Saturday, June 7, 2014

My 2014 Tony Award Predictions

Neil Patrick Harris
By Lauren Yarger
It has been a really good Broadway season culminating in a list of Tony Award nominations that are missing some great additions (because there just aren't enough slots in each category) and which make it really difficult who will walk away with the Antoinette Perrys this Sunday. In just about any category, no matter who wins, I will think it was deserved. That's pretty incredible.

Meanwhile, here's who I think will win and why. Find out if I'm right. I'll be live chatting during the event on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lauren.yarger. Everyone contributing to the conversation during the Tonys will be entered in a drawing to win a prize.You can watch on CBS starting at 8 pm Eastern.

Best Play Nominees:
Act One  by James Lapine
All The Way by Robert Schenkkan
Casa Valentina  by Harvey Fierstein
Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally
Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley

Some pretty good plays here. I especially loved Outside Mullingar, a delightful trip to Ireland starring one of my favorite actors, Bryan O'Byrne, and Deborah Messing in her Broadway debut. Loved it and am glad to see it nominated.

Act One is a love letter to the theater. Marvelously acted (Tony Shaloub, another favorite actor), directed and staged. It's success no doubt has opened doors for Moss Hart's You Can't Take it With You to open on Broadway next season. A personal favorite play, it will star none other than James Earl Jones and Kristine Nielsen. Heaven. 

I thought All the Way had a really a good book which incorporated a lot of history without being boring (at about three hours), but Bryan Cranston's portrayal of LBJ sets it apart. Mothers and Sons managed to give us a gay-issues play with a different perspective -- looking back years after the AIDS crisis and how a lot -- and not much -- has changed. 

Casa Valentina gave us John Cullum on stage, so I was happy. It also gave us an interesting story about a little known part of history -- a club for heterosexual men to get away and indulge in their desire to dress as women. It has a powerhouse cast including Reed Birney who is nominate for his chilling portrayal of a homophobic transvestite and Mare Winningham, also nominated, as the wife of the club owner who tries to be supportive of her husband's alter ego, but find it increasingly difficult.

This is a really tough one. Can I predict a tie between Act One and All the Way? Probably not. I'll have to go with **All the Way.

Best Musical Nominees

After Midnight
Aladdin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This group is not the group I expected to see at the start of the season. First off, After Midnight, which I loved with charming emcee Dule Hill (another favorite actor) is really a revue, not what I would consider a musical. So it's hard to compare it to full-scale Broadway musicals like the others in this category. It's really good, though, with the best choreography (Warren Carlyle will win in that category -- see below) and some of the most entertaining moments on stage (there's even a rotating list of guest stars). But it won't win.

Aladdin was great. The best Disney musical on stage since Beauty and the Beast. The performances are good (the genie is a shoo-in in his category), the choreography is great and the costumes and sets are breath taking. I predict a long run for this one and am excited to see the stage adaptation of Frozen.

Beautiful was one of the most enjoyable nights I spent at the theater this year. Jessie Mueller's portrayal of song writer/singer Carole King is amazing. All of the performances are good and listening to all of that great music is enough in itself to send you to the theater, but the songs are built into a terrific book that has real-life drama and some good lessons.

This category is neck-and-neck between Beautiful and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Gentleman is kind of sleeper that has gained momentum, especially when other greatly anticipated contenders, like The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then and Bullets Over Broadway, fell short of expectations. That is not to say it isn't a good musical. It is fun and light and silly. And Jefferson Mays, who plays eight different parts, is entertaining. It premiered at Hartford Stage where I thought it was fun, but would never have guessed it would go on to win the Tony. It has a lot of momentum behind it though, and just might.

I still think the Tony voters, many of whom are CEOs of presenting houses that book the tours across the country, will bank on the appeal of Carole King with their mostly female ticket buyers, most of whom grew up singing her songs, so I predict **Beautiful.

David Cromer, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Latanya Richardson Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Best Revival of a Play

The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
A Raisin in the Sun
Twelfth Night

Daniel Radcliffe and a delightful supporting cast gave us a nice, if unremarkable night in Inishmaan and amazing set design with looming pools in the abyss and girls disappearing into couches still remain etched in my memory after The Glass Menagerie.  I loved this revival of A Raisn in the Sun with every cast member giving a truly excellent performance, including Denzel Washington. I'm kind of shocked the buzz hasn't been more in its favor. I would have voted for it. Twelfth Night gave us Shakespeare as it was done in the bard's day. An all-male cast played all the parts and even got into costume on stage where audience members sat for an up-close and personal experience. Any time Mark Rylance is in something, go.

