Editors' Note: In a CultureMap tradition, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts president and Tony Awards voter Fran Macferran shares his take on the favorites for this year's awards, with the show set for Sunday night.
This year I have logged thousands of miles in the air and countless hours in theaters up and down Broadway in my role as a Tony voter and proud member of The Broadway League (the national association for the Broadway industry). Now it’s time to reflect on the great work that has been produced this year and cast my ballot for Broadway’s best and brightest.
It’s important for the Hobby Center to have a voice in the industry because we are dependent upon the product coming out of New York City for our Broadway at the Hobby Center Series.
This is my eighth year voting, but that doesn’t make it any easier – especially this year! From seasoned professionals to phenomenal ensembles, here is my preview of the rumored favorites and tight races for the 68th Annual Tony Awards:
Going All The Way
There are times when you leave the theater completely blown away by each actor’s performance that you witnessed on stage. For me, such was the case with All the Way, and I’d be shocked if it didn’t take home the Tony for Best Play. The political drama portrays the tumultuous, yet inspiring, first year of LBJ’s presidency, and it is nothing short of phenomenal, including the remarkable ensemble cast.
Bryan Cranston, who took on the daunting task of portraying not only a very real and public figure in LBJ, but also someone incredibly iconic, delivered a powerhouse performance that I think will inevitably win him the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.
I’ve never seen someone work so hard on stage as Harris did in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He is definitely the guy to beat in this category.
The same can be said for Neil Patrick Harris’ performance this year. It goes without saying that Broadway’s biggest night loves him, but instead of hosting the awards show this year (that job goes to Hugh Jackman), Harris will be in the audience waiting for his name to be called in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical category.
I’ve never seen someone work so hard on stage as Harris did in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as he tells the story of a transsexual punk rock singer’s life, her loves and the botched operation that left her with that "angry inch.” Harris is definitely the guy to beat in this category.
Hedwig may also take home the Best Revival of a Musical Tony, but don’t count out the newly revisited production of Les Misérables which could steal the win. If you saw the touring version of the 25th anniversary production in 2012 and were blown away, the staging in this most recent rendition has become even more phenomenal. Despite the changes, including a much faster pace, it is still a timeless testament to the human spirit.
In years past, we’ve seen shows that are shoe-ins for Best Musical (think The Book of Mormon). But this year, the category is the very definition of a toss-up. The favorites seem to be the fabulously comedic Aladdin and the charming Carole King biomusical Beautiful. From exotic and daring adventure, with a twist of comedy, in Aladdin, to the passion, fight and triumph in Beautiful, it’s hard to say which of these will take the trophy.
But to call these two front-runners ahead of A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder would be much to the dismay of audiences and critics who have truly embraced the most nominated show of the season with 10 nominations. All three are strong contenders and I can’t wait to see who wins.
Depending on how this race ends, we could see Tony history Sunday night.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the immense talents in the Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical category. It’s another toss-up, and with the performances given this season, it will be a nail-biter to the end. The category contains five incredible actresses, including two of Broadway’s best known leading ladies, Idina Menzel in If/Then and Sutton Foster in Violet.
Yet another tightly-contested Tony this year is in a category filled with compelling performances by leading actresses in a play. Seasoned professionals Tyne Daly in Mothers and Sons, Cherry Jones in The Glass Menagerie, and Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill all portrayed strong roles as Katherine Gerard, Amanda Wingfield and Billie Holiday, respectively. The other ladies in the category, LaTanya Richardson Jackson (A Raisin in the Sun) and Estelle Parsons (The Velocity of Autumn), are both great in their own right, but my bet is on one of the veterans.
Depending on how this race ends, we could see Tony history Sunday night. If McDonald wins, she would set a record with her sixth Tony Award, and she’d be the first to receive a statuette in all four acting categories.
Best acting in Best Revivals
Some of the best acting I have ever seen on Broadway came from this year’s Best Revival of a Play nominees. Between the poetic masterpiece of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, the Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night, and the uniquely American A Raisin in the Sun, it’s hard to say which one will walk away with the Tony. One thing is certain though — revivals provide an opportunity for seasoned professionals to create nostalgia for audiences while also bringing new life to the works in ways we never thought possible and this year was the epitome of that.
Also worth noting are the performances by Sophie Okonedo and Mark Rylance in these productions. Sophie Okonedo was simply brilliant in A Raisin in the Sun. She communicated masterfully with her facial expressions and body language.
The very essence of a true character actor, Mark Rylance took his role in Twelfth Night to another level. He is highly skilled and a master at his craft. These two are well-deserving of their nominations, and I anticipate they will each walk away with the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress/Actor in a Featured Role in a Play.
Tony Award votes are cast by secret ballot, but there is of course a lot of speculation and buzz about who will take each award category. The picks below reflect my opinions only, and are not necessarily even my personal favorites. They include:
Best Play: All The Way
Best Musical: Aladdin, Beautiful, or A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder
Best Revival of a Play: A Raisin in the Sun
Best Revival of a Musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Les Misérables
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Neil Patrick Harris/Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Toss-up
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Bryan Cranston/All The Way
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Toss-up
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Mark Rylance/Twelfth Night
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Sophie Okonedo/A Raisin in the Sun
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: James Monroe Iglehart/Aladdin
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Toss-up
The Broadway at The Hobby Center 2014-2015 Season begins in October with Anything Goes — a winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival and Choreography. For more information on the entire season, click here.