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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the June 7, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Who Will Win a Tony This Year?
Don’t feel bad for film superstar Julia Roberts because she didn’t get a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in the revival of Richard Greenberg’s "Three Days of Rain." Her performance did not bring the critics to their feet, but her fans don’t care. The play is a sellout. But if you care to look at it in a different way, she is also in very good company. Although the nominating committee chose to ignore the most brilliant solo performance of the season, Sir Antony Sher in "Primo," they will bestow a special achievement award to Sarah Jones, who plays a multitude of ethnic characters in the wonderful "Bridge and Tunnel." I also suppose the nominators are just getting weary of giving Cherry Jones (currently in "Faith Healer") another laurel wreath. It’s similar to the film industry feeling threatened by the sheer talent of Meryl Streep. When you’re too good, you’re just too good.
There is some justice in not having shows that run Off Broadway eligible for Tony awards. Shows that do succeed off the mainstream often make the jump to Broadway. "Grey Gardens," the musical produced by Playwrights Horizons about those famously bizarre eccentrics living in a run-down mansion, will make the move this fall with Christine Ebersole repeating her award-winning performance (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle) as Little Edie (Bouvier-Peale). Ebersole can start dusting off a place on her mantel right now for her Tony next spring.
Coughing up $111.25 for a seat to a musical doesn’t seem to be a problem for theater lovers and tourists who are pushing Broadway to its highest grosses and largest attendance in its history. Sure, some very excellent plays close faster than you can remember the title, but once a show catches on, it can gross $1 million a week. I’m hoping you will grab this reminder to see one of the best and most entertaining plays in years, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," which is struggling to find a Broadway audience despite being a huge hit Off-Broadway earlier this season.
A press release from the Tony Awards Committee states that there will not be one host but rather over 60 stars, including Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Glenn Close, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, Liev Schreiber, Kyra Sedgwick, Mark Ruffalo, Eric McCormack, and Martin Short, who will present awards at the annual ceremony, which will be held Sunday, June 11, at Radio City Music Hall. The awards be broadcast live on CBS-TV, 8 to 11 p.m. The Tony Awards are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.
Until late spring when "The Drowsy Chaperone" opened without much fanfare, "Jersey Boys" appeared to be a shoo-in for the Tony’s top Musical Award. Despite the clever and affectionate way that "Chaperone" embraces musical theater by combining nostalgia for the 1920s with contemporary wit, and despite its having the most nominations (13) of any show, a large block of voting producers who represent theaters across the country are going to cast their vote for "Jersey Boys," a show that will mean more to the vast majority of the population. The handsomely produced and dramatically empowered "The Color Purple" is hampered only by a mediocre score. That leaves the exuberantly silly "The Wedding Singer" left standing at the altar.
We can always count on the Brits to stand by us in time of war (at least, after the American Revolution), as well as the time when Broadway needs a decent play. What a sorry state of affairs it is to have only one USA-originated play – David Lindsay-Abaire’s "Rabbit Hole" – nominated among three from across the sea. Although my personal favorite is the hilariously violent "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," the odds are leaning toward Alan Bennett’s Goodbye Mr. Chip-ish "The History Boys," leaving Conor McPherson’s monologue-ish "Shining City" in the dark. Speaking of monologues, audiences are getting their money’s worth with the revival of "Faith Healer," a dense drama with metaphysical implications comprised of four separate monologues. Other revivals include my favorite, the excellent Lincoln Center production of "Awake and Sing!" The no-longer running "The Constant Wife" and Edward Albee’s "Seascape" don’t stand a chance.
Musical revivals were not as plentiful this season as in the past few seasons. As wonderful as it is, "The Pajama Game" was the biggest hit due to the presence of Harry Connick, Jr. and Kathleen Marshall’s fantastic direction. "Sweeney Todd" was the most critically acclaimed while "The Threepenny Opera" was the most critically reviled. So why is "Threepenny" even nominated?
There was a time when a leading actress in a hit musical would earn the title as the toast of Broadway. There are four that deserve that distinction. Sutton Foster’s singing and acrobatic dancing stops "The Drowsy Chaperone" in (her) its tracks, and Patti LuPone as a tuba-playing Mrs. Lovett takes no survivors in "Sweeney Todd." Kelli O’Hara brings a fresh and feisty personality to "The Pajama Game," and Chita Rivera gave her all reviewing her own life and career in "The Dancer’s Life." But I’m relying on the voters to reward the emotionally-stirring singing and acting of LaChanze in "The Color Purple."
While Michael Cerveris ("Sweeney Todd") and Harry Connick, Jr. ("The Pajama Game") are busy sparring, the more timid yet winning Bob Martin ("The Drowsy Chaperone") and Stephen Lynch ("The Wedding Singer") are waiting behind the ropes for their big break. But there is nothing and no one who is going to take the title from the phenomenal John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys."
You can’t fault the excellence of either Kate Burton or Lynn Redgrave, but as co-stars in "The Constant Wife," they will cancel each other out. Lisa Kron told her own story "Well," and Judy Kaye fearlessly impersonated delusional opera diva Florence Foster Jenkins. But Broadway and TV star of HBO’s "Sex and the City" Cynthia Nixon touched us with sublime honesty as a grieving mother in "Rabbit Hole."
