With the Tony Awards still eight months away, it may be foolish to declare a winner this early, but here’s my gutsy prediction: Cherry Jones is a lock to win Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Amanda Wingfield in a revival of Tennessee Williams’s “The Glass Menagerie.” Here’s why:
1. Duh…she’s Cherry Jones!
Jones is royalty in the New York theater. She won this race for “The Heiress” (1995) and “Doubt” (2005) and contended in this category two other times losing in 1991 for “Our Country’s Good” to Mercedes Ruehl (“Lost in Yonkers”) and in 2000 for “A Moon for the Misbegotten” to Jennifer Ehle (“The Real Thing”).
She has also proven herself in television and film, even winning an Emmy in 2009 for playing the supporting role of the President on season seven of “24.”
2. She is performing a classic role and the critics are loving it.
Amanda Wingfield is an iconic female role in American theater. The original Amanda — Laurette Taylor — was not eligible for a Tony Award as these theater kudos were not created until two years after she debuted in the role in 1945. Her performance defined the role for decades.
However, New York Times critic Ben Brantley described Jones’s performance as “career defining” and “one for the ages” that “may someday be spoken of with the awe that surrounds Laurette Taylor’s creation of the part.” Elysa Gardner (USA Today) called Jones “one of the greatest stage actresses alive” and said her work “will amaze even her most ardent admirers in its depth and compassion.”
3. The production is a critical and box office hit.
Revivals of classic plays win Tonys for their stars when they succeed with both critics and audiences. The critical and commercial success of the revival of August Wilson’s “Fences” propelled Denzel Washington and Viola Davis to Tony wins in 2010. Last year’s remounting of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” brought Tracy Letts a Tony in an upset over bigger names Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane.
While the last revival of “The Glass Menagerie” — a 2005 production led by Jessica Lange — was a critical failure, this production is receiving near universal acclaim and doing boffo numbers at the box office. In its first two weeks, the show played to over 95% capacity, bringing in an average of $600,000 per week. That combination of critical and box office success may bring awards to Broadway newcomer Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger, a two-time Tony contender for her featured performances in the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (2005) and play “Peter and The Starcatchers” (2012).
Other strong contenders may emerge — Tony champs Mary Louise Parker (“Proof,” 2001) in the new play “The Snow Geese” and Diahann Carroll (“No Strings,” 1962) in a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener,” 2005) in a revival of “Betrayal.”
However, my money is on Jones to take home her third Tony in this race, tying the achievements of Jessica Tandy and Zoe Caldwell. Julie Harris is the all-time champ in this category, with five wins over nine nominations.