Monday, May 20, 2013

2013 Tony Predictions: Best Featured Actress

As the clock steadily ticks down to Tony Sunday, it’s time to begin predicting the winners of what I’ve dubbed the Big 12 Tony races (which includes the eight acting awards, best revivals, and best new productions).  I’ll be starting my analysis with the featured categories before working my way up towards the more prestigious awards, and if there are any major discrepancies between who I think is the most likely to win and who is the most deserving, I’ll be sure to point them out. 

Since any gentleman knows it’s ladies first, I’ll be starting with the Best Featured Actress categories, which I actually find to be some of the hardest categories to predict.  These races are where wildcard nominees are most likely to appear, with voters alternating between rewarding exciting new talent and re-honoring theatrical veterans.  Guessing which way the winds will blow in a given year can be as much luck as anything else, but I will bravely soldier on and do my best to make sense of it.  So without further ado, here are my picks for this year’s best supporting players.

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Condola Rashad (right) is two for two when it comes to Tony nominations; she's been nominated for each of her Broadway roles.  Can she win this year?
Nominees:  Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Judith Ivey, The Heiress; Judith Light, The Assembled Parties; Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful

In some ways this race is anyone’s game, but I think the least likely winner among the five nominees is Judith Ivey.  All but forgotten by the New York press, The Heiress hasn’t been very competitive when it comes to nominations or wins this awards season, and with two career wins to Ivey’s name I think the voters will choose to spread the love.  Carrie Coon was absolutely brilliant in Virginia Woolf, but her role is the smallest in the four character play, and with her flashier costars curiously overlooked by other awards bodies I can’t imagine she stands much of a chance.  Shalita Grant could be a dark horse candidate, as Vanya and Sonia has proven to be a surprisingly strong contender this season and the show’s most honored star, Kristine Nielsen, is competing in another category.

But ultimately, I think the most likely winners are the two women who found themselves in this same spot last year.  After a three decade absence from the New York stage, Judith Light returned in 2010 and has been Tony nominated three seasons running.  It is impossible to overstate the amount of love the community has for last year’s winner, and it is not outrageous to imagine Light becoming a consecutive Tony winner.  Aside from having just won this award, Light’s biggest stumbling block is that fact that Tony voters don’t appear as enamored with The Assembled Parties as the critics were.  The Trip to Bountiful’s Condola Rashad has obviously inherited her mother Phylicia’s talent, and voters who balk at honoring Light two years in a row will almost certainly vote for the young starlet.  In fact, I’m going to make the bold prediction that Rashad will win this year, although only a fool would count Light out completely.

Will & Should Win:  Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Andrea Martin in the outstanding revival of Pippin.  It's been 20 years since she won her first Tony; will this year bring her Tony #2?

Nominees:  Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots; Victoria Clark, Cinderella; Andrea Martin, Pippin; Keala Settle, Hand on a Hardbody; Lauren Ward, Matilda the Musical

This category is a nice mixture of industry heavyweights and Tony newcomers, with every nominated performance I’ve seen culminating in a genuine showstopper.  Despite her rafter shaking vocals and unexpected dramatic heft, Keala Settle is the underdog here as Hands on a Hardbody is the only nominated show not currently running.  And for all of the good things said about Matilda, the production itself has been more praised than the individual performances, which hurts Lauren Ward’s chances considerably.

I would honestly be happy to see any of the three remaining women take home the trophy.  Victoria Clark has been handed some questionable material in the rewrite of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, but her second act ballad “There’s Music in You” is one of the most gloriously sung and acted pieces of music currently on Broadway.  I think the general disdain for Cinderella will hold Clark back, but there’s no denying the power of her performance.  Annaleigh Ashford is finally enjoying her moment in the sun after years of hilarious supporting turns in under seen or underappreciated musicals, and her solo “The History of Wrong Guys” is a simultaneous send-up and love letter to 80s rock anthems.  In a lesser actress’ hands the part would likely fall flat, and a Tony win would provide the perfect feather in Ashford’s professional cap.  But Andrea Martin’s work in Pippin is nothing short of magical, and in its utter simplicity her “No Time at All” manages to trump the topnotch revival’s overwhelming amount of visual spectacle.  Only a complete killjoy would begrudge Martin her likely Tony win, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer broad. 

Should Win:  Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Will Win:  Andrea Martin, Pippin

Check back soon for my predictions in the Best Featured Actor categories, and until then you can catch up on the rest of my Tony ramblings for this season.

Best Choreography and Direction
2013 Tony Nominations React

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