Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Tony Nominations: Who Made the List? Who Was Passed Over? Which Are The Most Competitive Races?

Earlier this week, the nominees for the American Theater Wing’s Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre (aka “The Tonys”) were announced with great fanfare. The buzz is now about who was recognized, who was shunned, and – most importantly to the buzzers – who is likely to win. Herewith are my thoughts on the nominations. 


Nominees for Best Play
Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
Hand to God by Robert Askins
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens
Wolf Hall Parts One & Two by Hilary Mantel and Mike Poulton

Comments:  Interesting mix. Thought Constellations or The River might have broken through. At this point, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the likely winner.  It is a very strong and popular entry, and also was the only one to garner the trifecta of Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony nominations


Nominees for Best Musical
An American in Paris
Fun Home
Something Rotten!
The Visit

Comments:  Difficult call.  An American in Paris, The Visit and Something Rotten! made all three lists, but Fun Home, moving as it did from last season’s acclaimed Off Broadway production, was not eligible for either the Outer Critics Circle or Drama Desk award in its Broadway incarnation. It may just win the Tony, though this race is still too close to call, with each of these musicals having its staunch supporters (and for different reasons).  Sorry to see my favorite, The Last Ship, did not make the cut.


Nominees for Best Revival of a Play
Skylight
The Elephant Man
This Is Our Youth
You Can’t Take It With You

The Elephant Man, the only one on all three organizations’ nominee lists, is the likely winner, though all four productions were quite strong. There really are no outliers here.  My personal favorite was the Off Broadway revival of Sticks and Bones, but obviously that is not eligible.


Nominees for Best Revival of a Musical
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
The King and I

Comments:  All of these were nominated by all three organizations. The showdown is likely to be between On the Twentieth Century and The King and I, very different productions pitting two highly gifted and popular Broadway talents against one another:  Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O’Hara. 


Nominees for Best Book of a Musical
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, Something Rotten!
Lisa Kron, Fun Home
Craig Lucas, An American in Paris
Terrence McNally, The Visit

Comments: A lot depends on what one considers to be the purpose of the book of a musical.  Sometimes simply not getting in the way is enough. An American in Paris offers up a thin storyline that allows the choreography and dancing to soar in a way that Broadway does not often get to see. Something Rotten! is built on an amusing premise that allows the Mel Brooks-lite gags to fly unabated. The Visit truncates Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt’s macabre work so that it serves as a star-turn vehicle for Chita Rivera. The outlier here is Fun Home, a memoir about a complicated family and a journey of self-discovery, with far more depth than any of its competitors.     


Nominees for Best Score
John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Visit
Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!
Sting, The Last Ship
Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Comments:  In terms of quality, The Last Ship and Fun Home lead the pack and are running neck and neck. 


Nominees for Best Leading Actor in a Play
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Comments:  When is the last time a newcomer burst onto the Broadway scene in a non-musical the way Alex Sharp has captured everyone’s attention from day one of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? 


Nominees for Best Leading Actress in a Play
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Elisabeth Moss, The Heidi Chronicles
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations

Comments:  A battle of the Brits. Helen Mirren may be favored to win, but it is quite possible that Carey Mulligan or Ruth Wilson will be able to sneak past her by attracting voters who view Ms. Mirren’s performance as Queen Elizabeth to be more impersonation than the creation of a theatrical character. 


Nominees for Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d’Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

Comments:  Michael Cerveris stands out among the group for his performance as a troubled and troubling father in Fun Home.


Nominees for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Leanne Cope, An American in Paris
Beth Malone, Fun Home
Kelli O’Hara, The King and I
Chita Rivera, The Visit

Comments: Great to see Chita Rivera on stage again, but it’s gotta be Kristin Chenoweth or Kelli O’Hara. 

Nominees for Best Featured Actor in a Play
Matthew Beard, Skylight
K. Todd Freeman, Airline Highway
Richard McCabe, The Audience
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Nathaniel Parker, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Micah Stock, It’s Only a Play

Comments:  All do nicely in their supporting roles, but the one who sticks in the mind is Nathaniel Parker as King Henry VIII in Wolf Hall.


Best Featured Actress in a Play
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Lydia Leonard, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God
Julie White, Airline Highway

Comments:  Good performances all around, so that this one is hard to call. I would say it’s down to Lydia Leonard as the power-hungry Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall and Julie White, who shows her character in Airline Highway to be equally fragile and generous of heart.  


