All of our Experts are predicting that Neil Patrick Harris will win the Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical) this Sunday for his riveting work in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” However, watch out for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” star Jefferson Mays, who tied with him at the Drama Desk Awards last Sunday. Here’s why:
1. He’s playing multiple characters.
Mays plays eight very different roles. In 2004, he won Best Actor (Play) back in 2004 for “I Am My Own Wife,” a solo show in which he played more than 40 people. Among the others who have have won trophies for taking on many parts at once: Joanne Woodward bagged an Oscar for “The Three Faces of Eve,” Sally Field made a name for herself with her Emmy-winning turn as “Sybil” and Toni Collette took home an Emmy for playing a woman with multiple personalities in “United States of Tara.”
2. Every single one of them is awards bait.
Each character that Mays plays is tailor-made to win awards. They include: an alcoholic priest, a closeted gay man, the aging patriarch of a noble family and a cynical millionaire. Oh, and another two of his characters are women: a humanitarian who travels the world to perform charity work and a laughably bad actress starring in an awful production of “Hedda Gabler.” And each one of his characters (SPOILER ALERT) has an over-the-top, broadly comedic death scene.
3. He’s a Broadway insider.
It’s no secret that Tony voters hold Hollywood stars in disdain. Just this year, Denzel Washington, Michelle Williams and James Franco were snubbed. Will voters want to check off a major Hollywood name like Harris, who already has fame and fortune, when Mays, an actor loyal to the Broadway stage, is also an option? While some may vote for Harris as a way of saying “Thank you!” for hosting the Tonycast four times, many may see the Emmys he has won for this as thanks enough.
4. He is nominated against a co-star.
While Bryce Pinkham earned positive notices for his performance, it was Mays that got the raves. Two actors being nominated for the same show is common in this category; indeed, it has happened every year since 2010. However, only when one of the nominees has a showier role does he win. Last year, Billy Porter played a fierce drag queen in “Kinky Boots” and won over, among others, co-star Stark Sands as an English businessman. And in 2010, Douglas Hodge prevailed for playing a female impersonator in “La Cage Aux Folles” over Kelsey Grammer as his more sedate partner.
5. He is overdue for his second win.
Mays won his first Tony a decade ago. Usually, there is a shorter gap between victories. Norbert Leo Butz won this race twice in six years: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (2004) and “Catch Me If You Can” (2010). Nathan Lane had just a five-year gap between “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1996) and “The Producers” (2001). And John Cullum picked up a pair of Tonys in just three years: “Shenandoah” (1975) and “On the Twentieth Century” (1978).
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