September 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm #431528
At the 2004 Tonys, the race for Best Actress in a Musical was more competitive than it ever has been in recent memory. You had Tony winner Tonya Pinkins nominated for the critical favorite “Caroline, or Change” and then-Tony nominee Idina Menzel in her career-defining role in “Wicked.” Both women had numerous factors going in their favor to win: Pinkins had critical support and was a more respected actress, but Menzel had the popularity and the role of a lifetime. In the end, Menzel prevailed.
Personally, I support Menzel’s win here. The role of Elphaba is, as I mentioned above, the role of a lifetime and seems like it is almost written to win its playing actress a Tony: she has big flashy scenes, low-key scenes, love songs, belting anthems, the “misunderstood underdog” factor, the well-known backdrop of the Wizard of Oz and, not to mention, performs the whole show in green makeup. I was lucky enough to see Idina Menzel in the role and I remember being wow-ed by “No Good Deed” so much, I even remember the song receiving a standing ovation. I also got to see Stephanie J. Block in the role, and I also believe she would have won the Tony had she originated the role on Broadway as well.
However, I know that Pinkins has her supporters. Who did you pick in this race? Did you support one of the other nominees? Discuss.September 12, 2012 at 5:38 am #431530
I think the voters got it right. Whatever one may think of Wicked overall, there’s no question that the role of Elphaba immediately became iconic, in large part due to Menzel’s powerhouse performance. She certainly had the belting down, but there was also light comedy and a true character arc that she nailed. I remember being incredibly impressed that she could rattle the rafters of the Gershwin, then turn around and break your heart with a quiet song like “I’m Not That Girl”.
As a side note, I went back to see the show again at the performance that was supposed to be Menzel’s last–but of course there was a trap door mishap the day before and she broke a rib. Her standby (Shoshana Bean) went on and was sensational, but Menzel came out (in a red track suit) for the last scene and got a five-minute standing ovation. Probably my most memorable moment in all my years of theatregoing.September 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm #431531
It’s understandable why Idina won. It was the star-making role and the most “iconic” role in the category that year (which I think is, to this date, the strongest lineup of best actress nominees the Tonys have seen in years.) I do think the role of Galinda is a BETTER role. It’s more well-written and goes through more of a journey than Elphaba, imo, but Elphaba is the big dramatic centerpoint of the show.
My vote personally would have gone to Tonya Pinkins. One of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen on stage in what I think is the best musical written this century so far.September 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm #431532
Pinkins was very good in “Caroline” but I stand by statement that it was “No Good Deed” that won the Tony for Menzel. That entire song is simply a powerhouse moment that is so infused with acting and singing that it basically screams “GIVE ME A TONY!”September 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm #431533
This was SUCH a strong year for leading actress. Besides maybe Donna Murphy, any of these ladies could have won. I’m 100% fine with Idina Menzel winning. She played an iconic role beautifully. No one has really surpassed her. She is amazing…
…however, my heart will always go to Tonya Pinkins. She is just simply raw and powerful. “Lot’s Wife” is the ultimate eleven o clock number. But, y’know, I can sleep at night knowing Pinkins already had a Tony anyway.
And let’s not overshadow Stephanie D’Abruzzo, who does a very hilarious, yet sincere and emotional performance of Kate Monster. Again, she would have most definitely been a deserving winner also.September 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm #431534
I think the problem with Stephanie D’Abruzzo did not lie with her being “weak” but with the fact that many critics and voters did not see “Avenue Q” as much of an actors’ show as evidenced by the amazing supporting cast (looking at Rick Lyon and deserving winner Ann Harada) being overlooked.
