Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Tony Predictions: Best Featured Actor

Broadway's biggest night is just over two weeks away, and the entire industry is wondering who will walk away from the 2015 Tony Awards a winner. And since rampant awards speculation is one of my favorite pastimes, I am continuing my survey of the productions and people I think are most likely to win big on June 7th. Now that I've predicted some of the behind the scenes winners, it's time to move on to what I lovingly call the Big 12 categories. The 8 acting and 4 production awards seem to be the ones that carry the most industry clout, as well as provoking the most intense speculation among the theatrical community, and I would argue they are the ones the general public is most interested in when they tune in to the annual Tony telecast.

Of course, who will win and who is most deserving are not always one and the same, which can make any Tony predictions doubly difficult. So should I feel someone besides the most deserving person will be giving an acceptance speech that Sunday, I will make sure to say so in my analysis. Now without further ado, here are my thoughts on two of the most wide open races in this year's awards: the Featured Actor categories.

Warning: Occasional snark and wild speculation to follow.

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Nathaniel Parker as the volatile Henry VIII in British import Wolf Hall.

Nominees: Matthew Beard, Skylight; K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway; Richard McCabe, The Audience; Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man; Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts I & II; Micah Stock, It's Only a Play

I'll admit, I was caught completely by surprise when they announced this category's nominees; the only person who was even on my radar was Wolf Hall's Nathaniel Parker. I also find it interesting that of all the acting categories, this was the only one where the votes were close enough to prompt an expansion to six nominees, further indicating what a tight race we have on our hands.

Despite being one of three central figures in the critically acclaimed Elephant Man revival, I think Alessandro Nivola is at a major disadvantage as the only nominee whose show isn't currently running. I also don't have a very good feeling about K. Todd Freeman, as no one seems to be talking about Airline Highway and the show's box office is so paltry that Manhattan Theatre Club has shortened the play's run (a rare move for a non-profit). And since any discussion of The Audience generally begins and ends with how brilliant Helen Mirren is, I don't find Richard McCabe to be particularly competitive in this category.

The three most likely winners are the aforementioned Parker, Skylight's Matthew Beard, and It's Only a Play's Micah Stock. I personally don't see what is Tony worthy about Stock's performance, as the actor's biggest laughs come from the absurd celebrity coats he brings onstage rather than anything the young actor actually says or does. And not to diminish Beard's work, but Skylight is often described as a two-hander between the roundly praised Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan, which leads me to believe the actor's role is relatively modest and somewhat inconsequential to the plot. Which makes Parker the most likely winner in my eyes, given his larger than life character's importance to Wolf Hall's plot and the fact that Tony voters and the industry in general are clearly enamored with the British double bill.

Will Win: Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts I & II
Should Win: Haven't seen enough nominees to know

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Andy Karl flexes his comic muscles in Roundabout Theatre's On the Twentieth Century.

Nominees: Christian Borle, Something Rotten!; Any Karl, On the Twentieth Century; Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!; Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris; Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Multiple nominees from the same show in the same category has been a recurring theme in recent years (see: the two Book of Mormon leads, the multiple women from A Raisin in the Sun last year). This always raises the question of if they will split votes, although the phenomenon has produced enough actual winners (Kinky Boots' Billy Porter, Raisin's Sophie Okonedo) that it is obviously not an insurmountable obstacle.

Of the two Something Rotten! nominees, I actually think Brad Oscar has the edge over his Tony-winning costar Christian Borle. Oscar is a hardworking character actor who has been a part of the community for years, headlines Rotten's biggest and best production number, and gets most of the show's best lines ("A show about cats???"). Borle is certainly a beloved performer, reusing many of the same tricks that led to his previous win for Peter and the Starcatcher, but I suspect voters may choose to spread the love this year. Both men from An American in Paris are helped by being in a heavily nominated show - the fact that Paris is tied for the most nominations virtually guarantees every voter will see it - but at the same time the performances aren't necessarily the first thing people mention when discussing the new Gershwin musical.

And then there's Andy Karl, the wildcard who could spoil everyone's fun. Like several of the nominees in this category, Karl is a longtime staple of the Broadway community who is very well liked. After earning critical acclaim and a Tony nomination for playing the title character in the deadly serious Rocky, he has gone to the opposite end of the spectrum with his over the top performance as Kristin Chenoweth's musclebound boy toy in On the Twentieth Century. Karl's comic timing is impeccable and his chemistry with Chenoweth palpable (they are easily the season's funniest pair), and as much as I would love to see Oscar recognized I think this may well be Karl's year.

Will Win: Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Should Win: Probably Karl, but I am partial to Something Rotten's Brad Oscar

Check back every Monday and Friday between now and the Tony telecast to see the rest of my predictions, and don't forget to check out the rest of my awards coverage if you haven't already!

Nominations React
Best Book and Score
Best Director and Choreography

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