Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tony Nominations Or, Hollywood on Stage

There are so many movie and television faces nominated for the Tony Award this year that one begins to worry about how any stateside stage actor can earn a living. The answer, appears to be get famous in another medium in order to get plum stage roles.

Jude Law (Hamlet) is equally at home on screen or stage

This can work against the audience, this self destructive drive to only see the familiar, if it robs them of great stage trained actors in meaty roles. But thankfully this isn't a problem with actors who are adept at changing their "scale" for any medium. Take The Lovely Laura Linney, for instance, who no one would dare accuse of being out of her element whether she's on the silver screen, the living room telly or treading the boards on Broadway.

Lead Actor in a Play
Jude Law, Hamlet
Alfred Molina, Red
Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge
Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane
Denzel Washington, Fences

There's 9 Oscar nominations and 3 wins between these nominees and even the Tony contenders from this shortlist that haven't contributed to that movie-centric total (Liev & Alfred are both still waiting for Oscar's approval) are familiar screen actors. Who would you root for, sight unseen for this Tony race? Or if you're lucky enough to have seen any, who did you find deserving?

Lead Actress in a Play
<-- Viola Davis, Fences
Valerie Harper, Looped
Linda Lavin, Collected Stories
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family

Viola Davis made her name on stage some time ago so this lead role isn't as 'Look what Doubt did for her!' specific as you may suspect. But it's still great that her career is going so well. Valerie Harper carried Looped on her glamourous shoulders and made it sing with her filthy mouth. I'd say I was rooting for her but hers is the only one I've seen AND it's also movie-related (it's all about Tallulah Bankhead's final looping session) so that's perhaps unfair.

And we're always rooting for Laura Linney in one way or another. And another. And another.

Lead Actor in a Musical
Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!

I'm kind of horrified that Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) is nominated but maybe pickings were slim? When I last saw him on stage in Damn Yankees it was like a textbook case of how unfortunate it is that tv stars get Broadway parts over stage stars. Stage acting requires different skills or at least a different discern about how to deply the shared skills. He was basically just doing "Just Jack" only in longshot as opposed to closeup. Didn't work for me at all.

I assume it doesn't matter since one of the La Cage boys will probably win. I keep hearing that this revival is wondrous... but it's revived so often that I'm still struggling to generate any excitement about seeing it.

Lead Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow
Montego Glover, Memphis
Christiane Noll, Ragtime
<--- Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

The immediate noticeable snub is Bebe Neuwirth in Addams Family though people weren't really expecting that nomination to happen given the critical reception. The sad snub is arguably Broadway darling turned TV star Kristin Chenoweth in Promises Promises. People say she's miscast but that you still can't take your eyes off her. (What else is new? I mean the 'can't take your eyes off her' part is always the case) Since I haven't seen any of these shows -- I hate being poor! -- I'm rooting for Sherie Rene Scott, one of my all time favorite Broadway babies, in her personal memoir show. Finally, I was always hoping that CZJ would get another musical post Chicago. I guess I just didn't expect it would be on stage and that I wouldn't be able to afford to see it.

Here she is singing one of musical theater's most iconic numbers...

Featured Actor in a Play
David Alan Grier, Race
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Stephen Kunken, Enron
Eddie Redmayne, Red

Superior Donuts is the latest play from August: Osage County genius Tracy Letts. It didn't get the "instant masterpiece" status of that epic play but at least it won this acting notice. Elsewhere in the category Film Experience readers will recognize Eddie Redmayne as Julianne Moore's gay son/incestuous plaything in Savage Grace.

Featured Actress in a Play
Maria Dizzia, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Rosemary Harris, The Royal Family
Jessica Hecht, A View from the Bridge
Scarlett Johansson, A View from the Bridge
Jan Maxwell, Lend Me a Tenor

Who could have ever imagined that Scarlett Johansson, with that movie face, would get Tony nominated before she was Oscar nom'ed. Strangeness.

Featured Actor in a Musical
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian's Rainbow
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

If you're curious, Chamberlin plays Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, De Jesus plays La Cage's always scene-stealing housekeeper (Hank Azaria in The Birdcage is the reference point if you've never seen the stage musical) and Bobby Steger played the younger brother in Ragtime (if you've seen the film version -- which is not a musical, pity -- this role is played by Brad Dourif, it's not the same supporting role that was Oscar nominated from that movie back in the day)

Featured Actress in a Musical
Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away
Lillias White, Fela!

