As the June 7 Tony Awards telecast approaches, no one’s sure if the earnest lesbian musical will topple the artsy Gershwin retread, if the hoity-toity Brits will trample the Yanks, or if Neil Patrick Harris will find peace as a presenter rather than a host.
I asked a Tony voter—who shall remain anonymous—for the deep dish on who will win, who should win, and who should be run out of town.
Hello, Tony voter. First off, how do you feel about this year’s hosts being the well-liked Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, as opposed to glorious superstars like NPH or Hugh Jackman?
I feel like it’s really tied to the message they’re trying to send this year, which is homegrown Broadway stars as opposed to television stars, but I find that’s a mixed message because they snubbed some homegrown stars with the nominations. With those two hosting, I feel like we might have another Oscars on our hands when James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted. But they won’t cut Alan’s drag number!
Meanwhile, there’s been controversy about some of the special awards possibly not being on the telecast.
There’s one to [publicist] Adrian Bryan-Brown, but the Publicist Mouthing Off of the Year award should go to Rick Miramontez. He had that Wall Street Journal thing [he lambasted a writer for that paper who admitted to getting free tickets and leaving halfway] and his famous parting with Harvey Weinstein, and he’s been really vocal about both of them. I think that’s wonderful. I’m not saying Adrian shouldn’t get the award, just not this year.
OK, now for the competitive categories. Where do you stand on the big showdown, which is Fun Home vs. An American in Paris for Best Musical?
I loved An American in Paris and I think Fun Home came a really long way. I didn’t really care for it much at the Public. Seeing it again, it’s like a whole new show. I don’t know if it’s the space it’s in or they had more time to grow together, but it’s grown by leaps and bounds, but Paris blew me away. I come out of a dance background. I loved seeing these hardcore ballet people on a Broadway stage. That hasn’t happened since Twyla or Bill T. Jones transitioned, if you will.
There was no guilt over picking a Gershwin jukebox show based on an old movie over an organic lesbian musical?
No. I thought Fun Home came a long way, but it still didn’t sell me on Best Musical.
But how many lesbian musicals are there?
That’s true. I think this was more than that, though. And in this Broadway version, it seemed less creepy than before. I think Michael Cerveris grew into that [father] role and was a little less judgy about everything, and it came across. But I loved An American in Paris. What did you think of Something Rotten, another Best Musical nominee, which is a sort of self-referential spoof about musicals?
I had heard not such great word of mouth going in and I was surprised how much I liked it. It’s the only show where I left the theater humming some of the songs. It’s a hummable score—and it was not a great season for that at all.
I didn’t get it at all. I was at Chita Rivera’s 80th birthday party and she sang and danced. I don’t know about this one. I read that it’s her Broadway farewell. If she could do what she did at the birthday party on Broadway, it would have been a fitting farewell. I thought, “What the hell is this?”
Best Actress in a Musical has devolved into a battle between Chita vs. spunky Kristin Chenoweth vs. Broadway stalwart Kelli O’Hara (her sixth nomination, for The King and I).
I voted for Kelli. Hands down it was the best performance in that category. But how could you not give it to Chita, especially if the last performance on Broadway thing is actually true? As for Kristin, I don’t think that was a really great performance. I thought it was your typical Kristin Chenoweth performance, and we’ve seen a lot of that. Perhaps it’s what this role called for, but OK, we’ve seen all of this before.
Since you loved An American in Paris, did you vote for its star, Robert Fairchild, for Best Actor?
You thought his acting was as good as his dancing?
Yes. His singing, on the other hand, is up for debate. It’s tough when you’re dancing that hard. I was surprised he was singing as much as he was. I feel, “Give it to him before he gets hurt.”
There was controversy about Ken Watanabe’s diction as the petulant Thai leader in The King and I. Could you understand what he was saying?
I did, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I know that show, but I really liked what he was doing. He was an interesting casting choice and I was surprised he got a nomination.
Moving on to a different accent, rock legend and environmentalist Sting is up for Best Score. Did you like The Last Ship?
I really liked it, but then again I liked Dr. Zhivago. I liked a lot of the musicals I wasn’t supposed to like this season. And he certainly stepped up for the show, if that counts for anything.
Moving on to dramas, is the swirling, highly praised The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time—about the head-spinning adventures of an autistic kid—a slam dunk for Best Play?
I’m totally on board with that. I think all the dance-based statements I made about An American in Paris apply to Curious Incident. I’ve never seen a play that has that much choreography.
Is that play’s Alex Sharp a slam dunk, or could Bradley Cooper upset him for another disability show, The Elephant Man?
I would like Sharp to win. I think it’s a great story—fresh out of Juilliard, that whole thing. I don’t know how likely that is, though. You’ve got to put on two hats—how I voted and how I think everyone else is gonna vote. So I’d be surprised, but pleasantly.
Did you like Bradley’s go at elephantiasis or was it basically a big movie star slumming?
I didn’t get it. From the beginning, the shaved chest threw me and I never got what he was trying to do. I’d be happy to see Ben Miles [Wolf Hall] or Steven Boyer [Hand to God] get it. It seems a category of underdogs.
It was an amazing performance. But I was blown away by what Alex Sharp did. People are saying this is a tough category, but to me, this was such a no-brainer.
As for Best Actress, it seems like Helen Mirren has it all locked up for her return to the throne, The Audience, no?
I really, really liked Elisabeth Moss in The Heidi Chronicles. I think she was extraordinary. I’d be pleasantly surprised if Moss pulled it off. TNT did a TV movie version and I decided to watch that before going to the theater, and I almost canceled my tickets. Maybe it set the bar really low, but I found Moss extraordinary.
Will the outrageous puppet/sex comedy Hand To God get anything aside from the incredible honor of being nominated?
With Hand to God and Fun Home, these shows that transfer have a tough time having much of a buzz. They’re shut out for the other awards because they were eligible in their off-Broadway incarnations the year before. It’s great when a show transfers, but I don’t think it necessarily helps their chances of winning.
Doesn’t it seem like some good things got left out of the nominations because they were earlier in the season—like the Side Show women and Karen Pittman from Disgraced?
I think that’s true, but actors like that are always going to have that kind of struggle. The people I feel were unfairly glossed over were Nathan Lane and Peter Gallagher. They got swept up with big A-list talents that were snubbed, like Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. To see someone like Peter or Nathan, who I think of as Broadway folks—who’ve done other things, but who’ve dedicated their lives to the theater—seem to get unfairly swept up in this, it’s almost biting the hand that feeds you. Side Show is a good example. I don’t see why it didn’t get a single nomination. Like you said, it opened too soon. The young guy, Micah Stock, was the only nominee for It’s Only a Play. Either snub the show or don’t, but to throw it to the only unknown in the cast seems like a strange thing to do. And now that the summer is part of the season, it’s really annoying.
You loved An American in Paris. How about that other adaptation of a 1950s Minnelli film about Paris—Gigi?
I hated it. I was really disappointed. When the curtain went up, I thought, “Thank God my 11-year-old niece didn’t come.” What a horrible message for young girls. This woman is basically pimped out around Paris by her family. And I didn’t understand why that staircase was really there.
Well, thank you, Tony voter.
Wait! You’re burying the lead here. Anna Wintour is dressing the nominees!
Oh, right. Good idea?
Isn’t that insane? I think she’s about to ruin the last good thing about this show. It’s the last red carpet where you can see I-dressed-myself cougary, and it’s all gonna go south.