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NY Times Interview with 40 Tony Voters

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6 years ago
  • helmetz
    Nov 6th, 2010

    That Tony Pool: Few Sure Bets


    THE new Broadway musicals “Newsies” and “Once” won’t run the table at the Tony Awards
    on Sunday the way “The Book of Mormon” did last year or “Billy Elliot”
    did in 2009, when those hits were runaway favorites in multiple
    categories. But the 2012 awards ceremony, the biggest night of honors
    for the Broadway industry, offers something even more fun than singing
    missionaries and pint-size ballerinas: competition.

    The horse race for best musical between “Newsies,” a high-energy show
    about 19th-century New York City newsboys, and “Once,” a low-key story
    of unrequited love on the streets of Dublin, is only one of an unusually
    high number of unpredictable contests at the Tonys. Other major
    categories as well — best play, best musical revival, best actor and
    actress in a play and best actor in a musical — have many of the 851
    Tony voters struggling with a luxury problem they rarely experience:
    choosing a favorite from several strong contenders.

    Interviews with 40 voters — theater producers, tour presenters,
    directors and designers, as well as actors — yielded few obvious winners
    in the balloting, which ends at 6 p.m. Friday. But the predictions
    business requires some odds setting, so herewith are the results from
    one crystal ball.

    Best Musical

    Voters like to honor commercially successful Broadway musicals because
    the Tony imprimatur — the industry’s most recognizable marketing tool —
    can help turn a popular show into a powerhouse at the box office in New
    York, as well as propel subsequent productions and tours nationally and
    overseas. Such conventional wisdom should favor “Newsies,” which is
    already grossing nearly $1 million a week.

    But for all the popularity that “Newsies” enjoys with audiences, a
    majority of Tony voters surveyed said that “Once” had more artistic
    innovation, with inventive staging by John Tiffany (a sure bet for best
    director) and melancholy mood from the writer Enda Walsh (the
    front-runner for best book) pushing the form of musical theater more
    than the traditionally structured “Newsies” does. Several tour
    presenters also said that “Newsies” didn’t need their Tony votes to
    guarantee ticket sales on the road because the show already had an
    appealing brand name — its producer, Disney — that would draw audiences.

    The other two nominees, the Gershwin musical “Nice Work if You Can Get
    It” and the now-shuttered flop “Leap of Faith,” are drawing relatively
    little support. Expect “Newsies” to win for best score (Alan Menken, on
    his fourth nomination, and Jack Feldman) and choreography (Christopher
    Gattelli), but the luck of the Irish is likely to pay off with a best
    musical victory for “Once.”

    Best Play

    Each of the four nominees — “Clybourne Park,” “Other Desert Cities,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Venus in Fur
    — has die-hard fans who say their favored show exudes expert
    craftsmanship and keen intelligence that deserve recognition.
    “Clybourne,” a satire on race relations that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize
    for drama, nearly didn’t make it to Broadway after its lead producer
    withdrew because of a falling-out with the playwright Bruce Norris,
    turning “Clybourne” into the show that defied odds (at least in the eyes
    of its admirers). All four plays won acclaim from critics, and “Other Desert Cities
    in particular is the sort of emotionally charged family drama, with
    political overtones to boot, that Tony voters tend to embrace.

    “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel to the classic Peter Pan story,
    is also receiving a healthy share of votes for creating a highly
    theatrical world of pirates and island adventure with minimal sets and
    props. “Peter” may have to settle for several design awards and a
    featured actor trophy for Christian Borle, who plays the forerunner to
    Captain Hook, and who is locked in a tight race with Andrew Garfield as
    Biff in the revival of “Death of a Salesman.” The race for best play is
    between “Desert Cities” and “Clybourne,” and Mr. Norris looks to be the

    Best Musical Revival

    The Stephen Sondheim-James Goldman classic “Follies
    lost for best musical in 1972 and best musical revival in 2001; the
    latest Broadway revival, which ran earlier in the 2011-12 season, was
    adored by many theater critics and fans of the show, not to mention more
    than a few Tony voters. The musical’s chief competition in the revival
    category is “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,”
    whose two title performances, by the nominees Norm Lewis and Audra
    McDonald, have earned devotion among some Tony voters. Mr. Sondheim
    memorably criticized some script changes under consideration for “Porgy
    and Bess” last year. (The most radical changes were never made.) As it
    turns out, the race for best musical revival is between Mr. Sondheim’s
    show and the one he attacked. (The other nominees, “Evita” and “Jesus
    Christ Superstar,” have minimal support.) The votes in our sampling
    favor “Follies” by a hair, with “Porgy and Bess” more likely to receive
    recognition in acting categories.

