February 7, 2014 at 12:10 am #432418
I’ve noticed the Tony forums are often dead with like one reply per day, which is sad. So to keep it alive, I want to start various topics that we can discuss.
I’ve only been introduced to the Tonys recently (I watched 2011, 2012 and 2013) but the only race I followed was last year. So I’m unaware of many of the races.
So my question is, what are some of the most surprising Tony upsets over the years, and who did they beat for the prize?
The obvious example I know is Tracy Letts beating Tom Hanks for Actor in a Play last year.
What are some other examples?February 7, 2014 at 5:39 am #432420
Off the top of my head, “Avenue Q” besting “Wicked” for Best Musical was a major jaw-dropper at the time.
Bill Irwin’s win for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (like Tracy Letts’ win for the same role some years later), wasn’t undeserved, but smart money at the time was going on Brian F. O’Byrne for “Doubt” or (in a last-minute sentimental surge) James Earl Jones for “On Golden Pond.”
Steve Kazee’s win for “Once” was something of a surprise; he was thought to be in third place behind Danny Burstein of “Follies” and Jeremy Jordan of “Newsies.”February 7, 2014 at 7:31 am #432421
The Tracy Letts over Tom Hanks situation was only a surprise if you
didn’t see either play. Letts blew his competition out of the water.
Best Featured Actor in a Musical tends to be the “upset” category, I know many people who expected Terrence Mann to defeat Gabriel Ebert, Rory O’Malley to defeat John Larroquette, Christopher Fitzgerald to defeat Levi Kreis, Christopher Sieber to defeat Gregory Jbara and Danny Burstein over Christian Hoff.
I didn’t follow Tonys then but I know many people say Idina Menzel was an upset, though I can’t see that at all.February 7, 2014 at 10:00 am #432422
I agree I thought Letts was the frontrunner the whole time. The only reason people assumed it would be Tom Hanks is because he’s Tom Hanks. But very recently (aka post Catherine Zeta-Jones), the Tonys have eschewed automatically showering movie stars with awards and actually considering the best performance. Its one reason why I really love these awards above all. There are strict rules about campaigning so its much less in your face than the politicking of the Oscars.
A lot of big upsets happen when assumed nominees dont find themselves nominated. For instance Bernadette Peters failed to get a bid playing the Witch in the original production of Into the Woods. And its one of her most iconic roles to date. (Though her co-star Joanna Gleason was nominated as the Baker’s Wife). Last year in particular was brutal in this respect with Alan Cumming, Bette Midler, and Fiona Shaw all failing to make the cut despite tremendous solo performances.
The biggest upset I can pull off the top of my head (that hasnt already been mentioned) is David Hyde Pierce winning lead actor in a musical for Curtains over Raul Esparza in Company. Many saw it as an apology win since he failed to get a deserved nomination for Spamalot. That production had a lot of lead actor contenders and in the end Tim Curry and Hank Azaria made the cut, Pierce was left out. But many assumed Esparza’s passionate redition of Being Alive made him a shoe in for the award.February 7, 2014 at 11:22 am #432423
I saw Tracy Letts in Virginia Woolf, and I was still surprised he won. He was great, yes, but his show had closed long before the Tonys and Hanks was absolutely everywhere campaigning very hard. Most people thought he would win, and I think I recall him coming ahead of Letts in the Times poll as well. Know-nothing journalists maybe weren’t giving Letts enough of a chance, but his victory was anything but assured.
Idina’s win – I feel like this one comes up once a year – Donna Murphy had won every other Best Actress in a Musical prize leading up to the Tonys. But because she’d missed so many performances during the voting period and already had won twice in the category, she was considered vulnerable to Menzel and Tonya Pinkins. So yes, it was something of a surprise that Menzel in the end did manage to eek out the victory.
Bill Irwin is probably the biggest upset in recent memory. He was terrific but he was on no one’s radar for the win. The thinking was that it was going to O’Byrne, and I suspect most people would have put Crudup and Jones ahead of Irwin’s chances as well. It was a true, out-of-left-field shocker.
Art winning best play was an upset. Beauty Queen of Leenane won the Tonys for Best Director, and three out of the four acting awards. That same year, The Lion King winning best musical was an upset. Ragtime had bested it in their head-to-head in almost all other precursors, and it was largely assumed Broadway would never embrace a Disney musical.
Titanic winning best musical was an upset; The Life had cleaned up new musical honors prior to the Tonys, but Titanic improved much during previews, which is when most of the other awards were given.
