Friday, June 13, 2008

The 2008 Tony Awards - My Predictions and Picks

The 2008 Tony Awards are on CBS this Sunday June 15th at 8pm (with host Whoopi Goldberg) and it's a great way to check out clips from the new musicals on Broadway and get a sense of what each of the shows are like.

This year, we will get to see performances from the Best Musical and Best Musical revival nominees In The Heights, Passing Strange, Xanadu, Cry Baby, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park with George, South Pacific, and Grease. (Apparently the bigwigs Disney, Harvey Fierstein and Mel Brooks complained enough because The Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein, A Catered Affair are also performing this year, breaking tradition that only Best Musicals (New and Revival) get to perform).

Plus this year, there will be special performances from the ORIGINAL cast of Rent to celebrate it's final year after playing on Broadway for 12 years (how many minutes is THAT?) before it closes on September 7th. As a devoted Renthead who obsessed about the show for years when it first came out, I'm kind of verklempt over all this but I think it is time to move on and let a new generation of musicals continue on Broadway (like Spring Awakening, Passing Strange and In The Heights).

There will also be an opening performance of "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King to celebrate its 10th anniversay on Broadway. Seriously, that opening number is a revelation and makes up for some of the newer (made for the stage version) tedious songs, and if you haven't seen it live, it's a wonder to behold.

Here were my initial thoughts on this years nominations, but below is the full list again with who I think SHOULD WIN and WILL WIN based on completely uneducated guesses based on unsubstantiated buzz (so like, not very accurate cause I really have no idea what I'm talking about but why waste a perfect guess?). With the lack of a Spring Awakening this year as an easy shoo-in, it could be anybody in many of the categories (well, except Grease winning, that's about the only thing we know WON'T happen (or else Broadway as we know it is over and deserves a good death)).

Some of the other theatre bloggers have made their predictions/picks (as well as the "legits", with EW, NY Post's Reidel and The NYTimes), so here are my guesses and opinions:

Best Play:
August: Osage County - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Rock 'n' Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

Is there even any doubt? Okay, I completely forgot about this foregone win because it's almost like they already won. Now we just have to make it official.

Best Musical:
In the Heights
Passing Strange - SHOULD WIN

Passing Strange is the better musical but people (including me) seem to love In The Heights more. Either way, I wouldn't be mad if either won (or even Xanadu, despite the lighter fare).

Best Revival of a Play
Boeing-Boeing - WILL WIN
The Homecoming - SHOULD WIN
Les Liaisons Dangereueses

I actually haven't seen The Homecoming but I keep hearing it should win so I'll base it on that. I really enjoyed Macbeth and the positives outweighed the negatives but I still had problems with understanding it, and technically, that's a big problem. Boeing Boeing will probably win for being the most entertaining and tourable show of the bunch.

Best Revival of a Musical
South Pacific - SHOULD WIN?/WILL WIN
Sunday in the Park With George - SHOULD WIN?

I still haven't seen South Pacific yet (my tickets are for July) but it seems like everyone loves all three (let's just be upfront about this and ignore Grease and pretend it's not there) but each person puts them in different order. In fact, I loved Gypsy more than Sunday in the Park with George, but I almost want Sunday to win for some reason. Then again, I hear South Pacific is luscious and grande and spectacular. I'm torn.

Best Book of a Musical
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In the Heights, Quiara Alegria Hudes
Passing Strange, Stew
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN

Xanadu was just smart for being so dumb and silly based on a dumb and awful film. Passing Strange had a great book as well but I feel it was more the overall effect with the combo of music, direction and story that really made it soar. I didn't mind the lightweight story for In the Heights but it's probably the weakest part of the show.

