Previous Categories Investigated: Lead Actor, Featured Actor and Featured Actress. Watch the TONYs tomorrow night (Sunday, June 11th) on CBS! Read these entries first and you'll know more than all of your friends...
AND THE NOMINEES ARE...
Sutton Foster as "Jane Roberts" in The Drowsy Chaperone
If you've been reading the Film Experience for the past couple of years you know how I feel about Ms. Foster. I'm a fan. She was great gangly fun in her TONY Winning role in Thoroughly Modern Millie and undervalued as Jo' in the musicalized Little Women but her performance here may be favorite yet. She plays a spoiled star who is threatening to retire from showbiz. The best number in this show "I Don't Wanna Show Off" is hilarious and the choreography and Sutton herself keep extending and upping the joke which is that she doesn't mean it at all. Whenever Sutton shows off, I'll buy a ticket. Strangely for such a young and talented beauty she hasn't done any television or film. I'm glad to have her on stage but it's odd considering the general pattern of how stage careers work.
LaChanze as "Celie" in The Color Purple
This is LaChanze's sixth Broadway show and her second nomination. She's been mostly OffBroadway for the last several years having success in shows like Dessa Rose and Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and benefit concerts. She also does frequent TV guest work.
Patti LuPone as "Mrs. Lovett" in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Patti is one of two true Broadway legends nominated in this category this year. This is her umpteenth Broadway show and her fourth nomination. Her Broadway career started in the 70s. Her one and only TONY award came for her star-making role in Evita in 1980, sixteen years before Madonna won the Golden Globe for the film version. She has worked often in TV and Film. Her most famous film appearances are arguably her brief appearance as Harrison Ford's sister in Witness or her part in the award winning ensemble of State and Main. Her new 14 song CD is called The Lady with the Torch.
Kelli O'Hara as "Babe" in The Pajama Game
This is O'Hara's sixth Broadway show and is coming right on the heels of her biggest success, last season's The Light in the Piazza which you've heard me rave about endlessly. [PLEASE NOTE: Piazza without O'Hara but still starring its headlining TONY winner Victoria Clark will be broadcast live on PBS on June 15th. If you love musical theater you'd be crazy to miss it -ed.] This is O'Hara's second consecutive nomination. I'm not impressed with her as a headliner and leading lady (too bland) but her voice is clear and beautiful and, to her credit, this performance surprised me. I think it's her best.
Chita Rivera in Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life
Patti Lupone is not the only true legend nominated this year. 73 year-old Chita has been a prized hoofer on Broadway since the mid 50s. This is her 9th nomination for her 15th Broadway run. Her resume is astonishing. She originated two roles which went on to be Oscar winning ones for others: "Anita" in West Side Story before Rita Moreno and "Velma Kelly" in Chicago before Catherine Zeta-Jones. In addition to being a trailblazer for Hispanic actresses, Chita has won two TONY Awards. The first came starring opposite Liza Minelli in The Rink and her second was for the Sonia Braga role in the Broadway adaptation of the Oscar-nominated Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Sadly, this revue of her career was not a hit with auds or critics. If it had been she would probably be a sentimental threat for the win. I saw her three years ago in Nine for which she was also nominated. And even @ 70 that woman could high-kick. She floored me.
WHO WILL WIN?: It's between LuPone and LaChanze for the prize. I think the 26 years since Patti Lupone's one and only win will tip the scales in her favor. The Color Purple is not a sure thing in any category (though certainly a threat in several) and could theoretically go home empty handed after 11 nominations... just like at the Oscars.