They Say the Neon Lights Are Bright…

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… on Broadway.  And this Sunday night will be especially shiny as major stars of stage and screen gather at Radio City Music Hall for the 67th Annual Tony Awards.  Technically Radio City is on 6th Avenue — not Broadway — but let’s not split hairs.

Neil Patrick Harris is hosting the live telecast for the third consecutive year.  (He’s also hosting the Emmy Awards in September, so NPH is clearly trying to give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money as the guy who hosts… well… everything.)  The line-up of Tony presenters includes Jon Cryer, Jesse Eisenberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johannson, Anna Kendrick, Martha Plimpton and Zachary Quinto.  Nice!

I will once again be one of the faces in the crowd at Sunday night’s ceremony and I’m sure I’m not alone in my glee over the fact that the show is moving back to Radio City after being held for the past two years at the Beacon Theater.  I love the Beacon for concerts — and it’s a mere three block walk from my New York apartment — but it’s a little too small for Broadway’s biggest night.  And last year the Tony’s were held on a particularly hot and humid evening and the air conditioning wasn’t working properly in the theater.  Black tuxedos + cramped seats – air conditioning = unhappy, smelly audience.

I managed to see a lot of great Broadway productions this past year but I haven’t seen all the nominees in all the categories.  That’s never stopped me from having an opinion, however, so here are my personal picks for who I want to win in six major categories.

BEST PLAY
The Assembled Parties
Lucky Guy
The Testament of Mary
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Full disclosure:  I’ve only seen the first two.  The Testament of Mary closed before I could go (which bums me out because it was written by Colm Toibin and starred Fiona Shaw and I’m a fan of both.)  I’ve heard great things about Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and it’s got a dream cast that includes David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver.  It also already won Best Play at the Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Drama League AND Drama Desk Awards, so the Tony is definitely within its reach.  The Assembled Parties is not without its charms, but I’m rooting for Lucky Guy and its playwright, the late great Nora Ephron, to take the prize.

BEST MUSICAL
Bring It On
A Christmas Story
Kinky Boots
Matilda

Again, I’ve only seen two out of four here.  The theater press is having a heyday with the Matilda vs. Kinky Boots battle (the other two don’t stand a chance.)  Kinky Boots is absolutely delightful and features wonderful music from Cyndi Lauper and a great book by Harvey Fierstein, so it gets my vote.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY:
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Nathan Lane, The Nance
Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tom Sturridge, Orphans

When Tom Hanks makes his Broadway debut, attention must be paid.  He does a great job playing New York tabloid columnist Mike McAlary and absolutely deserves the Tony.  Plus he never disappoints with his acceptance speeches at awards shows, so it will make for a great moment in the telecast.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL:
Bertie Carvel, Matilda
Santino Fontana, Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Stark Sands, Kinky Boots

Billy Porter is the comeback kid.  After his breakthrough performance as Teen Angel in the 1994 Broadway revival of Grease, he virtually disappeared.  But he’s back with a vengeance and The Tony is his to lose.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL:
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Valisia LeKae, Motown, The Musical
Patina Miller, Pippin
Laura Osnes, Cinderella

There’s a lot of buzz for Laura Osnes as Cinderella, but Patina Miller is so amazing in Pippin that I can’t imagine anyone else taking home this prize. She has a spectacular voice, amazing dance moves, and somehow channels Ben Vereen while also making the Leading Player role in Pippin all her own.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL:
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark, Cinderella
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Lauren Ward, Matilda

It wouldn’t be an awards show if there weren’t at least one category about which I’m completely torn.  I saw the Saturday matinee performance of Kinky Boots and the Sunday matinee of Pippin on the same weekend.  On Saturday night I thought Annaleigh Ashford was a shoe-in for this year’s Featured Actress in a Musical Tony.  But after seeing Andrea Martin’s breathtaking performance in Pippin the next day, I’ve changed my tune.  Sorry, Annaleigh, but Andrea’s a sure thing this year.

And there you have it, my completely biased opinion.  Be sure to tune in to CBS at 9/8c on Sunday night to check out all the Tony action.

TODAY’S POLL:  The Tony Awards air live on CBS this Sunday night.  Which Tony-nominated musical revival is your favorite?

Annie
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Pippin
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

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