Best Original Score
Cry-Baby, Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
In The Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda - The Little Mermaid, Music: Alan Menken and Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange, Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald Lyrics: Stew - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN

The music for Passing Strange was simply thrilling and somehow transgressed the "rock" label and transformed it into theatrical soul. Interesting note that 2 of the nominated musicals have it's (3) writers on stage for the show. Lin-Manuel Miranda could win here (and in fact, is probably a better bet) but I think this will be the category they give to Passing Strange.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing - SHOULD WIN
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'n' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth - WILL WIN

This was more of a shoo-in a month ago but now I think Rylance might actually have a chance at beating out Stewart for the award. It's going to be close.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County - WILL WIN
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County - SHOULD WIN

This is a bit like picking which baby you like better in a burning house, but while Dunagan got all the fancy lines and showier stuff, Morton had more subtle things to work with and she worked them WELL. Overall a strong category though. Merkerson or Best could win if the August ladies split the vote.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park With George - SHOULD WIN
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, South Pacific - WILL WIN
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

Szot seems to have the South Pacific steam roll on his side, plus the whole hot Brazillian Opera star is born/discovered in America but I'd like to add in Evans, also in his Broadway and North American debut, is fantastic in his duel George roles. Lin-Manuel Miranda AND Stew are both the spirit of their shows (plus the fact that they BOTH also co-wrote their musicals helps), but I think they will cancel each other out.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Kelli O'Hara, South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park With George

Another tough category to choose from. Any of these actresses (including Kerry Butler in her lighter comical role) could have won in almost any other year, but LuPone will probably finally take home another Tony for playing the role that seems to be tailored for her. Still, I wouldn't discount O'Hara.

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raúl Esparza, The Homecoming - WILL WIN
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
Jim Norton, The Seafarer
David Pittu, Is He Dead?

I only saw Pittu and though he was hysterical in his multiple roles, I'm not sure it's Tony winning worthy (though I'm glad he's nominated). Esparza will win essentially for having his stolen for Company last year.

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls - WILL WIN
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County - SHOULD WIN

I only saw Reed and McCormack and both were wonderful, but like Pittu, I'm not sure if McCormack's is Tony winning worthy (nominated yes though). I hear Plimpton is amazing though so it'll probably be between her and Reed, though McCormack has the likability factor (in both person and character).

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange - SHOULD WIN
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy - WILL WIN

I LOVE Boyd Gaines and he turns a small character into a wonder, but Breaker really (ahem) breaks ground with his stunning debut. A complete revelation in both voice and acting.

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Aziza, Merediz, and Ables Sayre are all first timers and the nomination is award enough (though I particularly loved Aziza's performance). Martin is always a stalwart, but this time, in a mediocre show. So give it to Benanti who proved why she can afford to be the new Broadway diva. She literally transforms beneath our eyes on the Gypsy stage.

Best Direction of a Play
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing

Shapiro turns a LONG and SPRAWLING script and turns it into 3+ hours of rolicking and messy fun. The show is tight and never misses a beat, which is impressive from a huge cast and all that dialogue.

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George - SHOULD WIN
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific - WILL WIN

Buntrock (or whoever, if rumours are true) makes the difficult Sunday into a wonderfully emotional and funny and DIGESTIBLE show. Sher brings South back to its roots, while Laurents brings Gypsy back to its basics though he originally directed that one too. Laurents might get it for putting on a great Gypsy but I think a lot of the greatness of the show is due to casting rather than a remount of his own directions. Meanwhile, I wouldn't discount Kail who turns a fluffy feel good musical disguised under the layers of Latino soul and makes it compelling. Strong group of nominees again, so hard to pick.

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu

Again, I hear Ashford's dances are the best thing in Baby and Knechtges had some fun with Xanadu though but In The Heights had some dazzling choreography that mixed traditional Latin moves with Hip Hop and Breaking AND choreographed it together into a fun musical ensemble piece. IF they are going to give Cry Baby anything, this is it, plus it would be to Rob Ashford who seems to be well liked and respected (and directed my number 1 favorite show last year, Parade)

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In The Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

In The Heights or Passing Strange? I think they will give it to Stew and Heidi Rodewalk.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County - WILL WIN
Anthony Ward, Macbeth - SHOULD WIN

Maybe because I'm an architect by training but I wasn't totally wowed by the house in August. I'm assuming the projections are considered part of the set (like for Sunday) so my vote goes to Macbeth.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday in the Park with George - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Anna Louizos, In The Heights
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Michael Yeargan, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Sunday and its use of modern projections to tell a period story will win. Apparently it's the year for projections.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell, Boeing-Boeing
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses - WILL WIN
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps - SHOULD WIN?

