by: Dan Mason (@djdan1079)
We are just days away from the announcement of this season’s Tony Award nominees. Over the next 48 hours, the Broadway Critic blog staff will be making some predictions of our own as to who will be recognized on Broadway’s biggest night.
Best Actor In a Musical
What an incredible year for men on Broadway! You could make an argument for as many as 10 deserving actors for 5 nomination spots. However, let’s start with the stone cold “locks”.
Jeremy Jordan has inherited Cheyenne Jackson’s matinee idol trophy and is the new it guy on Broadway. Newsies was personally not my kind of show, but it was well done, and Jordan was fantastic. The best thing that could have happened to him was the failure of Bonnie & Clyde, as his performance of Jack Kelly will likely launch him to stardom.
It’s a wonder that Danny Burstein doesn’t have a mantle of awards over the course of his career, as he is one of the most reliable stage actors going today. However, his work as Buddy Plummer in Follies is the best thing he has done to date. He is chatty, charismatic, and heartbreaking all at the same time, making him the standout in what I think was the best overall show I saw all season.
While I couldn’t bring myself to see Once during last month’s visit to New York (The movie put me to sleep), the reviews on Steve Kazee have all been fantastic. Since it seems that the show is a heavy contender for Best Musical, it stands to reason Mr. Kazee will be recognized as the brooding, lonely guy.
Here is a secret about Porgy & Bess that nobody seems comfortable talking about. Norm Lewis is a more compelling presence than Audra McDonald. There, I said it. This is no disrespect to McDonald, who is in fine voice and does an admirable job. However, its Lewis, with his quiet dignity and nobility, that gives Porgy & Bess it’s humanity. Plus, the physical transformation he makes onstage would convince you that he was legitimately a cripple (sorry Andrew Keenan-Bolger). His “Bess, You is My Woman Now” was goose bump inducing. Quite simply, it would be a crime if he is lost in McDonald’s shadow come May 1st.
That leaves one spot left and a host of actors competing for it. Ron Raines, was good, but unspectacular as a high-strung businessman in Follies. Matthew Broderick would certainly provides some star power in the category if he is acknowledged for Nice Work if You Can Get It, but his performance is the worst reviewed thing bout the show. If nothing else, Reeve Carney deserves a congressional medal of honor for coming out of the Spiderman fiasco in one piece. However, I don’t see a Tony in his future. I would not be disappointed to see Richard Fleeshman nominated for Ghost, as he comes off as the biggest star on the stage at the Lunt-Fontainne, but it’s unlikely. I’m unclear as to whether Ricky Martin will be eligible for leading or featured actor for Evita, but if you believe the reviews, his performance is so thin that it won’t matter. I’m going to take a long shot here and go with Raul Esparza for Leap of Faith. The vultures have been swarming around the show since previews began, and the reviews, in my opinion, were unjustifiably cruel. Esparza is working his butt off on that stage to make the most of some material that does have holes in it. His energy is off the carts, his singing is incredible in a pretty vocally demanding role, and his performance alone is reason to get to the St James theater to see the show.
Best Actress in a Musical
On the surface, this category seems straight forward, but I’m not so sure. Audra McDonald is Tony royalty and deserves recognition again this year for her work in Porgy & Bess. Kelli O’ Hara is a critics darling and the buzz on Nice Work is huge. Cristin Miloti got universal raves for her work in Once. Elena Roger is tackling what might be the most difficult female role in musical theatre at the Marquis Theater, but the reviews for Evita, and for Ms Roger, in particular have been tepid. I will withhold opinion on Nice Work and Evita, as I have not seen either production.
The consensus seems to be that Follies, is sure to lock in two nominations for Jan Maxwell and Bernadette Peters. Having seen (and loved) the show, I can only agree with half of that statement. Maxwell, while not the biggest female “name” on the stage, performed circles around the rest of the women in the cast. She absolutely deserves a nomination, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if she pulled an upset win. That brings us to Bernadette, who seemed miscast to me. I realize this will be considered blasphemy in most circles, but let’s call it what it is. Peters voice, while exquisite at one time, is failing her at this point in her career. She did not sound good when I saw the show in November. I thought perhaps it was on off night until I saw that Spencer made the same remarks in his review from a performance much earlier in the run. From an acting standpoint, her Sally Plummer came across too flighty to really elicit any sympathy, and I was just left wondering why any of the men would want her.
I predict that after McDonald, Maxwell, Miloti, and O’ Hara, it will come down to Roger and Peters for the final spot. Roger will get the spot, if for no other reason than degree of difficulty for the role, leaving Bernadette on the outside looking in.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in this category is that Marin Mazzie won’t be eligible for her work in the revival of Carrie.
Up next- We will take a crack at the featured actor/actress nominees, as well as make some predicitions for best musical.