Monday, May 2, 2016

2016 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part III (Supporting Actor/Actress)

Tomorrow morning, we find out the people and productions that will compete for the 2016 Tony Awards. And as always, I am leading up to that day with plenty of blog coverage on who I think those lucky nominees will be. Using a combination of first hand experience, analysis of industry trends, and my gut feelings, I have already made my predictions for the production and lead actor/actress categories. Today, it's time to tackle some of the most wide open races around, the Featured Actor and Actress categories.

Prediction these nominees is always tricky, as almost anyone who sets foot on a Broadway stage is eligible. Past winners have run the gamut from dynamic one scene wonders like Andrea Martin in Pippin to people who are essentially secondary leads like Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart. In general, more stagetime makes someone more competitive - they have more time to show range and make a lasting impression - and this year there are a slew of contenders in this category who do just that (including the entire casts of the highly praised The Humans and Noises Off). 

If any acting race is going to expand to a potential six or seven nominees, my gut tells me it will be one of these, which is why in addition to my official picks I will also be choosing one or more wildcard performers in each category, representing who I think is most likely to prompt an expansion or unseat one of my official picks. Now read on to see who I think should starting thinking about what they're going to wear to Broadway's biggest night!

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Daveed Diggs (left) with Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda during one of the show's exciting "Cabinet Battles."

This category is looking like a potential bloodbath, with a huge number of worthy performances up for consideration. This is one area where Hamilton's massive success may actually hurt it, as the various supporting players in that musical could cancel one another out. I have the best feeling about Daveed Diggs' scene-stealing duel roles as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the hip-hop musical, but can't rule out Jonathan Groff's extremely memorable comedic performance as the foppish King George III.

In a similar situation, there are four past Tony-nominees/winners eligible for this award among Shuffle Along's star-studded cast, and I wouldn't be surprised to see any of them among this year's nominees. Word on the street indicates that Billy Porter has the kind of standout moment that gets Tony voters' attention late in the show's second act, so I would say he is the most likely to make the cut. But Brian Stokes Mitchell is one of the most respected musical theatre actors in the business, and his status as something of an elder statesman also makes him extremely competitive.

Personally, I would love to see The Color Purple's Isaiah Johnson nominated for his nuanced portrayal of the villainous Mister, but there's so much buzz around the show's flashier female performances that he might get lost in the shuffle. She Loves Me counts past Tony favorites Gavin Creel and Michael McGrath among its cast members, both of whom are certainly possibilities, although given his Drama Desk and Theatre World Award nods young Nicholas Barasch may just be the most likely Tony nominee among the beloved revival's male supporting players. Waitress' Christopher Fitzgerald has also done extremely well when it comes to guild nominations, well enough that I expect him to be among the five (or more) names announced Tuesday morning.

Nicholas Barasch, She Loves Me
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Billy Porter, Shuffle Along

Isaiah Johnson, The Color Purple

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Michael Shannon in Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Given the number of one and two character plays that made it to Broadway this season, this category is surprisingly light on potential nominees. One actor certain to be among this year's contenders is The Human's Reed Birney, a performer most had assumed would be moved up to the Lead Actor category given the size of his role. Having such a large amount of material to work with gives him an advantage, as does his status as a highly respected character actor who continually does acclaimed work. I will also be surprised if Michael Shannon doesn't receive a nod for his heroic work in Long Day's Journey Into Night, with the mercurial actor showing an incredible amount of range over the course of that drama's four hour runtime.

Literally every male cast member of Roundabout's Noises Off is eligible in this category, and a case could be made for any of them. Jeremy Shamos and Rob McClure, both past Tony-nominees, were each fantastic in their roles, as was David Furr with his hilarious take on the play's bumlbing leading man. I'm almost tempted to say all three make the cut and call it a day, but given The Crucible's Bill Camp and Jim Norton scoring Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations respectively, that seems unwise. One of the Crucible men will probably make the cut, although which one is a complete toss up.

Reed Birney, The Humans
David Furr, Noises Off
Jim Norton, The Crucible
Jeremy Shamos, Noises Off
Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Rob McClure, Noises Off

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, the "oldest and wittiest" of the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton.

Unlike their male counterparts, the noteworthy supporting actress performances in this year's musicals are more evenly distributed over multiple productions, placing fewer cast members in direct competition with one another. At this point, I would consider She Loves Me's Jane Krakowski and The Color Purple's Danielle Brooks sure things, as they have been on essentially every Featured Actress in a Musical list up until this point. I also consider Hamilton's Renee Elise Goldsberry a virtual lock for her absolutely transfixing performance as Angelica Schuyler; her performance of the song "Satisfied" alone is the stuff Tony-winning performances are made of, and the fact she has several other standout moments throughout the show just increases the strength of her case.

Personally, I would really really love to see Lesli Margherita nominated for her star-making performance in Dames at Sea, but I'm not sure people still remember that show even happened. Meanwhile, Waitress is one of the few shows to have multiple candidates in this category, and although neither Keala Settle or Kimiko Glenn have appeared on any end of season lists just yet I do suspect Tony voters will be smitten with the show and its performers.

This year may also see the first career Tony nomination for longtime New York City musical stalwart Andrea Burns, one of the few people in On Your Feet called upon to actually act as opposed to just being a charming personality. Sierra Boggess has always been more popular with audiences than with awards granting bodies, but the competition in this category is just thin enough that she might sneak in there for her work in School of Rock. And as the recipient of an Outer Critics Circle nod in this category (no small feat considering both Broadway and Off-Broadway performances are eligible), American Psycho's Helene York cannot be left out of the conversation.

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Lesli Margherita, Dames at Sea
Keala Settle, Waitress

Sierra Boggess, School of Rock
Helene York, American Psycho

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Megan Hilty as Brooke, the bad actress trying her best to be good in Noises Off.

In my opinion, the woman to beat in this category right now is Megan Hilty. Her side-splittingly funny work in Noises Off was the greatest thing about that top-notch revival, and her role in the show practically screamed Tony Award (Katie Finneran won the Tony for playing the same role in the show's last Broadway mounting). That is not to say Hilty is without competition, as Eclipsed presents three worthy challengers in the form of Saycon Sengbloh, Pascale Armand, and Zainab Jah. I personally found Sengbloh to be the most compelling, but Armand's deft transitions between high comedy and devastating emotional honesty could give her the edge in many people's eyes. Of course, this is all a conversation for another day, as I fully expect all three women to be nominated against Hilty.

The only real question here is which actress will get the fifth nomination slot. It could go to one of Hilty's costars, as both Andrea Martin and Kate Jennings Grant were pitch perfect in Roundabout's farce. I'd actually give the edge to Grant, whose slooooow crawl across the stage to remove an errant prop is one of the greatest bits of physical comedy I have ever seen, but I suspect if forced to choose the nominations committee will stick with Tony favorite Martin instead. One also can't rule out Judith Light for her work in Therese Raquin, especially since she is one of the very few performers to pull off back to back Tony wins (and in this same category, no less). If the Noises Off ladies cancel one another out, Light will definitely be the beneficiary.

Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Zainab Jah, Eclipsed
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Judith Light, Therese Raquin

And that completes my predictions for this year's Tony nominees! We'll see how well I did come Tuesday morning, and in the meantime you can add your thoughts in the comments. Also, don't forget to check out the rest of my 2016 Tony coverage:

1 comment:

  1. Good predictions, although I'm surprised by no mention of Saoirse Ronan in The Crucible for Featured Actress In A Play