Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part III (Best Actor)

As the announcement of the 2014 Tony nominees draws ever closer, I continue my valiant (insane?) effort to try and predict the nominees in all the major categories.  I've already tackled the production and Best Actress categories; today I take my best guess at Best Actor.  Again, my predictions are based on a very unscientific mixture of first-hand experience, industry hearsay, and gut feeling (but I tend to have a pretty good record at these sorts of things).  And I will always pick a Wildcard performer who I think has the greatest chance of unseating one of my presumptive five nominees.

On with the show!

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston should probably look into expanding the trophy wing of his house in the near future.

An embarrassment of riches that will probably see a fair amount of Hollywood talent nominated, the Best Actor race is a difficult one for me to get a read on.  No one seems to be a runaway favorite for either a nomination or a win, but some bets are safer than others.  Everybody loved Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, and it sounds like his acting skills have made the transition to the stage intact.  He's as close to a sure thing in this category as they come.  A week ago I would have considered The Glass Menagerie's Zachary Quinto a lock in this category, but his absence from both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle lists makes his position rather precarious.  Formerly presumptive nominee Denzel Washington may also be in danger, as the theatrical community doesn't seem nearly as enamored with his performance in A Raisin in the Sun as they were with his (in my opinion overrated) star turn in Fences a few seasons back.

So if two of the presumptive nominees are in danger of losing their slots, who is challenging them?  For starters, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, theatrical institutions who were roundly praised for their work in both Waiting for Godot and No Man's Land.  McKellen in particular has stated that this year's shows are likely his Broadway swan song, which means this could be the last chance ever for Tony voters to honor him with a second statuette (and his work in No Man's Land has already garnered him nods in the other guild awards).  Chris O'Dowd has wowed critics with his work as the gentle giant Lennie in Of Mice and Men, an award-bait role if there ever was one (mentally handicapped AND a tragic death).  And both Tony Shalhoub and Santino Fontano received raves for their work in Lincoln Center's Act One, although I doubt the category has room for both of them.  Given Shalhoub's seniority, and I'd say he has the edge, and Fontano will just have to console himself with last year's nomination and those royalty checks from the Frozen soundtrack.

In the unlikely but still possible category we have theatre vets Patrick Page and Roger Rees, for Casa Valentina and The Winslow Boy respectively.  Rees seemed to be more of the clear-cut lead of his show (Valentina is very much an ensemble piece), so if one of them was going to sneak in here it would be him.  I also wouldn't rule out Daniel Radcliffe, who gets steadily better reviews with each Broadway outing, although his role in The Cripple of Inishmaan doesn't allow him to show the range the other contenders in this category possess.

Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Ian McKellen, No Man's Land
Zachary Quinto, The Glass Menagerie
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Daniel Radcliffe, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Denzel Washington, A Raisin in the Sun

Best Actor in a Musical

I don't remember this much smiling in Rocky, either onstage or from the audience.

In surveying this category, I am struck by how many men are doing solid work in questionable productions.  Ramin Karimloo single-handedly makes the ill-advised Les Miserables watchable, and Andy Karl manages to rise above the truly awful material he's given in Rocky to become a bonafide Broadway star.  Despite the questionable quality of their shows, I think both men are in a good positions to score their first-ever Tony nominations on Tuesday, although neither is a sure thing.  That honor goes to Neil Patrick Harris, who blew almost everyone away as a transgendered rocker in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  The fact the beloved cult musical is even on Broadway is entirely due to Harris' attachment to the property, and the fact that all the critics loved it is a testament to how well the multitalented entertainer embodies the spirit of the piece.  (Besides, we kind of owe him for his years of being an amazing Tony host and all around enthusiastic theatre ambassador.)

Then we have the question of what to do about Jefferson Mays' and Bryce Pinkham's dual starring turns in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and MurderMays has long been considered a frontrunner in this category for his madcap portrayal of all eight members of the doomed D'Ysquith clan, but Pinkham is every bit as good in the tougher and arguably more demanding role (if Pinkham wasn't carrying the show, Mays wouldn't be free to ham it up so gleefully).  In recent years, having two strong male co-leads has led to both men scoring nominations (see Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells in The Book of Mormon, or Billy Porter and Stark Sands in Kinky Boots), and that is a distinct possibility here.  I personally am rooting for Pinkham, who blew me away with his effortless charm and gorgeous tenor.

But if all five of the above men make it, that leaves no room for the very deserving Norbert Leo Butz and Steven Pasquale, which seems almost criminal given their amazing performances this season.  Although Big Fish as a show sharply divided audiences and critics, no one can argue with the Herculean work Butz did in the lead role; however, with two wins and four total nominations to his name, I think the Tony committee will choose to spread the wealth this year and leave Butz out of consideration.  But Pasquale has no previous nominations and is sensational in The Bridges of Madison County, with singing and acting chops every bit the equal to his luminous costar Kelli O'Hara.  Ultimately, I think a nomination is in the cards for Pasquale, most likely to the detriment of Karimloo, who will be done in by the critical indifference to his show.  At least everyone can take comfort in the fact they don't have to compete against Alan Cumming's resurrected Emcee, since the Scottish thespian is ineligible due to the fact that he already won the Tony the last time he played the role.

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Steven Pasquale, The Bridges of Madison County
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Norbert Leo Butz, Big Fish
Ramin Karimloo, Les Miserables

That's all for now.  Join me tomorrow for the toughest and sometimes most arbitrary predictions of the year:  Best Featured Actor and Actress!

See the rest of my Tony coverage:
2014 Tony Nominee Predictions Part I (Production)
2014 Tony Nominee Predictions Part II (Best Actress)

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