Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2014 Tony Predictions: Best Featured Actor

Today marks the first round of predictions for what I call the Big 12 categories (the 4 production and 8 acting Tonys handed out each year).  The reason I call them the Big 12 is they are generally seen as the most prestigious of the various Tony awards, and are the ones that are most likely to be bragged about in marketing materials and future Playbill bios.  In short, they seem to be the awards people care about the most, perhaps because they are the easiest ones for non-industry people to assess. 
Now normally at this point I would say "ladies first," but the fact of the matter is that the Best Actress and Featured Actress races this year are just more interesting and exciting, so I am saving those for later.  So without further ado, let's talk about this year's Featured Actor contenders!

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Actor Mark Rylance has publicly stated he doesn't believe in the use of microphones during live theatre, probably because he gets tired of doing a mic drop after every sensational performance.
Nominees:  Reed Birney, Casa Valentina; Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night; Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night; Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night; Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

The obvious choice in this category is Mark Rylance.  A two-time Tony-winner who consistently receives critical raves, Rylance's take on Twelfth Night's love-struck Olivia was the talk of the town during the fall and winter months.  Rylance, choosing to emphasize Olivia's petulance and childishness rather than her regal nature, was responsible for more laughs per minute than any other performer this season, with a performance completely supported by Shakespeare's text while still feeling fresh and original.  Rylance certainly has my vote, and for months I've been convinced that this race was his to lose.

However, the fact that two of his hilarious costars also received nominations may cause vote splitting among Tony voters trying to choose their favorite actor from that all-male production.  If too many Twelfth Night fans decide to vote for Paul Chahidi (arguably the best Maria every) or Stephen Fry (a very funny Malvolio), it may allow Brian J. Smith to sneak in a surprise win for his portrayal of the pivotal Gentleman Caller in last fall's critically lauded The Glass Menagerie.  If Casa Valentina had more momentum behind it then Reed Birney might have a chance as a dark horse candidate, but I think critical affection for both Twelfth Night and Menagerie is simply too strong for Birney to overcome.  I'm still predicting a win for Rylance, but I won't be completely shocked if Smith is called up to the podium instead.

Will and Should Win:  Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Best Featured Actor in a Musical

You ain't never had a friend like Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart, who has been bringing the house down 8 times a week during his showstopping rendition of the Oscar-nominated "Friend Like Me." 
Nominees: Danny Burstein, Cabaret; Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway; Joshua Henry, Violet; James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin; Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

This race is much closer than Featured Actor in a Play, and there are several ways I can imagine it going.  I personally would consider Jarrod Spector the least likely winner, but at the same time the Tony voters clearly have a lot of affection for Beautiful.  As a two-time nominee Joshua Henry is automatically a more competitive than he would be otherwise; being nominated twice proves that the first time wasn't a fluke, and shows Tony voters clearly respect the up and coming performer.  But I just don't think this is Henry's year, which leaves us with three equally compelling candidates.

Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart is one of the breakout stars of this Broadway season, stopping the show nightly with his fantastic rendition of "Friend Like Me."  Scene-stealing turns do quite well in the Featured categories, and the fact that Iglehart has made the role his own after Robin Williams' iconic work in the film version is mighty impressive.  But Bullets Over Broadway's Nick Cordero has been a consistent figure in every awards race this season, and has even won a couple of the guild awards for his gangster with a heart of gold (Cordero is also the center of his own big production number).  I wouldn't be surprised if he won, but I also have to handicap him since Tony voters are clearly less enamored with Bullets than some of the other awards-granting bodies.

And then there is the reliably great Danny Burstein, a Broadway stalwart who despite 5 career nominations has yet to actually win a Tony Award.  Burstein was robbed (ROBBED!) when Once's Steve Kazee won for his merely adequate Guy over Burstein's revelatory Buddy in Follies, and there is a building consensus among the Broadway community that it's about time the hardworking Burstein got his moment in the sun.  But Tony voters are even cooler towards Cabaret than they are towards Bullets, and I fear Burstein will be passed over once again.  I will give the edge to Iglehart, but Cordero is a strong possibility as well.

Should Win:  Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Will Win:  James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin (which for the record would not be nearly as egregious as picking Kazee over Burstein in 2012)

Be sure to check back daily over the next two weeks to get all the latest Tony coverage.  Next up are the ladies competing for Best Featured Actress, followed by the Lead Actors and Actresses.  And you can catch up on the rest of my Tony coverage by checking out the links below:

2014 Tony Nominations React
Best Direction and Choreography
Best Book and Score

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