I couldn’t see Chenoweth winning, especially being nominated against a stronger performance from the same show as her. Chenoweth’s Tony-winning moments in “Wicked” (“No One Mourns the Wicked” and “Popular”) are vastly overshadowed by Menzel’s winning moments (“Wizard and I” and “I’m Not That Girl” and “Defying Gravity” and ESPECIALLY “No Good Deed”). During the winning moments where both ladies shine (“What is this Feeling?” and “Dancing Through Life” and ESPECIALLY “For Good”) they basically cancel each other out.September 13, 2012 at 5:08 am #431535
For me, this easily should have gone to Tonya Pinkins. Idina Menzel may have had the most iconic role and definitely had power in the role (that she lost as the run went on), but Tonya Pinkins was truly a dynamic force. “Lot’s Wife” (even when she performed it on the Tonys with a failing voice) was still absolutely chilling.
I remember Donna Murphy had a lot of support, but while she was good, I didn’t think she deserved it for “Wonderful Town”….especially since it would have been her third Tony (frankly I think the only reason she won her 2nd for “King and I” was because Julie Andrews refused the nomination).
Stephanie D’Abruzzo I absolutely adore. She is also a lot of fun in the Off-Broadway musical “I Love You Because” playing the best friend/dry-wit of the show….while she wouldn’t win among this list….I think she was a very worthy nominee who I think could have won in some other years.
Kristin Chenoweth was an interesting case because she did indeed have the better written role and was flashy in a subtler way but she is still overshadowed by Idina Menzel.
Regardless, I would give it to Tonya Pinkins but I don’t think Idina is terrible.
#5-Donna MurphySeptember 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm #431536
It’s amazing because ALL of the nominees this year were considered the frontrunner at one point. I don’t think that’s ever happened…
Stephanie was in the show that opened first. People were amazed that she could just be a puppet in a raunchy show and yet still move the audience to tears. She was considered hard to beat before anything else opened.
Then Wicked happened. And while Idina had the “iconic” role, it was Kristen who got the better reviews. Galinda was the perfect role for her. Her character was the one thing that was unanimously praised in a sea of mediocre reviews for the show. She showed her dramatic AND comedic chops and was considered to be ahead of Idina.
Then Wonderful Town opened, and Donna Murphy gave a tour-de-force musical comedy performance. Her buzz lasted the longest out of the five, and she even won the Drama Desk. But then she started missing performances right around the same time…
Caroline, or Change transferred. Then, it was Tonya’s to lose. She gave the most dramatic performance of the year in a musical that was an actor’s dream. Michael Riedel had written the article ripping Donna Murphy apart for all of her missed performances, killing Murphy’s chances and letting all of the spotlight go to Pinkens. Many thought she would win come Tony night. Even Riedel said in the article, “If Pinkins doesn’t win the Tony, I’ll buy Bernadette Peters lunch.”
But in the end, the Tony went to who I predicted it would go to all along (even though I was rooting for Tonya). There was no denying that Menzel was in the role of the year that turn her into a star. It was also the more hip performance that was the most popular with young people. Oh, and she was also pretty incredible.
All-in-all… The most exciting year Broadway has had in a long time.September 14, 2012 at 6:43 am #431537
I sadly never got to see Kristin Chenoweth or Idina Menzel in Wicked. I can only base my opinions the cast recording, anything on YouTube and what people have said online in forums or reviews. However I have always wondered why Chenoweth was not considered to be a major presence within the category.
It is clear that her nomination was extremely warranted and very deserved, but no one seemed to acknowledge as a credible contender to take the Tony home. This surprises me for a few reasons, such as:
– she was a former winner and well regarded in NY theatre scene
– she was establishing her name outside of theatre and making her mark in film and TV
– she initially received better reviews
– the role of Glinda was better written and more well rounded
Can anyone shed some more light, other than what others have already stated, as to why she wasn’t more of a threat in the 2004 Tony race? It just seemed like she didn’t get much of a look in, and that was particularly reinforced with Menzel being able to perform Defying Gravity on the awards telecast, her big show stopping number.
