With less than two weeks to go before the American Theatre Wing’s 62nd annual Tony Awards ceremonies honor the best of Broadway's 2007-08 Theatrical Season, I'm in the midst of offering my own prognostications on whom I believe should win.
Yesterday, I provided my picks for best shows, as well as for musical book and score. Today, I tackle the acting categories.
As previously mentioned, this is the first year in which I've seen every nominated work and performance. So while I'm no theatre professional, I profess to having an opinion on every last category. Let me know if you agree on whom you believe should win (vs. those you think actually will).
Here are the nominees and my picks:
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Ben Daniels - Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne - Thurgood
Mark Rylance - Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell - Rock ‘N’ Roll
Patrick Stewart - Macbeth
Should Win: Mark Rylance - Boeing-Boeing
Sure, another actor has received lots of acclaim for his performance in a Shakespeare revival, but it's the comic, farcical turn by one of the greatest living interpreters of Shakespeare who is keeping them laughing at the Longacre -- in his long overdue Broadway debut, no less -- who is far more worthy of this award. Mark Rylance is absolutely brilliant.
If there's a close race, it should be between Rylance and Rufus Sewell, who was by far the best thing going for the tedious Rock 'N' Roll. As a master of slapstick comedy, Rylance deserves the last laugh.
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best - The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan - August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood - Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson - Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton - August: Osage County
Should Win: Deanna Dunagan - August: Osage County
A very competitive category with Eve Best living up to her name, S. Epatha Merkerson turning in a surprisingly tender performance and the excellent Amy Morton going toe to toe with Deanna Dunagan in the year's best play.
Ultimately, it's Dunagan's breathtaking performance as the drug-addled matriarch Violet who should win the day. As I noted at the end of the last year, she gave one sensational, bravura performance for the ages.
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Daniel Evans - Sunday In The Park With George
Lin-Manuel Miranda - In The Heights
Stew - Passing Strange
Paulo Szot - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Tom Wopat - A Catered Affair
Should Win: Paulo Szot - Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
As wondrous a Broadway debut as Daniel Evans offered and as nuanced a performance as Tom Wopat gave, it was South Pacific's Paulo Szot who singlehandedly delivered one enchanted evening, bringing on the tears through his rendition of "This Nearly Was Mine."
As the consummate leading man, Szot also has proven once and for all that the world of opera isn't quite so far away from that of theatre. Let's hope he makes it a habit.
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kerry Butler - Xanadu
Patti LuPone - Gypsy
Kelli O’Hara - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Faith Prince - A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell - Sunday In The Park With George
Should Win: Patti LuPone - Gypsy
What is it about the ladies, anyway?! And I mean that with the utmost respect.
By far the most competitive category with powerhouse performances through and through, all are deserving of the Tony. But this is no ordinary year, and since Gypsy is no ordinary musical, one performance managed to eclipse the rest: Patti LuPone as a Rose who was at once sympathetic, conniving, sexy, funny, tragic and repulsive all at the same time. Brava, Patti! Brava!
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale - Mauritius
Raúl Esparza - The Homecoming
Conleth Hill - The Seafarer
Jim Norton - The Seafarer
David Pittu - Is He Dead?
Should Win: Jim Norton - The Seafarer
I realize that there may be a sympathy vote out there for Raúl Esparza, whom many (including me) feel got gypped out of a Tony last year. Indeed, as great as his slithery performance in The Homecoming was, if Tony voters are serious about awarding the best performance of this year, they really need to choose between Conleth Hill and Jim Norton of The Seafarer.
My pick is the breathtaking Jim Norton, who more than convinced me he had literally drunk himself blind. There's a reason why his performance was earlier awarded with an Olivier. It was superb.
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack - Rock ‘N’ Roll
Mary McCormack - Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf - November
Martha Plimpton - Top Girls
Rondi Reed - August: Osage County
Should Win: Rondi Reed - August: Osage County
In yet another competitive category for actresses, it's easy to think that if Rondi Reed wins, it'll be because of the strong pull of the tide from the August: Osage County juggernaut.
But her Mattie Fae is so deliciously complex and real and flat-out funny thanks to Reed's outstanding performance that you'd be forgiven for thinking of her as your favorite crazy aunt. Reed offers one of the year's best performances.
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Breaker - Passing Strange
Danny Burstein - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Robin De Jesús - In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald - Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines - Gypsy
Should Win: Daniel Breaker - Passing Strange
Among the men, this should be the most competitive category -- I certainly enjoyed each of the outstanding performances offered by the actors above.
But one actor breaking away from the rest of the pack is Passing Strange's Daniel Breaker, whose astonishing breakthrough role of Youth blew me away. Breaker conveys volumes with a simple roll of his eyes and displays a natural presence found far too infrequently on the stage. He made Passing Strange come alive.
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
de’Adre Aziza - Passing Strange
Laura Benanti - Gypsy
Andrea Martin - The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz - In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre - Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Should Win: Laura Benanti - Gypsy
Hands down, this award belongs to Laura Benanti in her best, most poignant performance yet.
As Louise, Benanti begins as a doe-eyed innocent, always eager to please, never fathoming her hidden talents or beauty. To watch her transition to the world's most famous stripper is to witness a major star claiming her rightful place in the spotlight.
Next up: my picks for the creative design awards.
Whoopi Goldberg hosts the 2008 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 15. The CBS broadcast begins at 8 p.m. EDT.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
SOB's 2008 Tony Picks - Part I (June 4, 2008)
And The Tony Nominees Go To... (May 12, 2008)
Labels: August Osage County, Boeing-Boeing, Daniel Breaker, Deanna Dunagan, Gypsy, Jim Norton, Laura Benanti, Mark Rylance, Passing Strange, Patti LuPone, Paulo Szot, Rondi Reed, South Pacific, Tony Awards