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This column by Simon Saltzman was published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on Wednesday, June 3, 1998. All rights
Simon Saltzman on Broadway
This is Broadway's 52nd year celebrating its own with
the Tony Awards show. And like many of you at home this Sunday night,
June 7 (from 8 to 9 p.m. on PBS, and from 9 to 11 p.m. on CBS), I'll
be watching gaga-over-Broadway host Rosie O'Donnell at Radio City
Music Hall. Although the big 12 awards are broadcast on CBS, don't
be deceived: last year's PBS show was the more insightful and
This year PBS promises to take us backstage for interviews with the
artists who create theater with footage of the rehearsal process.
O'Donnell presides over the galaxy of stage stars who announce the
nominees and the winners of the coveted Tonys in 22 categories. In
between the anxiety attacks, the groans, the applause, the speeches,
and the obligatory commercials, we will be entertained as much by
the never-ending thank-yous as we are with the numbing, out-of-context
numbers from each of the musicals nominated in the Best Musical
If kvetching comes naturally to this critic, my imperious responses
to the mediocrity palmed off on Broadway audiences this year should
in no way affect your theatergoing habits, or for that matter your
total enjoyment of this bound-to-be-fun awards show. Far be it from
me to remind you that the reason the all-substance no-style
received 13 nominations, and the all-style no-substance "Lion
King" received 11 nominations, was because they lacked any
competition for Best Musical -- they simply outclassed the field.
Yet, dare I submit that none of the plays nominated in the Best Play
category deserve to be there?
And how many times this season did I leave a show with the privilege
of having seen a Tony-caliber performance that, in my naivete, I
could not be overlooked -- Kevin Kline in "Ivanov" comes
immediately to mind. But now at Tony time the field is sadly reduced.
The selections that follow are my guesses for the winners, but that
doesn't mean they were my favorites.
Best Play: Hot young Anglo-Irish playwright Martin
mordant play The Beauty Queen of Leenane, about a nutty
woman and her nasty manipulative mother, is beautifully acted, but
also ordinary and predictable and from the get-go. John Leguizamo's
"Freak" is a quasi-autobiographical frenzied foul-mouthed
multi-character monologue about this young man's fractured life before
fame. David Henry Hwang's memory play "Golden Child" (just
closed) is a sweet but stilted play about change in a traditional
Chinese family. Yasmina Reza's "Art," in which three white
men sit around talking about the value of a white-on-white painting
deserves the Wite-Out. And McDonough's "The Cripple of
presented for a limited run at the Public Theater, is a much finer
play than his over-praised "Leenane."
Best Musical: Based on E.L. Doctorow's epic novel,
about three turn-of-the-century families, entwined by destiny, is
the kind of impressive, richly musical entertainment created to
the Tony voters (and make lots of money). If you're not dozing, you'll
be dazzled by Julie Taymor's costumes and her direction of "Lion
King." "Side Show," a curious but compelling show-biz
saga about attached-at-the-hip sisters, split (closed) earlier in
the season. "The Scarlet Pimpernel" recalls the French
story by Baroness Orczy in name only.
Best Book of a Musical: Ragtime, "Side Show,"
"The Lion King," "Scarlet Pimpernel." Although
McNally's book for "Ragtime" was literate and polished, Bill
Russell's daring book for the mostly sung-through "Side Show"
had more emotional heft. Too bad not enough people were willing to
Best Original Score: Ragtime (Music, Stephen Flaherty;
lyrics, Lynn Ahrens); "Side Show" (music, Henry Krieger;
Bill Russell); "The Capeman" (music Paul Simon; lyrics Simon
& Derek Walcott); "The Lion King" (music, Elton John, Tim
Rice, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor & Hans Zimmer;
lyrics, John, Rice, Mancina, Rifkin, Taymor & Zimmer) You only have
to hear the "Ragtime" score once to know that show tunes
sounded this good since the Gershwin brothers were at it.
Best Revival of a Play: A View from the Bridge, "Ah
Wilderness," "The Chairs," "The Diary of Anne
Best Revival of a Musical: Cabaret, "1776,"
Sound of Music." In a more just world, this would be a tie between
"Cabaret" and "1776."
Best Leading Actor in a Play: Anthony LaPaglia
Richard Briers ("Chairs"), John Leguizamo ("Freak"),
Alfred Molina ("Art").
Best Leading Actor in a Musical: Alan Cumming
Peter Friedman ("Ragtime"), Brian Stokes Mitchell
Douglas Sills ("Pimpernel").
Best Featured Actor in a Play: Brian F. O'Bryne
Tom Murphy ("Leenane"), Sam Trammell ("Ah,
Max Wright ("Ivanov"). O'Bryne and Murphy could cancel each
other out. In that event I'd be very happy to see Trammell take home
Best Leading Actress in a Play: Marie Mullen
Jane Alexander ("Honour"), Allison Janney ("Bridge"),
Geraldine McEwan ("Chairs").
Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Natasha Richardson
("Cabaret"), Betty Buckley ("Triumph of Love"), Marin
Mazzie ("Ragtime"), Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner ("Side
Show"). Mazzie deserves this award, but probably won't get it.
Best Featured Actress in a Play: Anna Manahan
Enid Graham ("Honour"), Linda Lavin ("Anne Frank"),
Julyana Soelistyo ("Golden Child").
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Gregg Edelman
John McMartin ("High Society"), Ron Rifkin ("Cabaret"),
Samuel E. Wright ("Lion King").
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Tsidii Le Loke
King"), Anna Kendrick ("High Society"), Audra McDonald
("Ragtime"), Mary Louise Wilson ("Cabaret").
Best Scenic Design: Richard Hudson ("Lion King"),
Bob Crowley ("Capeman"), Eugene Lee ("Ragtime"), Quay
Brothers ("Chairs"). The artistry demonstrated by each of
the nominees in this and the following three categories is simply
Best Costume Design: Julie Taymor ("Lion King"),
William Ivey Long ("Cabaret"), Santo Loquasto
Martin Pakledinaz ("Golden Child").
Best Lighting Design: Donald Holder ("Lion King"),
Paul Anderson ("Chairs") Peggy Eisenhauer & Mike Baldassari
("Cabaret"), Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer
Best Choreography: Garth Fagan ("Lion King"),
Graciela Daniele ("Ragtime"), Forever Tango Dancers
Tango"), Rob Marshall ("Cabaret").
Best Direction of a Play: Gary Hynes ("Leenane"),
Michael Mayer ("Bridge"), Simon McBurney ("Chairs"),
Matthew Warchus ("Art").
Best Direction of a Musical: Julie Taymor ("Lion
Scott Ellis ("1776"), Frank Galati ("Ragtime"), Sam Mendes
with Rob Marshall ("Cabaret").
Best Orchestration: William David Brohn
Robert Elhai, David Metzger & Bruce Fowler ("Lion King"),
Michael Gibson ("Cabaret"), Stanley Silverman
The special Tony Award for regional theater this year went to the
Denver Center Theater Company, Denver, Colorado.
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