A top Broadway executive emailed the other day to say, “I really think the only winner during this period of time is the pharmaceutical industry, as the demand for beta blockers and anxiety medicine is high.”
It’s a good assessment of the mood in Shubert Alley as we swing into the 73rd annual Tony Awards Sunday night. Insiders have an idea of which way the ballots will go, but they sense upsets. And that’s got them on edge.
So let’s have some fun and see if we can make them up their doses.
As always, the most important award is Best Musical, and the race is between “Hadestown” and “Tootsie.” The smart money’s on “Hadestown.” It’s arty and original, sort of. It’s based on Greek mythology, but when most shows are based on movies from the ’80s, that counts as original. But voters think it’s 20 minutes too long, and the road voters — those who present shows that tour the country — don’t want it to win. “I can’t sell it in my market,” says a roadie.
He can sell “Tootsie.” It’s a fun show, but some say it doesn’t quite live up to its reviews. “The songs are clever, like Gilbert and Sullivan, but there are no great tunes,” one voter says.
“Ain’t Too Proud” is the big hit of the season, with a $15 million advance, and its road tour is sure to mint money. But there’s a sense that the jukebox musical is getting tired, so why reward another with a Tony it doesn’t need?
The spoiler here is “The Prom.” It’s original, delightful and the underdog. “Hadestown” is the smart bet, but I’d be happy if “The Prom” turns out to be everyone’s date.
Since the nominations snubbed “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the favorite for Best Play is “The Ferryman.” And yet voters love “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Heidi Schreck’s intelligent attack on the Trump era.
The case for “Ferryman” is that it’s an engrossing play with a huge cast that tackles the troubles in Ireland with almost unbearable suspense. But while its human themes are timeless, its political concerns are of another era. “Constitution” deals with the politics of today — and a lot of voters have the politics of today on their minds.
Another potential upset: Brooks Ashmanskas for Best Actor in “The Prom.” Yes, Santino Fontana is terrific in “Tootsie” and is likely to win. But Ashmanskas, who’s made voters laugh since his first Tony nod in 2007, is beloved. As one voter said, “Santino is going to win, but I voted for Brooks.”
The race for Best Revival of a Play is intense. The contenders are Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery” and Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band.” Both received first-rate productions. I’ll give the edge to “Boys,” the first openly gay play in the history of American theater.
And now to the Tony certainties: Elaine May wins Best Actress for “The Waverly Gallery” and director Sam Mendes wins for “The Ferryman.” The hipster “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!” will beat the charming but traditional “Kiss Me, Kate.” Celia Keenan-Bolger, so brilliant and believable as Scout, will win for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Robert Horn wrote jokes for “Tootsie” that are as good as Larry Gelbart’s for the movie. Bryan Cranston (“Network”) will edge out Jeff Daniels (“To Kill a Mockingbird”), while Stephanie J. Block will take home a trophy for “The Cher Show” — as will first-time Tony nominee Bob Mackie, for his costumes.
As far as I’m concerned, he should have won a MacArthur “genius” grant for that curtain-rod dress he designed for that “Gone With the Wind” send-up on “The Carol Burnett Show.”
He’ll have to settle for a Tony.
You can hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.
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