By Phil Dorian
The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards honor theatrical excellence at the Broadway level. Quibble about commercialism or the exclusion of off-Broadway if you will, but the Tony Award telecast provides millions around the world with their only window into New York City’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
Some 700 voters, including press agents and theatrical union representatives, bestow the honors. (Actual theater critics were disenfranchised a few years ago – a move that continues to baffle.)
Here then, my unofficial 2013 Tony Award predictions/ choices:
Best (New) Play
A two-horse race between The Assembled Parties by Richard Greenberg and Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike are both blessed with outstanding ensembles portraying serious family issues with generous overlays of humor. Vanya, etc. is my prediction, but Greenberg’s play would be my choice. I had never heard of the Parties family going in; two hours later I knew them as well as my own.
Best (New) Musical
The most visible Tony Award might be the least-witnessed, coming as it does at the end of the telecast, so get some sleep: Matilda: The Musical is odds-on against the juvenile Bring It On, the frivolous Kinky Boots and the seasonal A Christmas Story. Despite irritating diction lapses from the singing children, Matilda is an accomplishment of the highest order. (The Roald Dahl story isn’t all lightness and mirth. I recommend it for kids of at least double-digit age.)
Golden Boy, continued playwright Clifford Odets’s retrospective, and The Trip to Bountiful made a smooth transition to an African-American setting. Orphans was revived, prompting a resounding why? Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was not only the best revival of the season, it was that play’s best revival in decades.
Pippin prevails here against overhyped Annie, overlong Mystery of Edwin Drood and over-titled Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Directed by Diane Paulus, who won this Tony in 2009 (Hair) and 2012 (Porgy and Bess), Pippin folds top-notch Cirque acts into its tale of a young man’s restlessness. The colorful revival is peerless entertainment.
There is no nicer fellow in show business than Tom Hanks, a quality that could net him a Tony Award (for Lucky Guy), but Nathan Lane is brilliant as a mincing burlesque comic in The Nance, and David Hyde Pierce is outstanding in Vanya. Tracy Letts redefined the character of George in Virginia Woolf, and, in fact, the play. He’d be my choice, but I predict Broadway’s homegrown treasure, Nathan Lane.
Cross-dressing as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, Bertie Carvel won Britain’s Tony-equivalent Olivier Award; he’ll likely capture our Tony as well, even though the casting is essentially a gimmick. Chaplin was a midseason flop, but Rob McClure was a rich, deeply felt Little Tramp … alas, all but forgotten.
Three admirable contenders include Laurie Metcalf’s scenery-chewing in The Other Place, Amy Morton’s Martha (Virginia Woolf) and Kristine Nielsen’s wry turn in Vanya. (I did not see Holland Taylor’s Ann about former Texas Governor Ann Richards, but a one-actor play is a Tony nonstarter.) Then there’s 79-year old Cicely Tyson, back on Broadway after 30 years in The Trip to Bountiful. It’s a lovely performance, which, combined with her longevity, will net her a Tony.
I saw Pippin in May, with understudy Stephanie Pope in for Patina Miller as Leading Player. She was quite good and I loved the show. Invited back before the Outer Critics Circle voting deadline in order to see Patina, I returned and was dazzled by her star quality. She won at OCC, and should take home a Tony as well.
For his portrayal of the nasty movie producer in The Big Knife (more Odets), Richard Kind will win this Tony – not just for his razor-sharp performance, but also to afford a Broadway swipe at the corrupt Hollywood exposed in the play.
Terrence Mann is the early favorite for the king in Pippin, but my out-on-a-limb prediction is Keith Carradine from Hands on a Hardbody.
There is no more fascinating featured role than that of Honey in Virginia Woolf. Carrie Coons’ infinitely delicate Honey was eminently Tony-worthy.
I ran into a fellow who did not believe that Andrea Martin would win this Tony for her one scene in Pippin. Then the guy showed me the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge he had just purchased.
Having guided Virginia Woolf to nominations for Best Revival and for three of its four actors, Pam McKinnon should be a shoo-in here.
Diane Paulus for Pippin, although Matthew Warchus (Matilda) is snapping at her heels. Kinky Boots (Jerry Mitchell, director) is just formulaic fun, and the appeal of Edwin Drood (Scott Ellis), was limited.
Among the lower-profile Tony Awards, a few quick picks:
Orchestrations will probably go to Matilda, but I admired the lush take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Scenic Design/ Play: The Nance, for John Lee Beatty’s set that rotates on and off a burlesque stage. Scenic Design/Musical: Matilda beats out Pippin and Kinky Boots. Costumes/Play: the early-season Cyrano de Bergerac. Costumes/Musical: Dominique Lemieux, imported from Cirque in Montreal, for her creatively and seductively costumed Pippin.
Tune in to CBS-TV Sunday evening June 9 for the official picks.