Monday, June 10, 2013

The 2013 Tony Awards Show: Bigger, Better, and Uncut

Neil Patrick Harris hosts the 2013 Tony Awards Show

Last night was the theater industry's annual lovefest known as the Tony Awards Show.  I’ll share my comments in a minute, but hang on first while I finish ordering my tickets for Cinderella.

Yes, Cinderella, a show that I had no interest in seeing until last night.  The brief, lovely performance by Laura Osnes (Cinderella), Victoria Clark (fairy godmother), and Santino Fontana (the prince) made me immediately nostalgic for a good, old-fashioned tuneful musical.  Leave out the noise; leave out the funk! 

As to the Tony broadcast itself, they pretty much got everything right this time. Neil Patrick Harris was a delightful host, the pacing was the best I’ve seen in years, and, especially, the nominated musicals were given enough time and space to be able to represent the flavor of what it is they have to offer.

I was not looking forward to the return of the Tonys to Radio City Music Hall after a couple of years in the smaller Beacon Theater.  But it does seem they have figured out how to tame the vast expanse of Radio City, and perhaps position the cameras in such a way that it felt you were watching from a seat in a theater instead of observing from a great distance. 

Cinderella was one of the big surprises for me.  The other was the “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid” number from A Christmas Story.  It was terrific, and the kids in that show sang and danced rings around the gang from Annie and Matilda, as well as the performers playing the Jackson Five in Motown:  The Musical.  

This year, for the first time ever, I published my own predictions (April 30) of the winners.  So, how did I do?  Let's compare my successes with those of the two first-tier critics from The New York Times, Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood.  I will also comment as I go along.

In the category of Best Featured Actor in a Play, Brantley was the only one who called it:  Courtney B. Vance (Lucky Guy).  Isherwood picked Richard Kind (The Big Knife), and I picked Tony Shalhoub (Golden Boy).  I confess to having not seen Lucky Guy, so I cannot comment on Mr. Vance’s work.  I did enjoy Mr. Kind’s performance, but I did think it was too one-note and overblown.  When I saw Golden Boy, Mr. Shalhoub gave a heart-felt performance that got at the soul of the play, as the loving immigrant father forced to watch his son go up in flames. 

For Best Featured Actress in a Play, all three of us correctly pegged Judith Light (The Assembled Parties) as the winner.  Ms. Light really did give an outstanding performance, and she and Jessica Hecht (sadly, not nominated) were terrific as the sisters-in-law in Richard Greenberg’s play.  Brantley liked Judith Ivey (The Heiress), more, and Isherwood thought Condola Rashad (The Trip to Bountiful) ought to have won.  I agree that Ms. Ivey did give the best performance in The Heiress, but that, unfortunately, is not saying a lot.  Ms. Rashad is a terrific actress; I’ve liked her immensely in Ruined and Stick Fly, as well as The Trip to Bountiful, but she simply did not have nearly enough to do in Bountiful to be able to fully display her talent. 

For Best Featured Actor in a Musical, the winner was Gabriel Ebert (Matilda).  Here, I was the only one who got it right.  Brantley thought that Charl Brown would take it for his work in Motown:  The Musical, while Isherwood gave the nod to Terrence Mann (Pippin).  If Mr. Mann had won, I would not have been disappointed; he is giving an excellent performance.  But I will allow myself the tiniest of gloats for having outguessed Messrs B and I.

For Best Featured Actress in a Musical, there really was no competition.  The odds-on favorite, Andrea Martin (Pippin) did win and scored an easy point for each of us.

For Best Book of a Play, all three of us got it right by selecting Dennis Kelly (Matilda).  He should share the honors with Roald Dahl, that most sublime of darkly humorous authors, whose book of the same title was the source for the musical.

For Best Score of a Musical, Isherwood thought that Tim Minchin’s score for Matilda would pair up with the Best Book Award, but Brantley and I both correctly named Cyndi Lauper (Kinky Boots) as the winner.  Certainly Kinky Boots is the kind of upbeat crowd pleaser that establishes Ms. Lauper as a Broadway composer to be reckoned with.  Let’s hope she finds another project worthy of her talents.

For Best Leading Actor in a Play, all there of us fell into the cynical expectation that Tom Hanks (Lucky Guy) could not be beaten, but we were wrong, and it was Tracy Letts who picked up the Tony for his performance as George in the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

For Best Leading Actress in a Play, all three of us correctly named Cicely Tyson for her star turn in The Trip To Bountiful.  Ms. Tyson, by the way, gave the most polished and classy acceptance speech of the evening. 

For Best Leading Actor in a Musical, it really was a tight race between Bertie Carvel in Matilda and Billy Porter in Kinky Boots.  All three of us went with Mr. Carvel, but it was Mr. Porter who carried the day.

For Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Isherwood and I correctly identified Patina Miller (Pippin), while Brantley thought the Tony would go to Laura Osnes for Cinderella.

For Best Director of a Play, the Tony went to Pam MacKinnon for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Both Isherwood and I called it, while Brantley thought it would go to George C. Wolfe for Lucky Guy. 

For Best Director of a Musical, Brantley went for Matthew Warchus (Matilda), while Isherwood and I both correctly identified the winner, Diane Paulus (Pippin).  Ms. Paulus has done outstanding work in putting together this revival, which is sure to have a long life on Broadway. 

For Best Revival of a Play, Brantley incorrectly named Golden Boy, while Isherwood and I got it right with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

For Best Revival of a Musical, all three of us correctly named Pippin.  This terrific production pulled off a last-minute coup against the only other really strong contender (in my view, at least), The Mystery of Edwin Drood. 

For Best New Play, the three of us were split. Isherwood correctly predicted Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as the winner.  Brantley picked Lucky Guy, and I thought it would go to The Assembled Parties.  I am a big Christopher Durang fan, but I thought it was the performances rather than the writing that launched Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike into a higher plane.

And, finally, for Best New Musical, the battle for the top spot was won by Kinky Boots, though all three of us expected Matilda to would pull it off. 

So to the tote board:

In third place, Brantley – 7 correct predictions, or 44%

In second place, Isherwood  – 10 correct predictions, or 63%

And, in first place, ProfMiller – 11 correct predictions, or 69%

And so, I graciously step up to the winner’s podium to collect my own Self-Satisfaction Award for Best Predicting, at least in these 16 categories.  Just don't ask how I did with making predictions in the technical categories.  

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