Sunday, May 31, 2015

Despite a Handicapper's Checkered Record, the Tony Goes to ...

Chita Rivera in The Visit. Photo by Thom Kaine.


of us handicap the ponies, some of us the Tonys. By way of full disclosure, this critic's record is about zero for five, but one must soldier on.

The crop for “The 69th Annual Tony Awards” stand taller this year. This very shortlisted version will consider Best Musical, Best Leading Actor in a Musical, Best Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Play.

“The Tony Awards,” hosted by Tony nominee this year Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Sunday, 7 June at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. The ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS.

“An American In Paris” has my heart and support as Best Musical. Alas, Gershwin tunes, a triumphant pre-Broadway run in Paris, the skills of ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and the artsy dancing will not help the production win in this category.

Director John Doyle and choreographer Graciela Daniele have mounted a truly Brechtian and novel Kander & Ebb musical in “The Visit” – certainly a contender. It stars two-time Tony winner, the esteemable Chita Rivera.

The new kid on the block, “Fun Home,” with its downtown cred and darkly quirky theme, is also in the mix. But honestly, after a trip to 1590s England in “Something Rotten!” ...

It is packed with Broadway marquee talent, including Brian d'Arcy James and Tony winner Christian Borle. Even its theatrical posters are funny, as a quick visit to the St. James Theatre will reveal.

I wager that "Something Rotten!" will walk away – nay dance away – with the 10 Awards for which it has been nominated, including best musical.

Among the 12 nominations for “An American in Paris” is Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Robert Fairchild. Also nominated in this category are Michael Cerveris (“Fun Home”), Brian d'Arcy James (“Something Rotten!”), Ken Watanabe (“The King and I”) and Tony Yazbeck (“On the Town.”

One would love to see RF, New York City Ballet's prince charming, emerge as the victor. Truthfully though, Bd'AJ's Nick Bottom, who is afester with jealousy and defeat, deserves the honor.

Oh my, what to do? Chita's up for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. So is Kelli O'Hara. So are Tony co-host KC (“On the Twentieth Century”), Leanne Cope (“An American in Paris”) and Beth Malone (“Fun Home”).

At 82, CR is still a trouper to contend with, giving a heart-wrenching performance in “The Visit” and with two Tonys on her resume. However, KO'H has been nominated six times and never gone home with the prize. She's the sentimental choice this year and deserves the win for a beautiful performance as Anna in “The King and I.”

For Best Revival of a Musical, the nominees are “On the Town,” “On the Twentieth Century” and “The King and I.” The latter, a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, has been given a classy remount at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

"The King and I" has a great cast. It is splendidly directed by Bartlett Sher, has a luxurious orchestra under the musical direction of Ted Sperling, and dazzling production values. In short, it is remarkable and spectacular. Need I say more ...?

Of the four entries in the Best Play category, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “Disgraced,” “Hand to God,” and “Wolf Hall: Parts One &Two,” “The Curious Incident” is not the quirkiest.

That distinction would go to the one about the satanic hand puppet (“Hand to God”). “Disgraced” is a well-wrought and heartfelt play, which made a transfer from off-Broadway to be in the running. “The Wolf Halls” have the gravitas of subject matter.

Meanwhile, “The Curious Incident” is unusual. It is a riveting production with an unexpected theme, and a main character whose gifts are ingeniously presented. Playwright Simon Stephens adapted Mark Haddon's best-selling mystery to the stage in a brilliantly simple and direct fashion, creating a moving and dynamic drama.

Special stage effects (Paule Constable, lighting designer and Finn Ross, video designer) and minimalist sets (Bunny Christie) further the plot twists and turns. Under the direction of Marianne Elliott, the ensemble is terrific; the performances are comfortingly naturalistic.

“The Curious Incident” will take the Tony for Best Play.

Visit to learn more about “The 69th Annual Tony Awards” and for a complete list of nominees.

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