I had the pleasure of meeting Christian Hoff (JERSEY BOYS, 2006 Tony winner, Best Featured Actor MUSICAL) Sunday night after seeing him in THE MIDTOWN MEN featuring three original JERSEY BOYS.
Such a kind & generous person. And his singing & dancing were terrific! Daniel Reichard & I discussed Christian's surprise Tony win...his co-star immediately mentioning Jim Dale from The Threepenny Opera as the favorite in Christian's category.
Since The Tony Awards announcement is today, I thought it might be fun to post this & get some responses & reactions to Christian Hoff's Tony win. Many had John Lloyd Young as the heavy favorite in his category...yet initial support for Christian Hoff during the nomination season wasn't as strong. Thoughts? Reactions? Reflections?
2006 was a very funky year for me. I think Jersey Boys is a very well-written musical. It has a great book. And The Drowsy Chaperone was fun. But neither had a lasting effect on me. The musical that affected me the most that year was The Color Purple. While it definitely had its extremely clunky moments (EXTREMELY!) and wasn't perfect, it had a much more lasting impression on me than JB and TDC. But I guess that was bound to happen no matter what. The Color Purple is just such a great story.. And the performances were wonderful. But everything that year was overshadowed by the Sweeney Todd revival. Dang.. I never knew I could be horrified while sitting in a big broadway theater. But I was. The last 15 minutes were as intense and intimate as watching a horror movie on the big screen in a movie theater.
Anyway, back on topic. I remember Jim Dale being the "favorite," but there didn't seem to be a lot of passion for his performance from the theater fans. I remember everyone being very vocal about how they hoped Hoff would be nominated. And when he was, people were very vocal about his nomination being very deserved. So the fact that he won was a little bit of a surprise to me, but it seemed to make sense after thinking about it.
Carol's right... at the time, the "smart money" was going on Jim Dale, the sole acting nominee from the much-ballyhooed revival of "The Threepenny Opera" (Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper were both snubbed). Carol's also right in stating that there wasn't a particular passion going for the Dale performance per se, but more of a feeling that he was an esteemed veteran, and the Tonys do seem to acknowledge their veterans more so than other awards...(see Ian McDiarmid of "Faith Healer," who won the Best Featured Actor in a Play prize that year).
There WAS, however, a small but passionate fanbase for Manoel Felciano of "Sweeney Todd," and by the night of the awards, Felciano was looking more and more like a pretty legitimate contender (he was also seen in a lot of quarters as "Sweeney"'s best shot at an acting prize, as John Lloyd Young was a foregone conclusion for Best Actor in a Musical by the night of the awards, and the LuPone performance was so polarizing that her odds were only ever 50/50 at best). I actually don't remember Hoff being in many of the conversations surrounding the Featured Actor in a Musical race, but I always saw him as a wild card pick with plenty of goodwill toward his vehicle going for him. I didn't have him down to win (I had picked Dale myself), but I wasn't surprised at all when Hoff won.
Christian Hoff winning was a nice win, but I supported Manoel Felciano, who was my favorite aspect of that particular production of Sweeney Todd, which I am one of the few people that didn't care for it.
Christian was probably my second choice in that category.
I thought JERSEY BOYS was a good show, and for a jukebox musical, it was well put-together and probably one of the best ever made....though I am not saying it was one of the best musicals ever by any means.
Personally, I feel THE DROWSY CHAPERONE was a superb show that got Book and Score, but also deserved Direcotr and Musical as well.
True that Manoel did have a very vocal fanbase. He could have surprised as well.
I also remember many people thinking that Patti would win her second with Sweeney, but I had a gut feeling the whole season that the Tonys would realize it was finally time to honor LaChanze. Turns out my gut feeling was right. I didn't see either performance until after the awards ceremony, though. After seeing both, I felt either one would have been a worthy winner.
I definitely saw the LaChanze one coming too, but the upset of The Pajama Game over Sweeney Todd surprised me (and pissed me off a little - what a great production), even though the Times warned it could happen when they did their annual poll. I also had a feeling Jim Dale was going to lose - nobody liked the production of Threepenny - but I wasn't sure who else it would go to. Hoff's win it seems to me was a pretty textbook case of riding the wave of his production's success.
I remember reading an article in a major publication (six years too many for me to remember which exactly) saying how Hoff brought a certain sex appeal which the other Jersey Boys were lacking. Maybe it was a reverse 'Babe Factor'?
Thanks for these responses! Quite illuminating. To maintain the pace, what about Danny Burstein's chances as the clueless lothario Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone? The song I AM ADOLPHO is hilarious & I'm wondering if his name was in the mix that year? (I've forgotten...I know that Jim Dale was the favorite, with Christian Hoff second. Can't recall Brandon Victor Dixon, Felciano, or Burstein's "rankings" in the general consensus predictions.)
The general feeling at the time was that the chances were:
1. Jim Dale 2. Manoel Felciano 3. Christian Hoff 4. Danny Burstein 5. Brandon Victor Dixon
Burstein was never much of a factor in the race; once "Chaperone" opened, the feeling was that Beth Leavel would be nominated and take Featured Actress in a Musical in a slam dunk (up to that point, the frontrunners were Felicia P. Fields and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes of "The Color Purple"), and thus, "Drowsy Chaperone" was assured an acting win. "Chaperone" was also considered a safe bet for several techincal categories, and it did wind up winning the most Tonys of any musical that year. Because of that, there was no special urgency for the voters to throw many bones to Burstein. I remember many people thinking that Dixon would be nominated, but because "The Color Purple" opened to mostly lukewarm reviews, the consensus was that while "Purple" might rack up a healthy tally of nominations (which it did), it would have to fight for any wins.
How often does that happen? The Drowsy Chaperone went home with more Tonys than any other musical (deservedly, I loved it) but NOT Best Musical? I, too, remember thinking that critics were chomping at the bit to tear The Color Purple down. It was indeed better than one was lead to believe..
As a follow-up, I'd like to thank everyone for their informative
reflections. And Daniel Reichard mentioned Brandon Victor Dixon (The
Color Purple) as the the surprise spoiler nominee, essentially replacing
Reichard in the lineup. Yet he said it with just the right, light
amount of jest. Daniel Reichard had been nominated for a Drama Desk
Award that year along with co-star Christian Hoff.
Christian Hoff tells me that, as a part-time gambler himself, he was well-aware of the odds for his category going into the awards. He further mentions that the role was written specifically for him (I'm sure most of you forum readers are aware of that) & that the writers were hands on in La Jolla.