    Best Play Revival

    There may be four nominees — “Death of a Salesman,”
    “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” “Master Class” and “Wit” — but here there
    is no contest. The critically praised “Salesman” will win, as it did for
    best play in 1949 and best revival in both 1984 and 1999. Mike Nichols
    has the lead in the voter survey for best director of a play for
    “Salesman,” over Roger Rees and Alex Timbers for “Peter and the

    Best Actor, Play

    This category is often a face-off between Americans and Britons, and
    this year is no different. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman had many
    Tony voters in tears at “Salesman,” while James Corden has them in
    stitches as the lovable manservant in the London import “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
    While James Earl Jones has some partisans for his pugnacious
    performance as a former American president in “The Best Man,” Mr. Corden
    and Mr. Hoffman have more votes than Mr. Jones and are tied in the
    survey. (The nominees Frank Langella and John Lithgow have more
    affection than votes.) In this era of the struggling everyman Mr.
    Hoffman would seem to have an edge.

    Best Actress, Play

    Cynthia Nixon (“Wit”) won the award six years ago for “Rabbit Hole,” but
    now she trails in the survey behind Nina Arianda (“Venus”), Tracie
    Bennett (“End of the Rainbow”), Stockard Channing (“Other Desert
    Cities”) and Linda Lavin (“The Lyons”). All four have ardent fans, but
    the survey favors Ms. Arianda for her sexy performance as a mysterious
    actress over Ms. Bennett as a late-in-life Judy Garland. The
    British-born Ms. Bennett has showstopping numbers as Garland, and some
    voters said they would be shocked if she lost. But the Tony is most
    likely going to Ms. Arianda, Broadway’s newest star.

    Best Actor, Musical

    Too close to call. Danny Burstein is a Broadway baby, beloved by his
    peers, and this year he has his third Tony nomination as the
    skirt-chasing husband Buddy in “Follies.” Jeremy Jordan and Steve Kazee
    are the leading men in the two best musical contenders, “Newsies” and
    “Once,” while Mr. Lewis is extolled by some voters for his restraint as
    Porgy in the Gershwin revival. (Ron Raines of “Follies” has far less
    support from voters.) Mr. Kazee and Mr. Burstein narrowly lead in this
    Tony survey, but the award could go to any of the four men, given the
    passionate support that each enjoys.

    Best Actress, Musical

    A lock: Ms. McDonald will win her fifth Tony, at the age of 41, for her
    performance as Bess in “Porgy and Bess.” On this one, at least, the
    crystal ball is clear.

    May 14th, 2011

    Interesting that Arianda is leading her category. I had a hunch to change my prediction from Bennett to Arianda and that is the push that made me do it.

    This did not help predict Musical Actor one bit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that category tie on Sunday night. 

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    Oct 11th, 2010

    Just changed from Tracie Bennett (who really was too much) to Nina Arianda.

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    Jan 8th, 2012

    I will be thrilled if Nina Arianda wins, and am pleasantly surprised to see that she has the lead in this poll over Tracie Bennett.

    Corden and Hoffman actually tied in the poll. This will be the closest race of the night, again, very much contradicting the “this isn’t even close” narrative journalists and “experts” have been ignorantly peddling. You heard it here now, whoever wins, it won’t be “an upset”.

    It offers no help in the Featured Acting categories for musicals, particularly Featured Actor, though the article does say “Porgy and Bess” is “more likely to recieve recognition in acting categorieS.” Makes me wonder if in addition to Audra, Philip Boykin took the lead in their poll for Featured Actor. Or if I’m just reading too much into it.

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