Tony Picks 2010

Every year, my boyfriend and I look over the Tony nominees and pick our favorites. Not who we think will win, mind you, but whom we would choose if we were Tony voters. Here is a list of whom we would like to win with a guess or two at who will. Enjoy.

Best Play
In the Next Room or the vibrator play
Next Fall
Time Stands Still

Our pick: Red. Playwright John Logan did a tremendous job of capturing how much Art mattered to Modernist painter Mark Rothko. Time Stands Still is as smart and well-written, but not as insightful.

Best Musical
American Idiot
Million Dollar Quartet

Our pick: Memphis. This is a very good – but not great – show, that in a more competitive season might not capture the prize. This season, however, it is easily the most well-rounded, successful musical. Both American Idiot and Fela! were more ambitious, but neither show quite achieved everything they aimed for.

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

Our pick: Memphis. Joe DiPietro’s book is inspirational, heart wrenching and devastatingly smart — sometimes all in the same moment. It’s not the most tightly plotted show ever, but its emotional arc rings very true

Best 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

Our pick: Memphis. David Bryan’s music, while it is more ’60s rock & soul than ’50s r&b, is miles more sophisticated than his work on The Toxic Avenger or anything he did with Bon Jovi. It isn’t a very competitive season in this category, with Memphis featuring the only successful musical theatre score of the season.

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

Our pick: A View from the Bridge. The entire production was a class act. It didn’t suddenly become my favorite play by Arthur Miller, but this production was rock-solid, hitting every level of this play and adding a few more.

Best Revival of a Musical

Finian’s Rainbow
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Night Music

Our pick: La Cage Aux Folles. I have to say that it’s the most authentic, fun and touching version of this drag-centric story I’ve ever even heard of. From the Chorus of Cagelles on up, a sassy, heartfelt winner.

Best Performance by a Leading 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!

Our pick: Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles. I don’t think I’ve seen an Albin that’s as believably a drag diva as the one Hodge gives us. He doesn’t just add a fey layer to the songs he sings, as some Albins do. He sings this line as Piaf, this line as Dietrich. Nagaujah was hot as Fela Kuti, and its very much apples and oranges. Egregiously overlooked: Nathan Lane working his tuchus off in Addams Family.

Best Performance by a Leading 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

Our pick: Montego Glover, Memphis. She positively glowed as beautiful, black rhythm and blues singer Felicia. Sherie Rene Scott gets an A for hard work and charisma, and Zeta-Jones was better than anybody expected, but this should be Montego’s.

Best Performance by a Leading 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

Our pick: Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge. Eddie Carbone was played with great sensitivity by one of the most intelligent and talented hunks of the American stage and screen. Molina and Washington were also both magnificent, but Liev just dug deeper. Egregiously overlooked: Norbert Leo Butz in Enron and Michael McKean in Superior Donuts did work at least on a par with the nominated actors.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Viola Davis, Fences
Valerie Harper, Looped
Linda Lavin, Collected Stories
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family

Our pick: Laura Linney, Time Stands Still. Linney is a marvel, investing her hard-bitten photojournalist character with serious gravitas and deep emotions that percolate suddenly and unexpectedly to the surface. Davis is also particularly good, and Maxwell was this year’s hardest working comedian in non-musicals, which deserves some kind of recognition.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

David Alan Grier, Race
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Stephen Kunken, Enron
Eddie Redmayne, Red

Our Pick: Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts. In a play that was all about character portraits, Hill delivered a knockout performance, really getting under skin of a young black writer marking time in the titular coffee shop.

Best Performance by a 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

Our pick: Jessica Hecht, A View from the Bridge. Hecht was marvelous early in the season in the ill-fated Brighton Beach Memoirs, in a comic relative of the character she played in View. She nailed every layer of her role in View, from the tough Brooklynese patter to her heart-rending scream at the end.

Best Performance by a 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

Our pick: Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet. One of the most impressive performances of the season came from out (and sexy) performer Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis. Lewis had one of the brashest stage personas and the most flamboyant, out-of-control performance styles of all time, and Kreis very successfully “goes there.”

Best Performance by a 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!

Our pick: Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music. At 84, Lansbury has more lines than the rest of the entire bunch, which she delivers with great panache and depth. The only serious competition would be fellow octogenarian Cook, who has more, and more complex, Sondheim lyrics to sing – but no actual part to play. Egregiously overlooked: Jackie Hoffman working almost as hard as Nathan Lane in Addams Family.

Best Scenic Design of a Play

John Lee Beatty, The Royal Family
Alexander Dodge, Present Laughter
Santo Loquasto, Fences
Christopher Oram, Red

Our pick: Alexander Dodge, Present Laughter. Garry Essendine, Noël Coward’s comic hero, is way over the top, so why shouldn’t his apartment be, too. Alexander Dodge’s set is a luscious Deco marvel, packed with character.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Marina Draghici, Fela!
Christine Jones, American Idiot
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Tim Shortall, La Cage aux Folles

Our pick: Christine Jones, American Idiot. Across the board, American Idiot was the most innovately designed show of the season, and that all starts with Jones’s tricked-out, poster-plastered set.