If Lansbury wins this one she becomes the #1 most Tony winning actor of all time. Right now she's merely tied for that honor. But she has stiff competition from Katie Finneran who, according to all reports, steals Promises Promises from its stars. When acting with Cheno that has to be regarded as a miracle. This might also well go to Barbara Cook, one of those most revered of all Sondheim interpreters.

Best Play
Next Fall (Geoffrey Nauffts)
Red (John Logan)
Time Stands Still (Donald Margulies)

I keep hearing great things about Next Fall which is a gay relationship drama between an evangelical and an atheist. Here's an audio piece on the movie which makes it sound like the kind of thing I should see, having had my own religious upbringing drama before coming out as a gay man. Time Stands Still already closed. When I heard Linney speak at that Linneyganza a month back I definitely regretting skipping it. But -- good news -- it's coming back to Broadway in the fall thanks in part to these nominations.

Best Musical

Best Book of a Musical
Everyday Rapture (Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott)
Fela! (Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones)
Memphis (Joe DiPietro)
Million Dollar Quartet (Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux)

Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
The Addams Family (Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa)
Enron (Music: Adam Cork Lyrics: Lucy Prebble)
Fences (Music: Branford Marsalis)
Memphis (Music: David Bryan Lyrics: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan)

This was a controversial category this year because few thought that Addams Family was deserving but there weren't a lot of eligible shows available since many of the acclaimed musicals were using previously written material. Two of the nominees here aren't even musicals. Not that plays can't have worthy music. I suspect Memphis will win this.

Revival of a Play
Lend Me a Tenor
The Royal Family
A View from the Bridge

We'll let Scarjo and Liev describe their Arthur Miller redo for ya...

Revival of a Musical
Finian's Rainbow
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Night Music


La Cage will win this easily since it's a) still open and b) winning rave 'you must see it' praise.

Have you seen any of the shows? Do you watch the Tonys each June?


Guy said...

Curiously enough, I saw both Law and Molina in their London productions, which probably makes this the most informed I've ever been about the Tonys. Fine work from both, but between the two, Law gets my vote.

Criticlasm said...

I'm a Tony freak. I've watched them every year since I was 13 that I'm cognizant of.

That CZJ thing just looks awful to me, but I hear Lansbury is great.

I saw Next Fall and was much less impressed than I thought I would be. You should for sure see it - it's a good "issue" play- but I had some problems with the play. Interesting that no actors from it were noms, probably because they weren't as well known and the roles aren't as showy. I would have given a nod to the younger supporting in the couple.

Sondheim on Sondheim was okay. I love Barbara Cook, but this feels like a career nod to me.

Missed Molina, but he's electric on stage. I hear Douglas Hodge is incredible in La Cage, in the role that won George Hearn his Tony, so maybe if they don't get starstruck.

I did see Janet McTeer in the role in God of Carnage she originated in London and that Marcia Gay won for last year - just amazing.

Excited, very excited, about Marian Seldes getting a lifetime achievement. She makes me happy.


ooh i hadn't heard about Seldes yet. She is quite amazing.

adelutza said...

I have tickets to A Little Night Music music in two weeks. Now I only need a flight ticket, a hotel room and a sponsor.

OtherRobert said...

Musical pickings were slim. That's why three jukebox musicals are up for Best Musical and long-closed shows got mulitiple nominations.

Ok, Ragtime got multiple nominations because of buyer's remorse RE: supporting The Lion King and Disney on Broadway instead of one of the most innovative and extravagant shows to every hit the Great White Way. If the voters only knew now what Disney would inflict on NYC (Tarzan and The Little Mermaid still give me nightmares), the results would have been very different. But that's just splitting hairs.

Sherie Renee Scot for the wins.

Andrew R. said...

I very, very rarely watch plays.

So I'm suprised that I even saw 2 plays, but when the two plays I saw got nominations, I had a heart attack.

Fela! and A Behanding in Spokane.

Behanding in Spokane-Not particularly good, especially since I had to travel through an incredible amount of rain to get to the theater. Walken was GREAT, but Mackie and Kazan were boring, and Rockwell was only a little better. It was kinda had moments, but overall, meh.

The best part (you're going to envy me) was getting Walken's autograph...sorta. It just says "CW" on a playbill. Still!

Fela!-Much better. The cast, particularly the lead guy with the hard-to-spell name, was great. It's a shame the score was ineligible, because it is very catchy.

Since Behanding and Fela are not up against each other in anything, I have my personal picks in 13 out of 20-something categories. Which is 13 more than usual.

