Friday, February 13, 2015

Extremely Early 2015 Tony Predictions: Part III

Although they seem so very far away, the 2015 Tony Awards will be here before you know it. The current winter lull on Broadway is the perfect time to take stock of which fall productions and performers have made a particularly strong impression on critics and Tony voters, thereby keeping them in the conversation when the time comes to hand out Tony nominations on April 28th. I've already discussed the production and lead actor/actress races, so now its time to turn my attention to the Featured Actor and Actress categories. This where I expect the new rule that allows for up to seven nominees in performance categories to have the greatest effect, as past years have seen a wealth of supporting talent go unrecognized due to the categories' previously strict nominee limits. I don't expect every featured race to expand to the maximum possible nominees, but I wouldn't be surprised if one or two did. That said, I'm still going to be relatively conservative in my estimates, as history has proven time and time again that Tony voters favor spring shows.

So who's currently in the best position to hear their name announced on Tony Tuesday? Read on to find out!

WARNING: Occasional snark and lots of speculation to follow.

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Look for Clyde Alves (left) and Jay Armstrong Johnson (right) to join fellow On the Town sailor Tony Yazbeck (center) among this year's Tony nominees.

As with so many things, I'm expecting On the Town to dominate here. I would be shocked and more than a little indignant to see Jay Armstrong Johnson or Clyde Alves excluded from the Featured Actor race, as their work is every bit as compelling as costar and almost assured Best Actor nominee Tony Yazbeck. If some horrible twist of fate leaves only enough room for one of these supremely talented gentlemen, I give the slight edge to Johnson, whose completely endearing Chip benefits from the actor's extreme physicality and a crackling chemistry with Alysha Umphress' Hildy. I also expect at least one of Side Show's featured players to make an appearance here, although a particularly strong spring season might cause Tony voters to forget the excellent work of Matthew Hydzik, Ryan Silverman, and David St. Louis. Silverman is the most likely nominee thanks to his nuanced performance as both the show's primary love interest and antagonist, although St. Louis had the musical's most distinctive male role and sang the powerful ballad "You Should Be Loved," so he cannot be counted out. Also, should Honeymoon in Vegas' Tony Danza be deemed a supporting player despite his above the title billing, he may well make an appearance among the Featured Actor nominees as well.

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Two time Tony winner James Earl Jones could well find himself nominated again this year thanks to his turn as the laid back head of the Sycamore clan in You Can't Take It With You.

Despite the abundance of plays this fall, this category appears to be wide open, as many supporting players got good reviews but hardly any got great ones. I doubt the committee will pass up the opportunity to nominate the always reliable James Earl Jones for You Can't Take It With You, although they did pass over his meatier roles in Driving Miss Daisy and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof so you never know. Ian Barford is well-positioned for recognition thanks to his excellent work in the fall's most buzzed about play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, even though most of that show's praise has focused on the staging and its sensational leading man, Alex Sharp. The well-reviewed but mostly forgotten This Is Our Youth might actually break into the Tony conversation thanks to Kieran Culkin, and I can also see a scenario where Disgraced's Josh Radnor winds up with a nomination. But ultimately I expect the bulk of the nominees in this category to come from this spring's British imports The Audience and Wolf Hall, which feature expansive casts of men playing historical figures in high-minded dramas (re: Tony bait).

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

She can cook too! Alysha Umphress sizzles in John Rando's standout On the Town, a performance which practically demands a Tony nomination and eventual win.


That pretty much sums up my feelings about this year's Best Featured Actress in a Musical Race, as the sensational Alysha Umphress essentially steals On the Town away from her multiple, extremely talented costars. There are few things on Broadway right now more joyous and entertaining than her innuendo-laden "I Can Cook Too," and her magnetic smile and heaven-sent voice make it virtually impossible to look away whenever she's on stage. Literally everyone I know who's seen the show has walked away in love with Umphress, and it would be absolutely unacceptable if she wasn't nominated.

That said, let's talk about Elizabeth Stanley! Umphress' On the Town costar is absolutely astounding as the buttoned up Claire, charting one of the show's biggest character arcs with warmth, grace, and a gorgeously full soprano. Stanley is just as deserving of a nomination as Umphress, and I sincerely hope she is remembered during the nominations process. You also have to at least consider Megan Fairchild for her breathtaking ballets in the same show (as Karine Plantadit proved in 2010, exquisite dancing can net one a Tony nomination). And while I found Jackie Hoffman's On the Town schtick to be a tad strained, there is a lot of love for the longtime scene stealer who has somehow never been in the running for Broadway's highest honor; many feel she's overdue for at least a nomination, and this could finally be the year she gets one.

Clearly, you could almost fill this category solely with On the Town actresses, although I doubt that will actually happen. I consider Umphress and Stanley the safest bets, and they will most likely be joined by Honeymoon in Vegas' Nancy Opel. Like Hoffman, I found Opel's turn to be distractingly too over the top, but many, many reviews heaped praise upon Opel and I wouldn't begrudge her a nomination. Regardless, at this point the award is Umphress' to lose, and I'm not sure my brain could even comprehend the level of brilliance that would be required to wrest it from her.

Best Featured Actress in a Play

After finally breaking through in the Tony-winning Kinky Boots, Annaleigh Ashford gives another abashedly loony performance in this fall's You Can't Take It With You. 

I fully expect at least one of the supporting actresses from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to make an appearance in this category, although I'm torn as to whether it will be Francesca Faridany or Enid Graham. Faridany is a more prominent and consistent maternal presence throughout the play, but Graham has the kind of heartwrenching scenes that scream "Tony Award," making it possible both actresses wind up among this year's nominees. There is also a strong likelihood previous nominee Annaleigh Ashford makes another trip down the Tony red carpet for her delightfully daffy dancer in You Can't Take It With You.

While no means assured, this category likely represents box office sensation It's Only a Play's best shot at an acting nomination, with Stockard Channing's booze addled diva one of that misguided production's few highlights. Channing also appears content to stick with the production until its early June closing, which means she will be actively performing when Tony voters are making their final decisions, which is always beneficial and an opportunity very few of this fall's actresses will have. For instance, The Elephant Man's Patricia Clarkson will have to rely on costar Bradley Cooper's high profile to keep that production alive in voters' minds, and while Martha Plimpton is in the running for her work in the soon to shutter A Delicate Balance, I'm doubtful many will remember the low buzz show past its closing date.

And there you have it. Those are my extremely early thoughts on this year's major Tony races, all of course subject to change based on the strength or weakness of this spring's offerings. A lot can change between now and late April, and you can bet I will be here through all of it. Stay tuned!

Also, don't forget to check out the rest of my current Tony coverage:

Tony Awards Rule Change
Extremely Early Tony Predictions: Part I
Extremely Early Tony Predictions: Part II

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