Best Costume Design of a Play

Martin Pakledinaz, Lend Me a Tenor
Constanza Romero, Fences
David Zinn, In the Next Room or the vibrator play
Catherine Zuber, The Royal Family

Our pick: Catherine Zuber, The Royal Family. Zuber is Broadway’s reigning queen of beautifully designed and constructed period costumes, and her work on The Royal Family, packed with dramatic 1920s chic, did her proud.

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Marina Draghici, Fela!
Paul Tazewell, Memphis
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles

Our pick: Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles.Wright very smartly designed the clothes as 1970s French street chic, with lovely results. And as for the Cagelles: They’re not the collection of drag chorines you see in other productions of La Cage. They are six individual drag queens corralled into performing together. Some of that is casting, but a lot of it is the distictive looks Wright gave to each of them.

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Hamlet
Neil Austin, Red
Mark Henderson, Enron
Brian MacDevitt, Fences

Our pick: Mark Henderson, Enron. A show about an energy company had better damn well have great lighting, and Henderson certainly didn’t disappoint. From light-saber-like sticks to heavy-metal pyrotechnics, Henderson pulled out all the stops.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Donald Holder, Ragtime
Nick Richings, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel, Fela!

Our pick: Kevin Adams, American Idiot. Adams did things to my eyeballs that I hadn’t seen outside of a rock concert or a doctor’s office. Some of the lights focused on the audience were too much, but when Adams got the balance right, it looked like something really new.

Best Sound Design of a Play

Acme Sound Partners, Fences
Adam Cork, Enron
Adam Cork, Red
Scott Lehrer, A View from the Bridge

Our pick: Adam Cork, Enron. Thunderclaps, choruses of traders, zings, zaps – and the Propellerheads! As with lighting, the sound for a show about a power company should crackle, and crackle it did. Cork is his own biggest competition, with his skillful, understated work on Red.

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Jonathan Deans, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Kaplowitz, Fela!
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen, A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier, Sondheim on Sondheim

Our pick: Robert Kaplowitz, Fela! This show ranged all over the theatre, went from screaming loud to hushed, and Kaplowitz made sure that is was all crystal clear and lucid. Egregiously overlooked: Brian Rogers for American Idiot – too loud fer ya, grandpa?

Best Direction of a Play

Michael Grandage, Red
Sheryl Kaller, Next Fall
Kenny Leon, Fences
Gregory Mosher, A View from the Bridge

Our pick: Gregory Mosher, A View from the Bridge. Mosher helmed this with modest dignity and subtle power, as well as penetrating intelligence. This was my first encounter with this particular Miller play, and I feel like I’ve seen a production that advocated for it very well. Egregiously overlooked: Rupert Goold for Enron; sure, he was showing off, but damn the man has chops!

Best Direction of a Musical

Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Our pick: Bill T. Jones, Fela! Jones built this recreation of Fela Kuti’s Lagos, Nigeria “Shrine” from the ground up. Egregiously overlooked: Michael Mayer’s visionary work on American Idiot; if he was nominated, he’d be my pick.

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

Our pick: Bill T. Jones, Fela! He added choreography that would have been beyond the abilities of the real life people he portrays, and yet makes it all fit comfortably within the world of the show.

Best Orchestrations

Jason Carr, La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson, Fela!
Jonathan Tunick, Promises, Promises

Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis

Our pick: Aaron Johnson, Fela! Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat was all about groove and mood. Johnson molds it to serve the pace of the story, without losing sight of its spirit for a nanosecond. Stunning.

* * *

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre

Alan Ayckbourn

Marian Seldes

Regional Theatre Tony Award

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Connecticut

Isabelle Stevenson Award

David Hyde Pierce

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre

Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York

B.H. Barry

Midtown North & Midtown South New York City Police Precincts

Tom Viola

Tony Nominations by Production

Fela! – 11

La Cage aux Folles – 11

Fences – 10

Memphis – 8

Red – 7

Ragtime – 6

A View from the Bridge – 6

The Royal Family – 5

Enron – 4

A Little Night Music – 4

Promises, Promises – 4

American Idiot – 3

Finian’s Rainbow – 3

In the Next Room or the vibrator play – 3

Lend Me a Tenor – 3

Million Dollar Quartet – 3

The Addams Family – 2

Come Fly Away – 2

Everyday Rapture – 2

Hamlet – 2

Next Fall – 2

Sondheim on Sondheim – 2

Time Stands Still – 2

A Behanding in Spokane – 1

Collected Stories – 1

Looped – 1

Present Laughter – 1

Race – 1

Superior Donuts – 1