If I were king of the world, the award for top actor would go to David Wilmot as the psychopathic terrorist in "The Lieutenant of Inishmore." But things being the way they are, he as well as Ralph Fiennes, as the Faith Healer and Zeljko Ivanek, as the neurotic Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" will make room for the imposing Richard Griffiths, as the unconventional teacher in "The History Boys."
All the nominees are listed below; my guess for the winner is in capital letters.
Musical: The Color Purple; The Drowsy Chaperone; JERSEY BOYS; The Wedding Singer.
Play: THE HISTORY BOYS by Alan Bennett; The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh; Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire; Shining City by Conor McPherson.
Musical Revival: The Pajama Game; SWEENEY TODD; The Threepenny Opera.
Play Revival: AWAKE AND SING!; The Constant Wife; Edward Albee’s Seascape; Faith Healer
Actress (Musical): Sutton Foster (The Drowsy Chaperone); LACHANZE (The Color Purple); Patti LuPone (Sweeney Todd); Kelli O’Hara (The Pajama Game); Chita Rivera (The Dancer’s Life).
Actor (Musical): Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd); Harry Connick, Jr. (The Pajama Game); Stephen Lynch (The Wedding Singer); Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone); JOHN LLOYD YOUNG (Jersey Boys).
Actress (Play): Kate Burton (The Constant Wife); Judy Kaye (Souvenir); Lisa Kron (Well); CYNTHIA NIXON (Rabbit Hole); Lynn Redgrave (The Constant Wife)
Actor (Play): Ralph Fiennes (Faith Healer); RICHARD GRIFFITHS (The History Boys); Zeljko Ivanek (The Caine Mutiny Court Martial); Oliver Platt (Shining City); David Wilmot (The Lieutenant of Inishmore).
Featured Actress (Musical): Carolee Carmello (Lestat); Felicia P. Fields (The Color Purple); Megan Lawrence (The Pajama Game); BETH LEAVEL (The Drowsy Chaperone); Elisabeth Withers-Mendes (The Color Purple).
Featured Actor (Musical): Danny Burstein (The Drowsy Chaperone); Jim Dale (The Threepenny Opera); Brandon Victor Dixon (The Color Purple); Manoel Felciano (Sweeney Todd); CHRISTIAN HOFF (Jersey Boys).
Featured Actress (Play): Tyne Daly (Rabbit Hole); Frances de la Tour (The History Boys); JAYNE HOUDYSHELL (Well); Alison Pill (The Lieutenant of Inishmore)); Zoe Wanamaker (Awake and Sing!).
Featured Actor (Play): Samuel Barnett (The History Boys); DOMHNALL GLEESON (The Lieutenant of Inishmore); Ian McDiarmid (Faith Healer); Mark Ruffalo (Awake and Sing!); Pablo Schreiber (Awake and Sing!).
Direction (Musical): JOHN DOYLE (Sweeney Todd); Kathleen Marshall (The Pajama Game); Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys); Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone).
Direction (Play): NICHOLAS HYTNER (The History Boys); Wilson Milam (The Lieutenant of Inishmore); Bartlett Sher (Awake and Sing!); Daniel Sullivan (Rabbit Hole).
Lighting Design (Musical): Ken Billington, Brian Monahan (The Drowsy Chaperone); Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys); Natasha Katz (Tarzan); BRIAN MacDEVITT (The Color Purple).
Lighting Design (Play): Christopher Akerlind (Awake and Sing!); Paul Gallo (Three Days of Rain); Mark Henderson (Faith Healer); MARK HENDERSON (The History Boys).
Costume Design (Musical): GREGG BARNES (The Drowsy Chaperone); Susan Hilferty (Lestat); Martin Pakledinaz (The Pajama Game); Paul Tazewell (The Color Purple)
Costume Design (Play): Michael Krass (The Constant Wife); Santo Loquasto (A Touch of the Poet); Catherine Zuber (Awake and Sing!); CATHERINE ZUBER (Edward Albee’s Seascape).
Scenic Design (Musical): John Lee Beatty (The Color Purple); DAVID GALLO (The Drowsy Chaperone); Derek McLane (The Pajama Game); Klara Zieglerova (Jersey Boys).
Scenic Design (Play): John Lee Beatty (Rabbit Hole); Bob Crowley (The History Boys); SANTO LOQUASTO (Three Days of Rain); Michael Yeargan (Awake and Sing!).
Score: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray (The Color Purple); LISA LAMBERT, GREG MORRISON (The Drowsy Chaperone); Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer); Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Zippel (The Woman in White).
Book of a Musical: Marsha Norman (The Color Purple); BOB MARTIN and DON McKELLAR (The Drowsy Chaperone); Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (Jersey Boys); Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy (The Wedding Singer).
Orchestration: Larry Blank (The Drowsy Chaperone); Dick Lieb and Danny Troob (The Pajama Game); STEVE ORICH (Jersey Boys); Sarah Travis (Sweeney Todd).
Choreography: Rob Ashford (The Wedding Singer); Donald Byrd (The Color Purple); KATHLEEN MARSHALL (The Pajama Game); Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone).
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