Now... you got all shivery reading that title didn't you? Sorry to put you under the cold shower but this ain't about the Oscars in March of next year. Nothing's happened yet to make me change my early bird predictions. I'm still going with Reese, Samantha, Uma, Juliette, and Joan until further scoops come in or at least until the annual summer rethink.
No, no. The topic of discussion today is the Tony nominees for Best Actress in a musical. For those of you who skip right over these theater bloggings, tsk-tsk. The Tony Awards are just as interesting if you dig in. While this year's Actress race doesn't seem to have half the drama as last year's (what a doozy that one was) The Tony categories come with their own particular brand of politics, "due", and 'momentum' issues. So here we go...
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE as "Charity Hope Valentine" in Sweet Charity
Possible Campaign Angle: Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Perhaps misinterpreting the vernacular stage shout-out "break a leg!" Applegate went and broke her foot. The show was off. The show was back on! She heals fast. Out of town word wasn't kind but people (and Tony voters) admire tenacity.
Film Connections: Shirley Maclaine played this part winningly in the 1969 film version.
Pros: Low expectations can reap rewards. Audiences seem to like Applegate's energy in the show.
Con: Stars from film and television can sometimes trample true theater talents with their name-recognition factor. But it's not a foolproof way to clog your mantlepiece. Just ask Jessica Lange (The Glass Menagerie) and Denzel Washington (Julius Caesar), both currently treading the boards. Both were snubbed. Also, this show has never netted a statue for its leading lady; Gwen Verdon, the original Charity, lost the Tony. Shirley Maclaine lost the Golden Globe contest for the film version. She wasn't even nominated for the Oscar. And Debbie Allen, the last Broadway revival's lead, lost.
VICTORIA CLARKas "Margaret Johnson" in The Light in the Piazza
Possible Campaign Angle: Sell those reviews, they couldn't be more flattering.
Film Connections: It wasn't a musical at the time but this story, based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer, was also filmed once in 1962 with none other than Olivia deHavilland in this part.
Pros: It's the most challenging role of the five nominated, with ample time to sell both her acting (lots of melodrama) as well as her considerable musical gift. She also has the best song in the nominated batch: "Dividing Day" obliterates the competition for songs that you want to eventually have associated with you as a performer.
Con: Not everyone loves the arty Piazza. Comedy is currently more of a Tony magnet than drama.
ERIN DILLYas "Truly Scrumptious" in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Possible Campaign Angle: Um... well, hey--never mind. "It's just an honor to be nominated."
Film Connections: This role didn't do all that much for Sally Anne Howes film career. She went straight to television thereafter. As for Erin herself, she hasn't made any features though she did appear in Jim McKay's last project Everyday People
Pros: Just playing a character with this moniker has to be seen as a pro --at least for your self-esteem, casting wise.
Con: She's the fifth slot choice. Even with great reviews, they can't win.
SUTTON FOSTERas "Jo March" in Little Women
Possible Campaign Angle: If Audra McDonald can win every other year, why not Sutton?!
Film Connections: This Louisa May Alcott classic has been filmed a number of times. So Sutton is filling the same tomboy shoes as Katharine Hepburn, June Allyson, and Winona Ryder...
Pros: ...and she can outsing any of them. (maybe Allyson fans would object?) The role is a perfect fit for her brand of stardom.
Con: She's already won. And recently. While that doesn't deter Tony voters to quite the same extent that it deters Oscar voters, the show isn't strong enough to push her into the forefront. Nor will the music provide much momentum since "Astonishing", her first act closer, is the only memorable number.
SHERIE RENE SCOTT as "Christine" in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Possible Campaign Angle: Matching set! For voters who want to reward Norbert Leo Butz in the Lead category for his energetic work in this adaptation, it makes sense to embrace Sherie, too. They give good stage chemistry.
Film Connections: Scott has the Glenn Headley role in this film-to-stage-musical work.
Pros: She's an endearing and hilarious performer. She and Butz arecharming together. Butz and Scott made gorgeous music together in the Off-Broadway classic The Last Five Years
Con: Her stage time is lacking. Though she shines in the second act, she's all but absent from the first. If she weren't already a star, this would've probably gone the way of the "featured actress" category.
Who will win?
Victoria Clark has a comfortable lead. Unless Christina Applegate's mix of media-friendly backstory and surprise success builds unexpected momentum.