But that doesn't mean I'll watch the Tonys. I'll just wait and see who wins.

Akim said...

I'm rooting for Denzel Washington!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I too am rooting for Sherie Rene Scott (even though I won't mind a CZJ win, I heard she was quite good). Of course, I live nowhere near New York so I can't judge but I still can't believe Sherie has only one nomination (she should have won that Tony for simply the excellent singing in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels").

par3182 said...

i love that lead actress in a play line-up; i'm guessing the lovely laura linney will lose to viola davis, which is no shame. it's odd that viola's part was deemed lead as it won mary alice featured actress last time fences was on broadway, but i guess they evened that up by demoting jessica hecht (alison janney was up for lead in the same role)

the featured actor (both categories) seem impossible to call but as for the others i'm predicting liev schreiber, douglas hodge, sherie rene scott, katie finneran & jan maxwell

OtherRobert said...

Andrew, the problem with Sherie Rene Scott is she is a very subtle theater performer. If you aren't willing to pay attention to the whole package--the voice, the physicality, the pace of her speech--you might be left cold. She's not stretching her face for the nosebleeds because she doesn't have to. She transforms into another believable human being, even when playing a giant octopus. Everyday Rapture is a brilliant showcase of what she does well because there is nothing else to look at. It's all Scott, all the time. If the show opened a week sooner, the show probably could have been nominated for Musical and Orchestrations (come on, every song is a smart medley with narrative value, Kitt was robbed). Imagine: no one wanted her show until Megan Mullaly sunk Lips Together, Teeth Apart by pulling out.

Alex said...

Sight unseen an all 5, I would love to see Christopher Walken win, if only for his acceptance speech. I would think Washington is probably a safer bet, though.

When can we NOT root for Laura Linney? I could actually see Linney, Davis, or Harper winning and I think it'll be a close race.

Quick question: does Kelsey Grammar do anything for La Cage aside from box office?

Philip said...

Viola and Sherie Renee for the win!

John T said...

I will be taking my very first trip (EVER!) to New York this Summer, so I'm seeing either Promises, Promises or Fences.


OtherRobert -- totally agree on SRS. her comedy is even subtle but she's just such a warm performer and that voice. agh. i can't tell you how many times i've listened to "the last five years" it's one of my favorite musicals ever written.

i met her once after Debbie Does Dallas when she was holding a bucket for those "broadway fights aids" donation events and she was super friendly, too.

not that anybody wouldn't be when they're trying to get your money but still!

erica said...

I saw Jude Law Hamlet in New York
He was fantistics ! He has my vote


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Wow, Nathaniel. Eerie, I'm listening to Sherie sing in TLF right now, I'm at "Climbing Uphill". From youtube clips she does seem very subtle, and her singing is very nuanced, she even swears subtly.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I always watch the Tonys, but I've never even been to New York. It'd be nice to see Zeta-Jones's performance in context - I mean, I know the context of the song, but I've yet to see her interpretation. In the meantime, Angela Lansbury needs to return to the big screen in a juicy role.

Robert said...

The one show I saw was Ragtime, its actors so deserved their noms. They were both brilliant, and the show was really great though I think it was kind of a financial disappointment? I went with my dad because we knew the lead actor...he used to do community theater with us years ago!

Aaron said...

I was a little shocked to see A Steady Rain with Jackman and Craig get snubbed for everything. I've seen Promises, Promises recently and Chenoweth was fantastic (although I can totally see why people think she is's not her typical role), but she was still brilliant (much better than Sean Hayes, who I thought was adequate at the most...Katie Finnerman was a riot though. Loved her!)

I saw Ragtime when it was here and everyone was very impressive in it, although I've never been a huge fan of the show.

And is it just me, but I heard that Jude Law in Hamlet was not very good. I didn't see it, but the reviews of the production were mixed, to say the least...I was actually quite surprised to see him nominated. I predict Liev to win that.

John T said...

Yeah, I want Lansbury back on the big screen. Score an Oscar nomination-wouldn't that be a record between first and most recent Oscar nomination (if it was next year, it'd be 67 years).

Mark Kaiserman said...

I'll add my 2 cents since you note the collective wisdom on the mediocre Promises, Promises and the nominations it received.

Sean Hayes was surprisingly good in it, I thought. Frankly, without him, the show - which has a mostly average score - would have been a struggle.
Chenowith, who I adore like most everyone else, was wrong for the part and I don't think deserved a nomination despite having an electric presence in anything she does.
Kate Finneran was outstanding and totally was the highlight of the show. I can see her winning the Tony away from the grand Lansbury.

