Thursday, May 22, 2014

2014 Tony Predictions: Best Direction and Choreography

It's that time of year again.  With the 2014 Tony nominations announced and the awards ceremony set for Sunday, June 8th, all of Broadway is buzzing with speculation on who will win Broadway's highest honor.  Well, add my voice to the cacophony, because it's time once again for me to give my semi-educated opinion on who is most likely to win on Tony Sunday.  As in past years, I will be focusing primarily on what I call the Big 12 awards (Musical, Play, Revival, and the 8 acting categories), along with Direction, Choreography, Book, and Score. 

Through a time-honored combination of first hand experience, industry scuttlebutt, and gut feeling, I will be naming both the person or production I think most likely WILL win, along with who I think SHOULD win.  These two unfortunately do not always overlap; I am still upset with how the 2012 awards went down, particularly Best Actor in a Musical (Danny Burstein was ROBBED!) and Best Revival of a Musical (Follies was perfection).  Hopefully the voters will be a little more just this year, although without a clear front-runner in most of the categories I have a feeling we're in for at least one off-the-wall winner.  Now without further ado, let the predictions commence!

Best Direction of a Play

Stephen Fry has died of laughter, a common occurrence for audience members of Tim Carroll's all-male Twelfth Night
Nominees:  Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night; Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan; Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun; John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie
It sure was nice of the Tony nominators to recognize Michael Grandage and Kenny Leon, but the idea that either one of them is in contention for the actual award is slightly ludicrous.  Leon's work on A Raisin in the Sun has drawn mixed reactions (once again, he has coaxed phenomenal performances out of his actresses while neglecting his central actor), and despite its 6 Tony nominations The Cripple of Inishmaan has almost no momentum behind it.  This race is firmly between the directors of last fall's critical darlings, Twelfth Night and The Glass Menagerie.  Both shows took put fresh spins on well-worn classics, although in my opinion only one of those spins actually proved illuminating to the text.  But I am in the minority when it comes to my low (extremely low) opinion of John Tiffany's work on Menagerie, and he could very well walk away with the top prize.  But considering Tiffany just won a directing Tony in 2012, and that Tim Carroll's production of Twelfth Night was the funniest, freshest production I have ever seen despite (because of?) his adherence to Shakespeare's original practices, I think Mr. Carroll is well-positioned for a much deserved win on Tony Sunday.
Will and Should Win:  Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Best Direction of a Musical

Being a serial killer didn't look nearly so enchanting in Sweeney Todd.
Nominees:  Warren Carlyle, After Midnight; Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Leigh Silverman, Violet; Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
This is a much tighter race than Best Direction of a Play, with the only nominee I can't picture winning being Violet's Leigh Silverman.  Her work on the small scale musical has its charms, but the production as a whole is a tad underwhelming and the sheen of good reviews has already started to fade.  Director Warren Carlyle arguably had the most to do with his show's success, since the jazz review has no script to speak of and therefore draws all of its structure from the strength of Carlyle's direction and choreography (Carlyle is also the only director/choreographer to score dual nominations this year).  Unfortunately for Carlyle, Tony voters have a not-so-subtle bias against revues, which will probably keep him from actually winning here.

If I was handing out the Tonys, I would give this one to Michael Mayer's bravura work on Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  The show has survived the upgrade from small scale venues to a big Broadway house with its rebellious spirit intact, and that is wholly thanks to Mayer's alterations to the show's premise and his fluid staging.  Also, Neil Patrick Harris didn't just happen upon his stunning performance as the transgendered title character; that kind of magic is the clear product of an actor and director working together in full harmony.  But Darko Tresnjak is at the helm of the year's biggest Tony nominee, and thus gets to reap the benefits of the show's goodwill even though there is hardly anything special about his work on it.  Add in the fact that Mayer already has two Tonys and I'm inclined to think Tony voters will go with Broadway newcomer Tresnjak over the more seasoned Mayer.

Should Win:  Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Will Win:  Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Best Choreography

Who needs a pesky book getting in the way of all the production numbers?  Not After Midnight, that's for sure!
Nominees:  Warren Carlyle, After Midnight; Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky; Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin; Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

I have nothing but the utmost respect for 5-time Tony winner Susan Stroman, and honestly think her two Broadway outings this year (Big Fish and Bullets Over Broadway) were unfairly savaged by the press.  Her production numbers are always full of wit, invention, and an unbridled joy that is the hallmark of Golden Age Broadway, and her involvement will instantly make me more interested in a particular project.  All of that said, Bullets proved extremely divisive among critics and the backlash against the show will prevent her from winning this year.  And while Rocky makes some interesting use of movement, there's just not enough of it to really merit a Tony win.

As a double nominee, Warren Carlyle may be in the best position here.  A win for Carlyle would be an acknowledgement of all his work on the production (similar to how Jerry Mitchell's win last year was an acknowledgement of all of his work on Kinky Boots, not just the choreography) while also leaving Best Director open for someone else.  But the same argument could also be used in favor of Casey Nicholaw, and Best Choreography is his only chance at being acknowledged for all he did to make Aladdin a success.  Nicholaw crafted the year's most buzzed about showstopper - "Friend Like Me" routinely draws standing ovations despite the fact it occurs in the middle of the first act - but Carlyle has won several of the guild awards, making this one a true toss up.  Given this is probably After Midnight's best chance at Tony glory, I think voters will give this to Carlyle, although I would not at all be surprised if Nicholaw won instead.

Should Win:  Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Will Win:  Warren Carlyle, After Midnight

That concludes the first entry in my annual round of Tony predictions.  Keep checking back over the next 3 weeks as I work my way through the rest of the big categories, and we'll find out how well (or poorly) I did on June 8th.  Until then, check out the rest of my 2014 Tony coverage below:

2014 Tony Nominations React

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