I'm not sure which is harder, the luscious costumes from costume drama Liaisons or the fun colour palette of the Air Hostesses from Boeing Boeing? Didn't see the other two though at times I would think The 39 Steps should probably win it for creating all those characters probably with good actors in tons of costume changes.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George - SHOULD WIN
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In The Heights
Catherine Zuber, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific - WILL WIN

I'm going to say it's between the two "SP" period revivals Sunday in the Park and South Pacific. Though the burlesque dancers had some pretty amusing getups in Gypsy that might clinch the win.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Howard Harrison, Macbeth
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County

I haven't seen The 39 Steps yet but I hear the lighting is really incredible and since it's Kevin Adams who did Spring Awakening and Passing Strange, I believe it. Though I thought the other nominees were pretty good too.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George - WILL WIN
Howell Binkley, In the Heights
Donald Holder, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific - SHOULD WIN
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid

I think Sunday will win but just based on photos and video I've seen of South Pacific it really seems to set the mood. I could probably make a case for In The Heights as well. Though do cell phones count as a prop or lighting design?

Best Sound Design of a Play
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork, Macbeth - SHOULD WIN/WILL WIN
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

I'm just totally guessing here but the shreiks and stuff that accompanied the projections were pretty freaky in Macbeth.

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights - SHOULD WIN
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific - WILL WIN
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

I'm just totally guessing here TOO.

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), in recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations, as represented on Broadway this season by Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

Here's all the reviews for the Broadway shows I saw this past theatre season (in alphabetical order).

August: Osage County (Broadway) (Review) ****

Boeing Boeing (Broadway) (Review) ***1/2

Gypsy (Broadway) (Review) ****1/2

In The Heights (Broadway) (Review) ****1/2

Is He Dead? (Broadway) (Review) ***

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Broadway) (Review) ***1/2

Macbeth (Broadway) (Review) ****

Passing Strange (Broadway) (Review) ****1/2

Sunday In The Park With George (Broadway, Limited Run until June 29) (Review) ****

Xanadu (Broadway) (Review) ****

Young Frankestein (Broadway) (Review) **

Here was my Tony 2007 Coverage:
Video Wrap Up
61st Tony's Wrap Up
Tony Has Its Spring Awakening
That Was Totally... Cover Your Mouth!
White Rules
Being Alive with Raul
Can Audra Ever Be Bad?
Woo! John Galagher Jr. Wins!
The 2007 Tony Nominations


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

What a great, fun read. Always fun comparing notes, isn't it?!

I'm hoping beyond hope for Passing Strange to pull off the ultimate upset for Best Musical. I think we'll know fairly early on which way the tide is turning. If Passing Strange starts picking up award after award, it may just win Best Musical.

Joseph Gomez said...

that SOB makes a pretty good point. i havent posted my predictions yet, but something's telling me passing could take it.

Joseph Gomez said...

as long as patti wins, i won't riot. :-)

Vance said...

I actually think that the awards might get split up between all the shows instead of a pure ITH or PS win. Even South Pacific, which I think might have taken them all in another year, seems poised to lose out on some (like best actress).

It will actually be an interesting night for the awards which are already great for the performances!

Esther said...

I agree with Steve, a very fun and insightful read!

I'd be interested in hearing your architect's perspective about the house in "August: Osage County," since it's my pick for best set design of a play.

In terms of Best Actress in a Play, I empathized more with Morton, so for a long time I would have agreed with you. But I don't know, after reading the play, Dunagan made those words come alive in a way I could never have imagined. She created an amazing character.

And Laura Benanti, wow, I love her. Simply one of the most amazing transformations I've seen on stage. (Aided by the terrific costume design, which almost makes her seem like two different people.)

I can't wait to hear what you think about "South Pacific." And I hope you get to see "The 39 Steps." It's a ton of fun!