There's a fair chance that "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" could pull off the upset. I'd like to see that happen. "Beautiful" may be a more commercial jukebox venture, but I appreciated its tender focus on the diffident genius behind the music (delicately portrayed by Jessie Mueller) and the human scale of its production.
I won't be too bummed, however, if "Gentleman's Guide" picks up a trove of statuettes, as many are predicting. I liked the show well enough when I saw it at San Diego's Old Globe and thought it looked great at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Even if Robert L. Freedman's book still hasn't worked out all the kinks and Steven Lutvak's music can be rather forgettable when not transporting the duo's clever lyrics, the authors are likely to be rewarded for their creative effort and intermittent ingenuity.
What do awards honor? Sometimes excellence in execution, sometimes scope of ambition. Sentiment, as Elizabeth Taylor's PR people understood perfectly, can also play a role. In short, these accolades are relative not only in the temporal sense of saluting the so-called best in a given season (no matter how mediocre) but also in terms of what exactly is being singled out for distinction.
How, for instance, does one decide between the transgender punk act of
Does Harris' distinguished service as Tony emcee over the years, combined with the fact that Mays has already won a Tony, give him the edge? That might sway me. The Tonys, like the
The five nominated plays this year would wither under the glare of object scrutiny were they evaluated exclusively on dramaturgical merit. The favorite, Robert Schenkkan's "All the Way," is a three-hour slab of American politics that's animated by a vigorous cast led by the indefatigable
"Act One," James Lapine's unwieldy adaptation of Moss Hart's indelible theater memoir, has its ardent fans, so "All the Way" could be overtaken at the finish line. If I had my druthers I'd have the best play award go to Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun," despite the technicality that the drama first appeared on Broadway in 1959. "Raisin" received a nomination when it premiered but lost out to William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker." So much for the omniscience of Tony voters.
Kenny Leon's production of Hansberry's classic, which stars
Much as I am a fervent admirer of
What's more, I think McDonald's performance is mistakenly categorized. "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" may be considered a play when certain actors perform the role, but when McDonald as Billie Holiday delivers more than a dozen songs (plus a reprise of "What a Little Moonlight Can Do") in a 90-minute show, it's her magnificent singing that has the greatest dramatic impact.
Revivals in general were the silver lining of this mostly cloudy season. The race is widely thought to be between "The Glass Menagerie" and "Twelfth Night," a contest that I would decide in Shakespeare's favor, because I very much doubt that I'll ever see a better production of "Twelfth Night" than Tim Carroll's all-male production, and I preferred the revival of "Glass" with
My other acting preferences: Mueller as Carole King for lead actress and Anika Larsen as Cynthia Weil for featured actress, both from "Beautiful." Nick Cordero for his supporting gangster turn in "Bullets Over Broadway." Rose for her astringent take on Beneatha in "Raisin," a featured performance that maximizes every moment of stage time. Cranston as a brilliant, brokering LBJ for lead actor in a play and
For directing, I'd be happy if either Darko Tresnjak ("Gentleman's Guide") or Warren Carlyle ("After Midnight") would win in the musical category and if either Leon or Carroll would triumph in the play category (though "Glass" has strong support and John Tiffany could easily take the prize).