All four nominated Best Plays for the Tony Awards (announced this morning) add up to Donald Trump’s worst nightmare: There’s “Sweat,” about workers of various colors responding to corporate machinations; “Oslo,” about a sincere effort at peace in the Middle East; “Indecent,” about brave artists dabbling in bold subjects (like LGBT love) written about by an immigrant, while being quashed as obscene; and “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” about a woman trying to release herself from male oppression. All four were written before Trump became President, but they can easily be seen as a repudiation of his views and actions.
But on the bright side for the Prez, “Anastasia” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” — two musicals about his beloved Russia — got a combined total of 14 nominations. Go, Donald. The most nominations was scored by the sprawling “Great Comet” (12).
Expectedly, nominations were nabbed by musical lead Bette Midler (“Hello, Dolly!”) and dramatic lead Kevin Kline (“Present Laughter)”, both of whom are easily on their way to winning for jazzing up their revivals with irresistible star performances.
Other big names who got noticed were Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon, and Richard Thomas (“The Little Foxes”), David Hyde-Pierce ( Midler’s gruff foil in “Hello, Dolly!” ), Josh Groban (a note-holding nobleman’s son in “Great Comet”), Cate Blanchett (a gun and detonator holding aristocrat in her husband Andrew Upton’s Chekhov adaptation, “The Present”), Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper (“A Doll’s House 2, Part 2”), Danny DeVito (“The Price”), Nathan Lane (“The Front Page”), and Sally Field (Amanda in Sam Gold’s avant-garde retelling of “The Glass Menagerie.” Sally got better reviews for a different production at the Kennedy Center in 2004, but this time she still had strong moments amidst the directorial impositions.)
Stars who got snubbed include Mark Ruffalo (“The Price”), Allison Janney (“Six Degrees of Separation”), Mary-Louise Parker (“Heisenberg”), and Tony Shalhoub (“The Price”). Well, it was a crowded field, and these stars can console themselves with big careers.
Ill-received revivals of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” and “The Cherry Orchard” starring Liev Schreiber and Diane Lane respectively weren’t expected to get anything– and didn’t. The acclaimed revival of “Sunday in the Park With George” was out of the running, having been withdrawn from consideration by its competition-negative producers. That’s the only reason you don’t see nominations for stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. The producers saved money that would have been spent shelling out comps for voters, but at what price?
“Dear Evan Hansen” — about the life altering ramifications of a troubled student’s letter to himself with a score by the Oscar-winning “La La Land” duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul — will win Best Musical. That show’s stunning Ben Platt will go head to head with “Groundhog Day”’s Andy Karl, who not only won raves, but hurt himself during a press preview, crawled off the stage, and came back to finish the show on a walking stick, amazingly going through with all of opening night. Midler is wonderfully playing a Carol Channing role, but it’s Karl who most embodies the Channing show-must-go-on spirit.
The three-hour “Oslo” will cop Best Play, and Best Actress brings together two well-known women who’ve never won: Linney and Metcalf. I’m predicting Metcalf to cop the prize for a performance that’s been called dazzling in a project that sounded bad on paper — a similar premise formed the 1982 flop musical “A Doll’s Life” — but is getting huzzahs, if not business.
Nixon (“The Little Foxes”) and DeVito (who steals the revival of “The Price” as an egg-eating furniture appraiser) will cop featured awards. (Nixon and Linney alternate the lead role of vicious Regina and the featured one of fluttery, sympathetic Birdie. The nominations were given to the actresses for their opening night credits.)
The revival of “Falsettos,” about a married man with a boyfriend, could nab two supporting awards for Andrew Rannells (or Brandon Uranowitz) and Stephanie J. Block but “Hello, Dolly!”’s Gavin Creel is a strong contender for putting extra oomph in his Sunday clothes. I‘m predicting “Dear Evan Hansen”’s Rachel Bay Jones to win Best Featured Actress, for pulling off the complicated role of an underappreciated mother trying not to lose her son to another family.
There are nominees of color, including Corey Hawkins (“Six Degrees of Separation”), Michelle Wilson (“Sweat”), and Condola Rashad (“A Doll’s House 2, Part 2”), while only one actor from Jitney’s brilliant ensemble (John Douglas Thompson) was remembered. They can make up for that by giving the August Wilson play Best Revival.