I personally prefer Chenoweth’s performance from materials that I have heard and seen online and on the recording. I have always found Menzel’s performance of Elphaba a little screechy and a little too raw. I much prefer the Elphaba portrayals from the likes of Kerry Ellis and Stephanie J Block, as they were a little more polished and composed. But maybe that’s my own personal taste…September 14, 2012 at 7:22 am #431538
^^G(a)linda’s only real solo number is “Popular”. Everything else is a duet or her leading a company number. Even “Thank Goodness/I Couldn’t Be Happier” has a lot of ensemble parts. Elphaba gets true solos in “The Wizard and I”, “I’m Not That Girl”, and “No Good Deed”. It’s an incredibly showy role that requires an actress to hold the stage completely on her own far more than G(a)linda. It’s a little analagous to our Emmy evaluations of relative screentime.September 14, 2012 at 11:16 am #431539
I actually have always wondered why Kristin Chenoweth was never considered a huge threat, but adamunc described it well because she really doesn’t have a huge standout song and “Popular” is definitely not as showy as “The Wizard and I” or “No Good Deed” or, of course “Defying Gravity”. I do agree that I feel Idina Menzel was strong in the role but that Stephanie J. Block and Eden Espinosa really stood out as the strongest Elphabas.
G(a)linda is the better written role, especially more so with the book because this is where she got a lot of the best stand out moments while Elphaba got the songs.
It probably did go against Kristin Chenoweth that she did have a Tony before, albeit in Featured…but even with that logic, you still could say that if she can’t have two, then what allows Christine Ebersole to have two or Audra McDonald to have FIVE?
This definitely was the strongest Best Actress lineup for the Tonys in recent memory.September 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm #431540
I much prefer the Elphaba portrayals from the likes of Kerry Ellis and Stephanie J Block.
I have actually seen all three (Menzel, Block, Ellis) in the role, as well as Eden Espinosa, Julia Murney and Nicole Parker.
Of all of the ones I saw, Kerry Ellis truly set off fireworks in the role. Had she been the Broadway original, she would have won everything under the sun for the performance.
Stephanie J. Block was originally intended to originate the role on Broadway and she would have won the Tony as well (though the race would have been much tighter since she was not the name that Menzel was at the time). A part of me thinks that somebody could have won over her since Tony voters don’t seem to be huge SJB fans, snubbing her for both The Pirate Queen and 9 to 5. Hopefully that streak will change next year with Edwin Drood.September 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm #431541
It frustrates me that Stephanie J Block remains unrecognised by Tony voters.
Her chances of being nominated in Pirate Queen were plagued by disastrous reviews and a poor box office, even though she was the best thing in the whole production. So I shall forgive Tony voters for that one.
But she really blew the roof off of 9 to 5. Her 11 o’clock number (Get Out and Stay Out) was phenomenal, and am very surprised voters felt the need to nominate Josefina Scaglione’s very forgettable performance as Maria in WSS and Sutton Foster’s pretty nonsensical Princess Fiona over superior performances from 9 to 5’s other two leading ladies, Stephanie J Block and Megan Hilty.
Fingers crossed for Edwin Drood!September 17, 2012 at 6:13 am #431542
I saw Block in the role early in the tour in Chicago, and she was in phenomenal voice. I saw her many months later in DC and the role had taken its toll on her pipes by then.
Ana Gasteyer also acted the role phenomenally well, and her singing was perfectly competent.September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am #431543
Sutton Foster’s pretty nonsensical Princess Fiona
I have to disagree, Foster deserved this nomination. Shrek the Musical was an unexpected success. Everybody predicted it to fail because of how unrealistic (and at some points, absurd) the story is, but it was pulled off beautifully and the acting was amazing (d’Arcy James and Sieber should have won their categories, Breaker should have been nominated, the score in particular should have easily won). Had it premiered a year later it (in the weak year that Memphis prevailed) it probably would have pulled a Book of Mormon or Once-level sweep.
Scaglione and Channing should not have been in the category for West Side Story (which should not have even touched the Tonys) or Pal Joey, respectively. Those two should be replaced by Megan Hilty and SJB. I think it would have been a smarter move for the 9 to 5 people to campaign either Stephanie or Megan in featured, where they would have easily won.
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