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Best Actor in a Musical 2015

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  • Balthazar
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    As sometimes happens, I’m a little late to the game on some Tony races. The 2015 Best Actor (Musical) category strikes me as particularly stacked: Michael Cerveris, Fun Home; Brian d”Arcy James, Something Rotten!; Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris; Ken Watanabe, The King and I; and Tony Yazbeck, On The Town.

    Could someone please provide a refresher course detailing who were the favorites/underdogs going into Tony night? Upon four years reflection, this lineup seems quite strong.

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    adamunc
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    It was always a race between Cerveris and Fairchild. The others were there to round out the category.

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    In 2015, Robert Fairchild was sweeping through both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for his performance as Jerry Mulligan in An American in Paris. Though given that Fun Home had already competed at those places the year before when it was Off-Broadway, Fairchild was not up against industry veteran Michael Cerveris with such a baity part. While Robert Fairchild did appear to be An American in Paris‘ best shot at an acting prize, Ceveris managed to win what some people might’ve felt was his overdue second Tony Award (especially in a soft sweep for Fun Home).

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    adamunc
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    I went back and looked at the Times poll for that year. By the time that came out, Cerveris had pulled ahead of Fairchild and d’Arcy James and the Times declared him the likely winner, so it doesn’t seem it was that close.

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    Balthazar
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    Not to go on a tangent, yet what a small world Fairchild’s sister, Megan, appeared with Yazbeck in On The Town. Was her name ever in the mix for a Featured Actress nomination? (And was it a surprise three Fun Home performers secured nominations?)

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    I think she was earlier in the season, but as it progressed, she pretty much became an afterthought.

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    adamunc
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    If memory serves, Alysha Umphress got more attention for On the Town at the time.

    It’s unusual for a show to get three acting nominations, but I don’t think you could really call it a surprise for Fun Home. Lucas and Kuhn were considered locks; Skeggs was one of a few in the mix for the two slots remaining after Lucas, Kuhn, and Miles.

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    Balthazar
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    Thanks for the prompt replies. Finally, how did the Best Revival (Musical) race breakdown headed into Tony night: The King and I, On The Town, & On the Twentieth Century?

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    adamunc
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    The King and I was the runaway winner according to the Times poll.

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    Early on in the season, On the Town was seen as a frontrunner, yet despite all the rave reviews it received, the show still spent months struggling at the box office given that it was in such an enormous venue. Then when The King & I opened in the spring, it was really no contest.

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    Awardsfan1990
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    The Best Actress In A Musical race, though, boy that was a nailbiter!! It was pretty much a too-close-to-call race for Kristin Chenoweth for On The Twentieth Century and Kelli O’Hara for The King And I. Chenoweth had the narrative of being a beloved performer back on Broadway, plus she received universal raves for her performance. Plus, she was hosting the Tonys that year, and the Tonys like to reward hosts if they’re also a nominee (like Hugh Jackman with The Boy From Oz in 2004).

    But then Kelli O’Hara had the long-overdue narrative as she was on her sixth nomination at that point, and given The King And I was the frontrunner for Best Revival Of A Musical, I think Tony voters were tired of seeing her lose again and again and felt she had suffered enough losses.

    There was also some speculation Chita Rivera could pull of a surprise win for The Visit, as she had won the Drama League Award for her performance, and she’s a living legend who I believe had said The Visit would be her final stage musical.

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    Jeffrey Kare
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    It’s also worth noting that Kristin Chenoweth was taking on a role that her idol, Madeline Kahn, originated on Broadway back in 1978, yet left shortly after opening because of how demanding it was. Leading up to the Tonys, Kristin had won the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards. Yet, Kelli O’Hara was taking on a classic role that did quite well in the past with Gertrude Lawrence and Donna Murphy both winning Tonys for playing Anna Leonowens in The King & I. What especially made it hard to predict was that Kristin was giving a very bombastic performance while Kelli provided more subtlety. I even remember hearing Paul Sheehan in a Gold Derby slugfest talking about how if Kelli lost again, it would pretty much mirror Deborah Kerr’s track record at the Oscars as both ladies would have 6 nominations and zero wins, and one of them would be for playing Anna in The King & I. Even the New York Times voter poll said that the Lead Actress in a Musical race was still too close to call. In the end, I think Kelli O’Hara winning was a result of three things.

    1. Her obvious overdue factor.

    2. Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of The King & I being the frontrunner for Best Revival of a Musical. I even remember before the Tonys how odd it seemed that the production was predicted to only win two awards overall, the other being for Best Costume Design of a Musical. While I did end up agreeing with the general consensus, I still felt that it had to win more awards than that. Yet, when Ruthie Ann Miles won Best Featured Actress in a Musical over Judy Kuhn and Sydney Lucas (which I guess was a case of the Fun Home ladies splitting their support), things were starting to look better for The King & I.

    3. The people who voted for Kelli O’Hara thought more about the gravitas of her character as opposed to the flashiness of Chenoweth’s performance. I also thought that with Kristin co-hosting the Tonys that year, she would receive herself some bonus points like Glenn Close (twice), Nathan Lane (twice), and Hugh Jackman. Yet, being the host doesn’t always help a certain nominee win as was the case with Sean Hayes back in 2010.

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