Saturday, May 23, 2009

ArtsBuzz: Predicting the Tony winners

From left: Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley and J. Robert Spencer
in the musical Next to Normal.

By Hap Erstein

It’s true: I can see into the future and am willing to prove it with my uncanny predictions of this year’s Tony Award winners. Those without my clairvoyance will have to wait until Sunday, June 7, to learn how accurate I am.

* Best musical: OK, your maiden aunt Sophie from Iowa could pick this one. It will be Billy Elliot by a landslide, the crowning award of what should be a big night for the British show based on the 2000 movie of the same name. The only show that could stop it is Next to Normal, but its chances are next to nil.

* Best play: Only two nominees are still running, and Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage should triumph easily over Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty.

* Best book of a musical: Billy Elliot again, for its emotionally potent script, beating out Next to Normal again, which covers darker, more groundbreaking ground, but not as effectively.

* Best original score: Here is where Next to Normal could edge out the Bill-ster, with Broadway giving a back pat to relative newcomers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey over Sir Elton John, even though John’s score is his best yet. Dolly Parton has her admirers for her 9 to 5 songs, but not enough to cop the Tony.

* Best revival of a play: Strong category, but the Tony goes to The Norman Conquests, which was helped by the ruling that its three interlocking plays would be considered as one.

* Best revival of a musical: West Side Story is a far better show than Hair, but the former’s bilingual production has left many unimpressed, so the Tony will go to the retro tribal love-rock musical.

* Best special theatrical event: If there were an award for Least Funny Comedy, Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush would win in a walk. Instead, expect Liza at the Palace, Ms. Minnelli’s umpteenth comeback show to emerge victorious.

* Best leading actor, play: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King

* Best leading actress, play: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage

* Best leading actor, musical: David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot (In another unlevel-playing-field decision, all three boys who shared the title role when the show opened are nominated collectively)

* Best leading actress, musical: Alice Ripley, Next to Normal

* Best featured actor, play: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

* Best featured actress, play: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit

* Best featured actor, musical: Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot

* Best featured actress, musical: Karen Olivo, West Side Story

* Best scenic design, play: Derek McLane, 33 Variations

* Best scenic design, musical: Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot

* Best costume design, play: Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

* Best costume design, musical: Nicky Gillebrand, Billy Elliot

* Best lighting design, play: Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

* Best lighting design, musical: Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot

* Best sound design, play: Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King

* Best sound design, musical: Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot

* Best direction, play: Matthew Marchus, God of Carnage (his only real competition is himself for The Norman Conquests)

* Best choreography: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot

* Best orchestrations: Martin Koch, Billy Elliot

Tomorrow: Hap's overview of the musicals and plays of the current Broadway season.

THE TONY AWARDS will be broadcast at 8 pm Sunday, June 7, on CBS.

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