May 1, 2013

Taking Time Out for Tony Talk

You don’t even have to be a theater lover to know that the Tony nominations were announced yesterday. There were, as usual, the fairly predictable nods. Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks got a nomination for Lucky Guy, the love song to old-school journalism that is itself a frontrunner for Best Play because it’s the final work of the much-beloved writer—and big theater boosterNora Ephron, who died last summer.  

And, of course, there were the somewhat surprising omissions. Neither Alan Cuming nor Bette Midler got recognized for their performances as, respectively, all the characters in Macbeth and the only person onstage in I’ll Eat You Last, the one-woman show about the late Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers.  

After Fiona Shaw failed to get a nod for her controversial portrayal of Jesus' mother in The Testament of  Mary, the producers announced that the show will close this coming Sunday.

Al Pacino also got passed over for his idiosyncratic performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. In fact, large swatches of the disappointing fall season got deservedly passed over. Luckily the shows that opened in the spring brought some razzle dazzle back to Broadway and there’s stiff competition in several categories.

Hank’s competitors for best actor in a play include the perennial favorites Nathan Lane for The Nance and David Hyde Pierce for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Not to be counted out are Tracy Letts who gave a revelatory performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the young scene stealer Tom Sturridge from Orphans. 

The best featured actress in a musical category is equally fierce, with every single one of the nominees—Kinky Boots’ Annaleigh Ashford, Cinderella’s Victoria Clark, Pippin’s Andrea Martin, Hands on a Hardbody’s Keala Settle and Lauren Ward from Matilda—having performed a number that stopped her individual show. 

Meanwhile, any one of the guys (the first three of them previous Tony winners) who are up for best choreographer— Andy Blankenbuehler for Bring It On, Peter Darling for Matilda, Jerry Mitchell for Kinky Boots and Chet Walker channeling Bob Fosse for Pippin—could dance away with that prize. The chance to see their numbers will definitely be a win-win for the viewers who tune in to the awards broadcast.

But this year’s biggest showdown will be between the cheery homegrown musical Kinky Boots (which picked up 13 nominations) and its leading rival, the witty British import Matilda (which got 12).  Both are big shows and neither fills the underdog role that made Once a winner when it faced off against Newsies last year but they do represent different wings of the answer to the question “what should a 21st century musical be?" 

The Tonys are unlikely to have a definitive answer for that but all the winners will be announced at the ceremony, back this year at Radio City Music Hall, on Sunday June 9 and broadcast on CBS.

However, the fun has already begun as everyone has started second guessing the choices that the nominators made. And this year, my theatergoing buddy Bill and I decided that we’d chime in too.  So, click the orange button below to hear us sound off on what we thought of the nomination choices and of the 2012-2013 season as a whole:

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