I think the Tony will go to Twelfth Night**.

Best Revival of a Musical

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Misérables
Violet

I enjoyed Sutton Foster in Violet and the faith-based story of a woman who wants to change. The show featured Joshua Henry, whom I think should be required to be in every musical produced (it was a good year for favorite actors!).

Too long absent from a Broadway stage, we rejoiced with a new revival of Les Miserables. It's got a few flaws, but Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean is not to be missed. His rendition of "Bring Him Home" is worth the ticket price.

Hedwig is packing them in over at the Belasco where Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall rock out as transgendered folks. It's a fabulous production. Good performances, amazing sets and lighting and really good music. Just wish there were a story that didn't make me feel like I just wasted a part of my life.

Hedwig** will win the Tony. It's not even close.

Best Book of a Musical
Aladdin by Chad Beguelin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical by Douglas McGrath
Bullets Over Broadway  Woody Allen
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder by Robert L. Freedman

Of these, my favorite was Beautiful. I also thought Marsha Norman's book for The Bridges of Madison County was terrific, but apparently the Tony nominators did not. 

Prediction: **A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder by Robert L. Freedman

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Aladdin Music: Alan Menken/Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
The Bridges of Madison County Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder Music: Steven Lutvak/Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak
If/Then Music: Tom Kitt/Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

If/Then was a big disappointment. The team who gave us Next to Normal, one of my favorite scores ever, just never quite got this one together. Aladdin we know from the animated film. Bridges was a marvelous score. Operatic with Kelli O'Hara and Stephen Pasquale singing their hearts out. Gentleman's is fun. What you don't see listed here is First Date, which I thought had a good score, but it was very early in the season, so was forgotten. Bullets Over Broadway was so-so. 

You also don't see here probably the best score heard on a NY stage this year: Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, because it was Off-Broadway. There are plans to bring it to Broadway, however, so look for it here next year. I still am hearing "Ring of Keys" in my head months later....

The winner here will be **Bridges.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

 **Bryan Cranston will walk away all the way away with this one. No contest.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn


**Audra McDonald needs to move the other five Tonys on her mantle over to make room for another.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Bryce Pinkham, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

**Neil Patrick Harris. Hands down.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County


There's strong support for O'Hara, but I think it will be **Jessie Mueller.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

**Mark Rylance

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Tough one. I personally was blown away by Sophie Okonedo, but I don't think she'll win. It's between Mare Winningham and Celie Keenan-Bolger. I think the Tony will go to **Mare Winningham.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

**James Monroe Iglehart's name was engraved on the Tony the minute he popped out of the lamp.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This is a very difficult category. Lena Hall is a favorite and has been charming on the party circuit, as has Anika Larsen. Linda Emond's performance was pretty darn good though.

Probably will go to **Lena Hall

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan


**The Glass Menagerie

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

**Hedwig

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

Toss up between Casa Valentina and Twelfth Night. I'm going to go with **Twelfth Night.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

I loved the costumes from After Midnight. Wiliam Ivey Long's creations for Bullets were stunning. Gentleman's Guide's are impressive too. I don't know for sure.

I'll guess **William Ivey Long


Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

**Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

**Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Sound Design of a Play
Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal


**Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables
Brian Ronan, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical


**Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Best Direction of a Play
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie

Toss up between Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night. I'm going to predict **Glass Menagerie.

Best Direction of a Musical
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
Darko Tresnjak, 
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This is between Michael Mayer and Darko Tresnjak. It's Darko's first nomination, though, so I am going to go with **Mayer and hope I'm wrong. If I am, you'll hear a cheer from Hartford where Hartford Stage is hosting a Tony Party (which was too expensive for me to attend or I'd be over there cheering with them instead of watching it at home on TV with you).

Best Choreography
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

**Warren Carlyle, After Midnight

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder


**Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County

So pop some popcorn and join me for Tiny Night tomorrow at 8 pm!

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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