The Tony Awards draw ever nearer, and we have finally worked our way up to the most prestigious performance categories. The leading actor and actress races are typically home to the type of tour de force performances that become Broadway legend, and winning the Tony against such strong competition is definitive proof that someone has “made it.” So which actresses will join the ranks of Broadway’s greatest and take home the coveted Best Actress statuettes (and who actually deserves such recognition)? Keep reading to find out.
Best Actress in a Play
|Emmy-winning veteran Cicely Tyson returns to the stage after a three decade absence in Roundabout's acclaimed revival of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful|
Nominees: 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
There are some truly masterful performances nominated in this category, and it’s difficult to argue against any of these women. Of the five nominees, I’m sad to say Amy Morton has the smallest chance of winning. While a fascinating Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Morton ended up playing second fiddle to Tracy Letts’ George. Critics are used to seeing that power dynamic reversed, and underplaying a role has not been the path to Tony glory in the past. And Holland Taylor’s nomination has more of an air of respectful acknowledgment than passionate support, which means that when push comes to shove she will not be the first (or second or third) actress people vote for.
Kristine Nielsen is an interesting case, as she has won several awards already for her work in Vanya and Sonia. But every other awards race has deemed Nielsen a supporting actress, and some voters may feel her role is not substantial enough to merit Best Actress. Which leaves Laurie Metcalf and Cicely Tyson, both of whom received across the board raves for their performances. In fact, I would say the raves for Metcalf were slightly more ecstatic, but her show closed several months ago while Tyson’s premiered late in the spring season. And considering that Tyson has already won the Outer Critics and Drama Desk awards for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful, she becomes the clear frontrunner here. This race is Tyson’s to lose.
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, The Other PlaceWill Win: Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Actress in a Musical
Nominees: Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Carolee Carmello, Scandalous; Valisia LeKae, Motown the Musical; Patina Miller, Pippin; Laura Osnes, Cinderella
No disrespect to the nominated women, but this year’s Best Actress in a Musical category is one of the weakest in recent memory, lacking the kind of outsized diva performances that usually make this race so interesting. On the positive side, whoever wins will be a first time Tony recipient, virtually guaranteeing a tearful and heartfelt acceptance speech. I really enjoyed Stephanie J. Block in Drood, and the part showcased her various talents with panache, but the borderline supporting role sidelined her for much of the second act. Drood also closed months ago, although it is still more recent than Carolee Carmello’s turn in the short-lived Scandalous. And while I’m sure Valisia LeKae is lovely as Diana Ross in Motown the Musical, I just don’t think the show or the actress has enough support behind her to snag one of Broadway’s highest honors.
This is a two horse race between past nominees Laura Osnes and Patina Miller, and I would say they are pretty evenly matched. Miller is giving the more overtly impressive performance as the Leading Player in Pippin, displaying a surprising affinity for the Fosse-esque choreography and utilizing her trademark powerhouse vocals to great effect. But many people, myself including, feel like Miller is trying too hard, and her aggressive need to impress the audience is not the most endearing quality. Meanwhile, Osnes is widely liked within the industry, as evidenced by her ability to get nominated among last year’s much more competitive field for her work in the little seen Bonnie and Clyde. She is also perfectly cast as the title character in Cinderella, a show Tony voters are clearly high on despite the questionable rewrites by Douglas Carter Beane.
I think in their hearts, most Tony voters want to see Osnes win this award, which would be the ultimate validation for someone who initially rose to fame on a reality TV show. But Miller’s performance is mighty impressive, and I suspect she would have won two years ago if it had not been for Sutton Foster’s fantastic turn in Anything Goes. This race is almost too close to call, but my gut is telling me to give Osnes the edge.
Should Win: Patina Mille, PippinWill Win: Laura Osnes, Cinderella
Check back soon to see my predictions for the Best Actor races, followed by the production awards. In the meantime, catch up with all of my previous Tony coverage here:
Best Book and Score
Best Choreography and Direction
Tony Nomination React