Broadway’s 2010-11 season refreshingly became a part of the mainstream due to the ill-conceived travesty known as “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark,” but the 65th annual Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live Sunday, June 12 on CBS, will fittingly remind everyone that the surprisingly strong season offered a slew of truly outstanding productions, most notably “The Book of Mormon,” the hit musical from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone which leads all shows with 14 nominations. A “Mormon” sweep isn’t likely (there’s no way the costumes in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” will be overlooked by the 824 voting members), but the evening will certainly produce its share of suspense. Here are my predictions in the major categories.
“The Motherf**ker with the Hat”
Will Win: “War Horse”
Should Win: “Good People”
Two potent British imports and two invigorating contemporary American works comprise one of the strongest Best Play battles in recent memory. Each contender offers a riveting journey, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Mother” and “Good People” receive Pulitzer Prize consideration next year. In this race, my vote would go to David Lindsay-Abaire’s middle class comic drama “Good People,” a fascinating, timely character study on par with his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rabbit Hole,” but Nick Stafford’s theatrically thrilling, puppet-driven “War Horse,” a World War I epic based on Michael Morpurgo’s tale of a poor English boy and his beloved horse, is a sentimental crowd-pleaser.
“The Book of Mormon”
“Catch Me If You Can”
“The Scottsboro Boys”
Will Win: “The Book of Mormon”
Should Win: “The Scottsboro Boys”
“The Scottsboro Boys,” John Kander and Fred Ebb’s final collaboration phenomenally directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (“The Producers”), brought a dark, forgotten period in American history to riveting light boldly framed within the context of a minstrel show. Although “Scottsboro” duly received 12 nominations, took musical theater to daring new heights and featured Kander and Ebb’s finest score since “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” there’s no stopping “Mormon,” a slick, smart and hilarious satire skillfully marrying musical theater conventions with brazen, profane naughtiness.
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
“The Importance of Being Earnest”
“The Merchant of Venice”
“The Normal Heart”
Will/Should Win: “The Normal Heart”
“Venice” was particularly luminous and conceptually engrossing, but Larry Kramer’s emotionally charged AIDS-themed drama packs a wallop from start to finish unlike any show this season. Anyone heading to New York City should take time to experience the visceral power of the expertly acted and superbly directed “Normal Heart.”
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Will Win: “Anything Goes”
Should Win: “How to Succeed”
Due to the presence of Sutton Foster and Cole Porter’s glorious tunes, “Anything Goes” is the frontrunner, but it doesn’t come close to matching the more cohesive, flavorful “How to Succeed.”
BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Brian Bedford, “The Importance of Being Earnest”
Bobby Cannavale, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat”
Joe Mantello, “The Normal Heart”
Al Pacino, “The Merchant of Venice”
Mark Rylance, “Jerusalem”
Will/Should Win: Rylance
This is an extremely tight race. Six months ago I would have told you Pacino was a cinch for his masterfully understated Shylock, but a lot has happened since then. Bedford reinterpreted Lady Bracknell with finesse, Cannavale planted undeniable passion and vigor into his role as a troubled ex-con and Mantello astounded as the volcanic Ned Weeks. Still, Rylance, a Tony winner for “Boeing-Boeing,” delivers a mesmerizing performance of a lifetime as kooky outcast Rooster Cogburn. Rylance also drew acclaim last fall for his performance in “La Bete” so he’s the clear favorite here.
BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Nina Arianda, “Born Yesterday”
Frances McDormand, “Good People”
Lily Rabe, “The Merchant of Venice”
Vanessa Redgrave, “Driving Miss Daisy”
Hannah Yelland, “Brief Encounter”
Will/Should Win: McDormand
Arianda was perfectly cast in the Judy Holliday mold, Rabe more than held her own opposite Pacino and Redgrave was simply heartbreaking, but the Oscar winning McDormand (“Fargo”) will triumph for her incredibly authentic and marvelously developed portrayal of Margaret Walsh, an unemployed single mother from South Boston who dares to question the genuineness of a successful old friend from her neighborhood.
BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Norbert Leo Butz, “Catch Me If You Can”
Josh Gad, “The Book of Mormon”
Joshua Henry, “The Scottsboro Boys”
Andrew Rannells, “The Book of Mormon”
Tony Sheldon, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
Will Win: Butz
Should Win: Sheldon
A lot has been said about Daniel Radcliffe being overlooked for “How to Succeed,” but there isn’t anyone here I would eliminate. Henry was terrific in a predominately dramatic role, but his nomination is a win in itself. Gad and Rannells, the best male musical duo since Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in “The Producers,” will likely cancel each other out. Sheldon, an Australian stage veteran who received an Olivier Award nomination for the London production of “Priscilla,” brings beautifully substantive depth and feminine believability to his multifaceted portrayal of transsexual Bernadette, but voters might have grown tired of drag considering Douglas Hodge took this category last year as a female impersonator in “La Cage aux Folles.” So look for Butz, a Tony winner for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” who can never be discounted, to take the prize for his sharp, comical turn as FBI agent Carl Hanratty.
BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sutton Foster, “Anything Goes”
Beth Leavel, “Baby It’s You!”
Patina Miller, “Sister Act”
Donna Murphy, “The People in the Picture”
Will Win: Foster
Should Win: Miller
Miller, a sassy vocal powerhouse I adored in the London production of “Sister Act,” gives the finest musical comedy performance in this category thanks to her dynamic, funny and soulful portrayal of disco singer-turned-incognito nun Deloris Van Cartier. Even so, the ever popular, Tony winning Foster (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) will prevail for her good but not great embodiment of nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney.
The 65th annual Tony Awards, hosted by Emmy winner Neil Patrick Harris, will be telecast live from New York’s Beacon Theatre Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Among the scheduled performers is Muse Machine alum Jill Paice of Beavercreek, who will join Harris and an all-star cast in a special selection from the Stephen Sondheim musical Company. For more information, visit www.TonyAwards.com