Nominees for Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Andy Karl, On the Twentieth Century
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

Comments:  After impressively fighting for the boxing title in last year’s Rocky the Musical, Andy Karl is most certainly a top contender for his role as Kristin’s Chenoweth’s boy toy actor in On the Twentieth Century. His stiffest competition likely comes from Christian Borle and his take on Shakespeare-as-rock-star in Something Rotten!


Nominees for Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Victoria Clark, Gigi
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Emily Skeggs, Fun Home

Comments: Having three nominees certainly says something about the quality of the performances in Fun Home, but it is awfully hard to avoid having the trio cancel one another out in the voting. Victoria Clark stands out among the generally miscast performers in Gigi, but the Tony may very well go to Ruthie Ann Miles, who plays the King’s chief wife in The King and I. 


Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bunny Christie & Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Bob Crowley, Skylight
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Rockwell, You Can’t Take It With You

Comments:  The scenic design contributes mightily to the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and stands out among its more conventional rivals.  I would have liked to see John Lee Beatty’s dynamic design for The Heidi Chronicles included on this list.       

Nominees for Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris
David Rockwell, On the Twentieth Century
Michael Yeargan, The King and I
David Zinn, Fun Home

Comments:  I would have thought Scott Pask’s design for The Visit—evocative of the decay and decrepitude of Claire Zachanassian’s home town—would have made the list over Bob Crowley’s too-busy design for An American in Paris.  As it is, it looks like another battle between The King and I and On the Twentieth Century.   


Nominees for Best Costume Design of a Play
Bob Crowley, The Audience
Jane Greenwood, You Can’t Take It With You
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
David Zinn, Airline Highway

Comments:  Bob Crowley’s work as costume designer for The Audience is his best out of the three categories for which he is nominated. His closest competition comes from Christopher Oram’s work for Wolf Hall.

Nominees for Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!
Bob Crowley, An American in Paris
William Ivey Long, On the Twentieth Century
Catherine Zuber, The King and I

Comments:  This has been a good year for Catherine Zuber’s work to shine, both for the nominated The King and I and also for Gigi, which did not make the cut. Competition could come from Gregg Barnes for the colorful costumes that contribute nicely to the over-the-top tone of Something Rotten!


Nominees for Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Paule Constable and David Plater, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Natasha Katz, Skylight
Japhy Weideman, Airline Highway

Comments:  As with the set design, the lighting for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is integral to the success of the production. It does stand above the rest of the nominees. 


Nominees for Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Donald Holder, The King and I
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris
Ben Stanton, Fun Home
Japhy Weideman, The Visit

Comments:  Japhy Weiderman’s lighting for The Visit works nicely with the set design to evoke the gothic sense of decay.  Competition could come from Natasha Katz’s lighting for An American in Paris, which is less intrusive than the scenic design and provides a stronger support both for the locale (Paris immediately following the end of World War II) and for the dance sequences. 


Nominees for Best Director of a Play
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis, You Can’t Take It With You
Jeremy Herrin, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

Comments: The battle is between Marianne Elliot and Jeremy Herrin. The strength of the direction of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time lies in its splendid timing, as well as the top-notch performances. The strength of Wolf Hall comes out in the ability of the director to keep the audience straight on all of the characters and their comings and goings over the course of two plays and six hours, not the mention the equally outstanding performances by the members of the Royal Shakespeare Company.   


Nominees for Best Director of a Musical
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
John Rando, On the Town
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Comments.  Hmm. Love Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography for An American in Paris, but this is the directing award.  Why are we missing Scott Ellis for his direction of the terrific On the Twentieth Century? 


Nominees for Best Choreography
Joshua Bergasse, On the Town
Christopher Gattelli, The King and I
Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

Comments: This is the year of the choreographer on Broadway, with each of these providing something unique. It is quite a tribute to Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett that their work on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the non-musical in the bunch, is recognized for its contributions to the overall production. Christopher Wheeldon is the one to beat, however, for the lovely choreography in An American in Paris.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that its two stars are drawn from the top tier of the world of professional ballet. 


Nominees for Best Orchestrations
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott, An American in Paris
John Clancy, Fun Home
Larry Hochman, Something Rotten!
Rob Mathes, The Last Ship

Comments:  Rob Mathes stands at the top for his work on The Last Ship, the only musical for which audience members ought to have stayed until the orchestra finished playing its final notes after the actors departed the stage.

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The Tony Awards will be presented live on CBS on June 7.  Meanwhile, there is plenty of time to weigh in as to the outcome. We'll be revisiting the nominated shows and performers in the coming weeks.  

Let the speculation proceed!



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