The 99 Brian Dennehy revival of Death of a Salesman cleaning up at the Tonys was a surprise. The Kevin Spacey production of Iceman Cometh opened later in the season and had sort of stolen its thunder, and was expected to take Actor in a Play, Director of a Play, and Revival of a Play, whereas Salesman wound up winning them all.February 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm #432424
@sameckmann, I think Peters took herself off the ballot in 1988 for Into the Woods, because she was only in the show for a few months as a favor to Sondheim and Lapine at the time… Famously, Gleason won the Drama Desk for featured actress that year, leaving Patti LuPone to take home the Drama Desk for leading actress… (Peters was nommed for a DD for some reason)… Then when Peters abandoned her Tony chances, Gleason was bumped to lead for the Tonys, and ended up winning, beating the country wide favorite LuPone! That was quite an upset at the time, although I don’t see why exactly, since Reno Sweeney is a one-dimensional showbiz type character, whereas the Baker’s Wife is full of heart, wit, charm, and Gleason elevated this further with her now iconic performance in the role.February 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm #432425
Peters did do the show as a favor to Sondheim and was out of it by the time of the Tony Awards, but there’s no mechanism for an actor to remove themselves from consideration. Peters, Gleason, Chip Zien, Tom Aldredge and Robert Westenberg were all billed above the title. Westenberg was nominated in Featured, but Peters and Gleason were both eligible in lead. Peters simply didn’t get a nomination.February 8, 2014 at 12:53 am #432426
No, I’m afraid it’s true, Peters and the producers decided between them to remove her name for consideration, and to put Gleason in her place in that category.February 8, 2014 at 5:07 am #432427
I have heard this rumor before and it continues to make no sense at all. Actors are not, and have never been, formally submitted by producers for Tony Awards consideration. If a show opens on Broadway and producers make tickets to the show available to Tony voters, the show is eligible and the Administration Committee uses the opening night Playbill to determine eligibility of the cast and creative team. All actors billed above the title are placed in the Leading category and all actors below the title are placed in the Featured category, unless the Committee decides someone should be moved up or down. Nobody gets to rule themselves individually ineligible, unless producers decide the entire show won’t compete for any Tonys and makes no tickets available to voters (like the Mike Tyson show last season). It is not like the Emmys where people submit themselves in particular categories or can decide, a la Candice Bergen, to call it quits when they’ve had enough.
I am happy to learn of something that proves otherwise, but until then, this continues to sound like an internet rumor started by fans of Peters who can’t live in a world where she didn’t get a nomination.February 8, 2014 at 5:59 am #432428
I typed up a LONG response yesterday and then was stupid not to copy it because the site signed me off and I lost all of it. I will try to bring up all that I said but in a short manner.
The Idina Menzel win seems plausible, but I see it as a win going towards a popular favorite playing the hero in the IT-Audience favorite that season, plus it did hurt Donna Murphy that she was consistently sick during voting period and that she had already won 2 Tonys. Tonya Pinkins also had issues with being sick, along with having a Tony herself. I personally feel Tonya Pinkins deserved the award easily.
David Hyde Pierce winning actually did shock me. Was he good in the role? Yes, but it was such a basic performance while Raul Esparza gave Bobby such an extra layer and his performances of Being Alive and Marry Me a Little are definitive.
Christian Hoff pulling off the win was a mild surprise, but I think it was due to Jersey Boys love even though Drowsy Chaperone was the better show. I personally felt Burstein and Felicano were the best in that category.
The 1982 Best Musical race was interesting in that Dreamgirls was considered to be the frontrunner all season because everything was flopping and then NINE opened at the last minute and got a lot of buzz and was considered Broadway’s hottest ticket and then won the Drama Desk and then the Tony along with a win for Tommy Tune for Directing over Michael Bennett.
There is a YouTube channel devoted to this production of NINE and one critic on a newsstation told Tune everyone knew NINE was going to win while he said he felt it was a close race. Nowadays, people see it as an upset. It is clear to see now that DREAMGIRLS had staying power and it ran a little longer and has had more of hit towards pop culture while NINE isn’t as known despite its movie and winning a Revival Tony. I personally prefer NINE so I support the win, but I would love to hear others thoughts on this race.
More to come later.February 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm #432429
Christian Hoff’s upset was over Jim Dale for Threepenny Opera; Danny Burstein or anyone else really wasn’t in the race. Dale had won both the Outer Critics and the Drama Desk, and then lost the Tony.February 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm #432430
CHANNING over STREISAND in 1964 to me is shocking..
Carol cant act or sing but she does have charisma..
Barbra can act and sing anyone off the map and talk about
charisma…Carol won because she had lost 2x previously
and DOLLY was a huge hit….this still smarts with me to this day…February 8, 2014 at 3:47 pm #432431
I know Jim Dale was the frontrunner. I remember thinking he’d win but was hoping for an upset for Burstein or Felciano.
As for the Carol Channing/Barbra Streisand race, I really don’t know what to think there. I have never been the biggest fan of Streisand, but despite the limitations of Carol Channing, she is uniquely bewitching. My big complaint with that race was the snub of Barbara Cook for the underrated and truly beautiful SHE LOVES ME.February 9, 2014 at 10:31 am #432432
@dude93 @benedick I believe its true that actors cannot remove themselves from ballots if the show they are in is eligible for the Tonys. However, actors can and have declined nominations before. Most famously Julie Andrews declined her nomination for Victor/Victoria, as she was the sole nominee from the show and felt the cast had been overlooked. William Daniels also refused to be nominated as featured actor for 1776 (he played the lead role of John Adams). No one in the production was billed above the title and the comittee did not bump him up for consideration in lead for whatever reason, and daniels refused the nomination.
In terms of Peters/Into the Woods. There was no formal refusal of a nomination. She was in the production of five months before leaving for a film. The film shoot was moved back from its original start date, she had originally planned a limited engagement of about 3 months. So, since she was doing it as a favor to Sondheim and the producers (they needed her to boost ticket sales), the story is that she didnt want to be nominated for the role since she didnt plan on spending much time in it. So the producers campaigned for Gleason instead. But since she was gone by voting time (Phylicia Rashad performed the role at the Tonys), Peters would not have been fresh ni voters minds anyway.February 9, 2014 at 2:06 pm #432433
Three times actors have publicly renounced their nominations. Andrews and Daniels are two, and the third was Douglas Turner Ward who was nominated for Featured Actor in a Play for The River Niger. Daniels was actually successful in getting his name removed from the ballot, effectively handing his co-star Ron Holgate the win – it was in truth a generous move; he probably would have won.
Despite Andrews’s and Turner Ward’s “refusals”, they remained on the ballot, and therefore could have won, though neither did.