Regarding the 2008 Tony Awards, I’m absolutely certain that: Whoopi Goldberg will be wearing something ”fierce” designed by Christian Siriano, and the ratings will be nowhere near what CBS hopes they will be. And that’s about all I’m sure of. That’s why I’ve predicted a winner and a spoiler in most categories. Tune in to the show on Sunday night to see how I fared.
August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts
Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Tom Stoppard
The Seafarer, by Conor McPherson
The 39 Steps, by Patrick Barlow
Winner: August: Osage County Spoiler: None.
All right, this is a sure thing. August won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize; it has also been honored by the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League….
In the Heights
Winner: In the Heights Spoiler: Xanadu
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s valentine to his Washington Heights ‘hood is upbeat, well-crafted, and wholly, beautifully original. Strange got amazing reviews, but those do not necessarily equal Tony votes. (For the record, though, Xanadu received perhaps the best notices of any nominee.) People vote for what they love (see: Avenue Q beating Wicked), which is why — gulp — Xanadu could skate off with the statuette.
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Cry-Baby (Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan)
In the Heights (Quiara Alegría Hudes)
Passing Strange (Stew)
Xanadu (Douglas Carter Beane)
Winner: Passing Strange Spoiler: Xanadu
I’ve heard a few people say, ”I’m voting for Passing Strange because it’s the only place I’m voting for it.” But anyone who loves the zingy camp of Xanadu will want to hear Beane make a quip-filled speech. Hudes, too, will get some votes from the die-hard Heights fans.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
Cry-Baby (Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger)
In the Heights (Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda)
The Little Mermaid (Music: Alan Menken; Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater)
Passing Strange (Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald; Lyrics: Stew)
Winner: In the Heights Spoiler: Passing Strange
This is very close. Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s rock- and R&B- and funk-infused score is definitely Strange’s strong point. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s infectious music — incorporating rap, salsa, hip-hop, and more — is unlike anything we’ve heard on Broadway. (Want to compare? Strange’s MySpace page. Heights’ website.)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock ‘n’ Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth
Winner: Patrick Stewart Spoiler: Mark Rylance
The fact that Macbeth closed on May 24 could hurt; I’m counting on Stewart’s track record (The Tempest, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, his one-man Christmas Carol) to put him over the top. But Rylance knocks himself out in Boeing — it’s a sensational comic turn.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County
Winner: Deanna Dunagan Spoiler: Amy Morton
Dunagan’s replacement, Estelle Parsons, takes over June 17 — two days after the Tonys! That announcement didn’t help on-the-fence voters. And it’s a shame Dunagan and Morton are competitors. Dunagan’s drug-addicted mom is the larger presence, if not the larger part; it’s a towering performance, and playing crazy never hurts. Morton’s eldest daughter, however, does the heavy lifting. She’s got the best lines (”Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed,” the hilarious ”Greatest Generation” speech). And she’s still in the show. There’s one more scenario: Dunagan and Morton split votes, and Merkerson emerges victorious.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park With George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair
Winner: Paulo Szot Spoiler: Lin-Manuel Miranda
A colleague calls this the Reese Witherspoon Oscar effect: She won for Walk the Line because her category wasn’t as competitive as Joaquin Phoenix’s; thus, Szot will win because costar Kelli O’Hara won’t (see next screen). Szot is a sensational singer. The Brazilian opera star had me crying from the moment he began ”This Nearly Was Mine.” But some are less moved by his acting. Miranda, meanwhile, is charisma personified. He’s the narrator, the tour guide, and the heart and soul of Heights. One problem: He wrote the music, and those voting for Heights in Best Score may not want to give him two votes. (That’s not stopping me.)
NEXT PAGE: More acting categories