Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 Tony Award Predictions: Best Featured Actor

The Tony Awards are less than 2 weeks away, and my annual prediction articles have now reached what I like to call the Big 12 categories. The 8 acting and 4 production races always seem to be the most discussed and debated of any Tony season, possibly because these awards have the greatest affect on the business of Broadway going forward. A Best Musical or Best Play winner often ends up with a much longer life on both Broadway and beyond than it might otherwise have had, and performers who are recognized with Tony wins generally (but not always) have access to a greater range of options and opportunities.

Today we'll look at the Featured Actor races, whose eclectic mix of performances often make for some of the hardest to predict races in any given season. As always, I will do my best to determine who is most likely to win, and if that person doesn't match up with who I think is the most deserving I will be sure to point it out in my analysis. Let's get on with the show!

Warning: Occasional snark and plenty of speculation to follow.

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Reed Birney as patriarch Eric Blake in the much praised, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Humans.

Nominees: Reed Birney, The Humans; Bill Camp, The Crucible; David Furr, Noises Off; Richard Goulding, King Charles III; Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night

I must admit I'm working primarily off of speculation here, as I haven't seen the majority of nominees in this category. I think Richard Goulding has the biggest set of obstacles to overcome, as he wasn't on many people's radar prior to the nominations being announced and his show has been closed the longest. Being in a closed show also greatly hurts the chances of Noises Off's David Furr, although I think enough Tony voters have strong impressions of that first rate revival to keep Furr in the conversation. Meanwhile, Bill Camp has the advantage of being in a currently running production, and although The Crucible doesn't have the most passionate supporters, producer Scott Rudin has major influence within the industry and has helped long shot nominees score wins in the past.

But Rudin is also behind The Humans, a play industry insiders are much more excited about. It is also a rare Rudin production to not be centered around a Hollywood star or celebrity author, which makes me believe it's a passion project and something he will campaign for heavily. The Humans also marks the latest in a string of critically acclaimed performances for previous nominee Reed Birney, a beloved character actor whose profile continues to rise, making him the most likely winner. But one cannot discount Michael Shannon's extraordinary performance in Roundabout's acclaimed Long Day's Journey Into Night, with the film star creating probably the most nuanced and fascinating performance of that show's four leads. If Birney loses (unlikely, but possible), I expect it to be to Shannon.

Will & Should Win: Reed Birney, The Humans

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Daveed Diggs (left) and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton.

Nominees: Daveed Diggs, Hamilton; Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along; Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress; Jonathan Groff, Hamilton; Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Simple math proves this category is likely to go to someone from Hamilton, as three out of the five nominees come from that hip-hop musical juggernaut. Even with the possibility of vote splitting, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, and Christopher Jackson have such a head start in this race I can't imagine Brandon Victor Dixon or Christopher Fitzgerald snatching the award from them. I personally don't quite understand what about Dixon's performance in Shuffle Along was deemed nomination-worthy over his costars (was it just his character's proximity to Audra McDonald, the show's clear star?), and think he is the least likely winner. And while I sincerely hope hardworking, consistently hilarious three-time nominee Fitzgerald wins a Tony Award at some point in his career, it just doesn't feel like this is his year.

Jonathan Groff was certainly memorable in his short but sweet turn as King George in Hamilton, and many other performers have won featured Tonys for similarly small amounts of stage time. But compared to Daveed Diggs and Christopher Jackson, who both have huge roles that almost rival the show's leads in terms of stage time and complexity, it's very hard to argue that Groff is the most deserving winner. And while I certainly enjoyed Jackson's take on George Washington, Daveed Diggs' dual roles as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson have screamed Tony Award since the show first premiered Off-Broadway last year. Diggs nails every second of his performance, a dynamic tour de force that you can't take your eyes off of. He is the clear frontrunner here, and I will be shocked if he doesn't win on June 12th.

Will & Should Win: Daveed Diggs, Hamilton

In our next installment it's the featured actresses' turn to shine, but until then you can catch up on the rest of my 2016 Tony coverage by clicking the links below. And don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. These are where my predictions are leaning towards as well.