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
 *Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
 *Amy Morton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
 Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
 Holland Taylor, Ann
 *Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful

Thoughts:  Several surprises in this category.  I’m not necessarily *shocked* that Holland Taylor made the cut, as it is a nice way for the Tony committee to recognize both her performance and playwriting skills, but I didn’t expect them to go for her over both Bette Midler and Fiona Shaw.  It’s also surprising that Shaw’s The Testament of Mary managed to crack the production category but the actress herself wasn’t nominated; maybe they were trying to spread the wealth?  Kristine Nielsen’s inclusion shows that there is a fair amount of love for Vanya and Sonia… (as does the play’s strong showing overall), but Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties may not be as beloved as the reviews suggested.  The omission of its leading lady Jessica Hecht is surprising, especially since she received better notices than costar Judith Light (who was nominated in the Supporting category).

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
 *Bertie Carvel, Matilda: The Musical
 Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
 *Rob McClure, Chaplin
 *Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
 Stark Sands, Kinky Boots

Thoughts:  The exclusion of Annie’s Anthony Warlow from this category is one of this year’s biggest snubs, as his portrayal of Daddy Warbucks is easily more accomplished than the likable but bland Santino Fontana and Stark Sands.  If it were up to me Warlow would have Fontana’s spot, since the latter’s cloying Prince Topher comes across as the work of a reasonably talented high school student.  I’m surprised the love for Pippin didn’t transfer to its leading man, although the more subdued nature of his performance probably prevented him from standing out.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
 *Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
 *Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
 Valisia LeKae, Motown the Musical
 *Patina Miller, Pippin
 *Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Thoughts:  Yawn.  There are some very lovely, very talented actresses among this group of nominees, and I don’t begrudge any of them their nominations.  It is especially nice to see the hard-working Stephanie J. Block get her moment in the sun after years as a reliable replacement or the star of stalled works like The Pirate Queen.  But for the first time in years, this category lacks the kind of electrifying diva performance which is usually its hallmark.  Even when the category only had four nominees back in 2011, one of those women was Sutton Foster doing career-best work in Anything Goes.  Everyone in this category is talented, but I don’t think any of them have found their signature role yet.

For those of you keeping score, I correctly guess 26 out of 36 of these nominees, for a 72% success rate (which is slightly worse than the 82% I did last year, but jumps to 78% if you include my runner-up predictions as correct guesses).  Some final thoughts:

-In some ways it’s sad this is even a celebration, but I am thrilled that the entire Best Score category comes from actual musicals this year instead of plays.  I’m especially happy to see the incredibly promising team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul included, and I think this is that start of great things to come from the University of Michigan grads.

-It has become clear to me that the Tony committee and I simply don’t see eye to eye on Douglas Carter Beane, but his nomination for Best Book of a Musical still enrages me.  I don’t know which is the greater crime: the fact that he completely disregards the tone and spirit of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work, or that his writing is an unfunny, unfocused mess that drags the entire enterprise down with it.  Sister Act, Lysistrata Jones, and now Cinderella all had enormous structural issues that made me wish the characters would just shut up and sing, and yet Beane has been Tony-nominated for every single one of them.  What a travesty.

-I am thrilled to see Carrie Coon nominated for her hilarious work as a completely plastered Honey in last fall’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  I can’t recall that last time I’ve seen someone play drunk so effectively onstage.

-I’m happy to see both Will Chase and Terrance Mann nominated for their scenery chewing work in Drood and Pippin respectively.  All aspiring hams should look to these two for a lesson on what appropriate mugging looks like, as both men scored major laughs without once distracting from their works’ overall narrative and pace.

-I would just like to point out that Kenneth Posner has three of the four Best Lighting Design of a Musical nominations.  I expect he will be even more prolific in the future.

-I’m really really REALLY rooting for Diane Paulus to win Best Director this year.  She is the most consistently exciting director working in musical theatre today, and this Pippin (just like Hair and Porgy and Bess before it) wouldn’t have been nearly as good without her involvement.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but rest assured I have plenty more to say about this year’s Tony Awards.  In the coming month look for plenty of posts predicting the winners, as well as the return of the Broadway, Etc. Podcast for a roundtable discussion about some of this year’s more interesting races.  And there will probably be a review or two thrown in just for fun, especially since Matilda garnered twelve nominations and I’ve yet to see it.  Stay tuned!

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