Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part IV (Featured Actor/Actress)

I've already gone into great detail about the productions and leading actors/actresses I expect to wake up to good news on Tuesday morning.  (Sidenote: why on earth are Tony nominations announced so early when the people they're honoring typically don't go into work until 6 pm or later?)  Now I'm going to attempt the most difficult predictions of all:  the Featured Actor and Actress nominees.

Why are these categories so hard to predict?  Because whereas the production and lead actor categories have a relatively limited pool of eligible nominees, almost everyone who sets foot on a Broadway stage is could conceivably be nominated in the Featured categories, which makes narrowing things down much more difficult.  Historically, this is also the area with the biggest number of "surprise" nominations for people who weren't on anyone's radar.  (Did you know who Elizabeth A. Davis was before the 2012 Tony nominations?  Do you know who she is now???)  But using my time honored combination of first hand experience, industry buzz, and gut feeling, I'm making predictions anyway, including at least one Wildcard per category that could potentially unseat one of my official guesses.

Best Featured Actress (Play)

Oscar-nominee Sophie Okonedo will probably be able to add "Tony nominee" to her resume after tomorrow's nominations are announced.

The sure-bet here is Celia Keenan-Bolger for her Laura in last fall's acclaimed The Glass Menagerie.  She will certainly be joined by at least one of the ladies from A Raisin in the Sun, although at this point deciding between Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose feels arbitrary.  Okonedo got slightly more rapturous reviews, although she is also playing the same role that won Audra McDonald the Tony only ten years ago, which is a mighty powerful memory to overcome.  Rose is a previous Tony winner and is playing the one female role which wasn't honored with an award the last time around, so recognizing her would allow Tony voters to feel less like they're repeating themselves.  There's also the very real possibility the committee will double down and nominate both women, which is what my gut is telling me at this moment.

After that, things get harder to predict.  Andrea Martin just won the Tony last year, but that hasn't mattered much to voters recently (see Judith Light's back-to-back wins), and the committee tends to be impressed by actors tackling multiple roles like Martin does in Act One.  Although I have not personally seen or even heard much buzz about Casa Valentina, Mare Winningham recently scored herself an Outer Critics Circle nomination for her work in that Harvey Fierstein play, which makes her a contender here as well.  And there is the dim but still possible chance that Jayne Houdyshell is remembered for her role as the Nurse in the ill-fated Romeo & Juliet revival from last fall; she did manage to beat out all of her Follies costars a couple of years ago, although that show was much better liked than Romeo.

Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Andrea Martin, Act One
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Jayn Houdyshell, Romeo & Juliet

Beat Featured Actor (Play)

Honestly, any of the men from last fall's Twelfth Night are worthy of a Tony nominations, although it is Mark Rylance (left) and Paul Chahidi (second from left) who have the greatest chance of actually being recognized.

Have they gone ahead and engraved this award with Mark Rylance's name yet?  They might as well, because his buzzed about Olivia in Twelfth Night was such a master class in acting I cannot imagine anyone else wresting this category away from him.  His nomination is a sure thing, and I actually have a very good feeling about his co-star Paul Chahidi being recognized as well for his outstanding Maria.  Chahidi took a role that typically feels more like a narrative device and turned it into a fully fledged, entirely winsome character, and I believe he will be rewarded for it.  My gut is also telling me that Brian J. Smith will complete The Glass Menagerie's hat trick of garnering nominations for the entire cast in all four acting categories.

I'm at a loss as to who else will be competing in this category; there is no shortage of eligible nominees thanks to the abundance of male-dominated plays this season.  Billy Crudup inexplicably scored a Tony nomination for the 2011 revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia despite being atrocious in the role; could a similar outcome greet his performance in Waiting for GodotBobby Steggert is giving one of his most naturalistic performances yet in Mothers and Sons and isn't entirely out of the running, although that show is primarily viewed as a Tyne Daly vehicle.  Going back to the Shakespeare plays, Stephen Fry was roundly praised for his Malvolio in Twelfth Night, although having three nominees from the same show seems like a bit much.  All the Way's John McMartin landed among the Outer Critics' list of Best Featured Actors, and Casa Valentina's Reed Birney managed a similar feat with the Drama Desk awards, so both of those actors should be considered in the running as well.

Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie
Bobby Steggert, Mothers and Sons

Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night

Best Featured Actress (Musical)

I had a snappy caption for this photo of Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair, but the Bullets Over Broadway star very specifically instructed me not to speak.

Being ruled a featured actress instead of a lead is the best thing that could have happened to Marin Mazzie this year, as moving her into this less competitive category virtually guarantees a nomination for her boozy diva in Bullets Over Broadway.  And it would take quite an unexpected turn of events to keep Linda Emond out of the running for her Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret (who really deserved to win for her stellar performance in Death of a Salesman, so the committee kind of owes her).  There's also a guaranteed nomination in the cards for one of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder's ladies, even though in my ideal world both Lisa O'Hare and Lauren Worsham would be recognized for their outstanding work.  If only one can make the cut, my money is on O'Hare, whose upwardly mobile Sibella Hallward is the more interesting of the two characters since she subverts the typical ingénue troupes. 

Conventional wisdom holds that at least one more female from Bullets Over Broadway will get nominated, although whether it ends up being rising star Betsy Wolfe or Helene York's ditzy blonde is a toss up.  York is more of an unknown, and considering how much Tony voters love a good Cinderella story, York may benefit from their desire to try and crown a new star.  I also think Adriane Lenox has a strong chance at a nomination for her work in After Midnight, a prospect helped by the fact that she is the highest profile stable element of the show (she's been with the production since the beginning, while the Guest Star slot gets a new performer every month or two).  And finally, Anika Larson has scored both a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nomination for her work in Beautiful, which makes her a major contender for Tony recognition as well.

Linda Edmond, Cabaret
Anika Larson, Beautiful
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Marin Mazzie, Bullets Over Broadway
Lisa O'Hare, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Helene York, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Featured Actor (Musical)

"Friend Like Me" is the showstopper of the season, and James Monroe Iglehart is a large reason why it works as well as it does.  If that doesn't merit a Tony nomination, I don't know what does.

Like Best Featured Actor in a Play, there is a clear frontrunner for this award right now, and his name is James Monroe Inglehart.  His wisecracking Genie has made him the breakout star of Aladdinwith even the show's detractors admitting that Inglehart is the real deal.  His nomination is assured, and the only real question is who will be joining him.  Danny Burnstein seems like a sure thing for his performance as Herr Schultz in Cabaret; the fact that this Broadway stalwart has not been rewarded with the industry's highest honor is a fact that needs to change sooner rather than later (I will forever maintain that he was ROBBED of the 2012 Best Actor Tony for his revelatory performance in Follies).  And Nick Cordero has been nominated for every acting award so far this season, so I'd consider the Bullets Over Broadway player another lock for a nomination.

As for the remaining two slots, it's really anyone's guess, as there has been no consistency among the nominees in the other awards-given bodies (which tend to lump Broadway and Off-Broadway performances together, meaning less Broadway talent makes the cut).  Could Jarrod Spector benefit from the theatrical community's increasingly warm feelings towards Beautiful?  Will Tony nominators remember Bobby Steggert's performance in Big Fish?  Will the good looking, big voiced Joshua Henry manage to get his second career Tony nod for his supporting work in Violet?  At this point a well-liked performer like If/Then's Anthony Rapp has a decent shot at nabbing a nomination despite being overshadowed by several of his costars in a show that the critics didn't much care for.  There is even the off chance that one of the men from Les Miserables makes the cut, although considering most of those performers are more singers than actors that could raise a few eyebrows.

Danny Burnstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Inglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful

Bobby Steggert, Big Fish

Well, that caps off my 2014 Tony Awards predictions!  We'll find out how right (or wrong) I was when the official nominations are announced tomorrow morning, so check back in the next couple of days to see how I did.  Until then, you can read the rest of my Tony Awards coverage here:

2014 Tony Predictions Part I (Production)
2014 Tony Predictions Part II (Best Actress)
2014 Tony Predictions Part III (Best Actor)

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