As for The Addams Family, I saw it last night and it was totally dreadful. Uncle Fester (Chamberlin) was very good. Neither Neuwirth or Lane deserved anything but a one way ticket to a better show. That it was nominated for best score is a joke.

Lastly, Sherie Rene Scott was brilliant in Everyday Rapture.

KEVIN M. said...

Even in a murky ALNM revival (Seriously, going back to the Bergman is fine on paper, but on stage it just looks overcast), I have to say that I thought CZJ and Lansbury were both completely, completely stunning. Lansbury is, unsurprisingly, a goddess of all things theatrical, but I was equally impressed with CZJ's comfort onstage, though I'm sure it's not an epic challenge for her to play a gorgeous actress.


mark -- thanks for sharing. i feel so out of theater this year. I've only been seeing old shows on discount (like God of Carnage, Wishful Drinking -- LOVED both) and off broadway stuff (just saw Restoration which was def. worth the $25. i wish things were cheaper. I have no problem saying a good show is worth $25-35 but anything above that (i.e. almost every show) i find that if it's not gobsmackingly brilliant I resent the money loss.

Dorian said...

I know he was nominated before, but David Alan Grier!? From "In Living Color" to acclaimed stage actor is pretty awesome in my book.

Haven't seen any of these nominees and never will, but rooting from afar, I can't wait to see the numbers for "La Cage aux Folles," "American Idiot," "Memphis," "A Little Night Music," and "Fela!". I wish they did some kind of readings of the plays at the Tonys. I'd love to see a scene between Denzel and Viola played out, even if it is out of context (I did read the play in high school, but that's so fuzzy now!).

Good luck to the nominees!

Anonymous said...

I've seen some long clips of Denzel's and Viola's performances online on some theatre sites.

Both of them look phenomenal. If Fences gets made into a movie (which it probably will be), Denzel is getting a third Oscar. And Viola will get an Oscar as well.


Dan said...

I've seen some long clips of Denzel and Viola's performances online. They both look phenomenal. If I live in NYC, I'd love to see Fences.

If it gets made into a movie, I think Denzel and Viola will win Oscars.

Joe said...

I saw "A Steady Rain" and "Hamlet". Not surprised Jackman/Craig were snubbed. The show itself wasn't that great. If there were non-names in the roles, it would have been a total bust. Law however was fantastic in Hamlet and the revival itself should have been nominated. However I didn't see the rest of the competition so who knows?

Nate Tyson said...

You know, Sean was actually pretty darned good in Promises, Promises. He really carried the show.

Sarah said...

I have not seen any of the nominated performances, but I did have the honor of having Stephen McKinley Henderson (nominated for Fences) as a professor, and I do not know a finer artist, mentor, or human being.

Manos said...

I saw the following shows during a recent trip to New York

Little Night Music 7/10
I loved this one, when i saw it in London a year ago. I liked it in NY too. Catharine Zeta Jones was very good but Angela Lansbury was better.

God of Carnage 7/10
The play was intetesting, and the cast made the most of it. Well, most of the cast. Janet McTeer, Jeff Daniels and Dylan Baker were all wonderful and Lucy Liu was plain awful. There was a huge gap between her and the other 3 actors.

A Behanding at Spokane 6/10
I love Martin McDonaugh's plays... but not this one. This is average at best. Sam Rockwell comes off best, Anthony Mackie was good too. Christopher Walken was... Christopher Walken. I never liked him as an actor. He always seems to play the same kind of roles. Here he plays his usual persona, in a role probably written specifically for him. And i could hardly hear him (and i was sitting in the 8th row of the orchestra).

The Pride 7/10
A good first play about gay relationships. The chemistry between Ben Whishaw and Hugh Dancy was excellent. The former was particularly good.

A View from the Bridge 6/10
It's always nice to see a revival of this great play by Arthur Miller. However everything about this production was predictable. Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson were good.

Lend Me a Tenor 3/10
This was a total mess. To be fair i saw it's 3rd preview which means it is bound to get better, but still an unpleasant surprise. Tony Shalhoub was bad and Anthony La Paglia was just OK.

Next Fall 6/10
Rises some interesting topics but fails to elevate the material.

Hamlet 8/10
(saw it in London) I loved Jude Law in this one. The production was also great, but none from the supporting cast was noteworthy