I haven't been paying much attention to all the awards this season. (You know, The Drama Desk Awards, The Drama League Awards, The Lucille Lortel Awards, The Outer Critics Circle Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The Obies, The Actor's Equity Awards, The Theater World Awards, The Left-Handed Jewish Lesbian Mud Wrestlers Awards, etc.)
I guess I'm not all that into the shiny prizes this season because there hasn't been one production that has overwhelmingly won my heart, as there has been in the last few seasons. (Xanadu, Grey Gardens, The Drowsy Chaperone, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q). I'm certainly fond of, but not obsessed over, [title of show], although I'll certainly be rooting for Hunter Bell for best book, the show's sole nomination. But other than that, there's not really one show that I'm rooting for over all others.
The above awards matter mostly to press agents and advertising copywriters, although the Pulitzer is certainly in a league of its own. The awards that truly matter, at least financially, are the Tony Awards, the nominations for which came out yesterday. Below are the major musical categories. (Because those are the only awards that really matter to us, right dear reader?) Here's the tally for the musical productions eligible this season:
- Billy Elliot - 15
- Next to Normal - 11
- Hair - 8
- Shrek - 8
- Rock of Ages - 5
- 9 to 5 - 4
- Pal Joey - 4
- West Side Story - 4
- Guys and Dolls - 2
- Irving Berlin's White Christmas - 2
- [title of show] - 1
The following shows were shut out entirely:
- A Tale of Two Cities - I don't think anyone expected this abomination to get any recognition whatsoever.
- The Story of My Life - This is understandable, I suppose, since the show only lasted four regular performances, but I would love to have seen Neil Bartram get a nod for his lovely, complex, and underrated score. I strongly recommend the CD when it comes out from PS Classics on June 2nd.
- 13 - I find this thoroughly inexplicable. First of all, the show was really quite good, albeit flawed. But to ignore Jason Robert Brown's terrific score yet nominate Dolly Parton's weak and forgettable work on 9 to 5 is simply beyond me.
Here are the Tony nominations themselves, along with my own commentary on who got left out, as well as whom I'm rooting for. The Tony Awards ceremony this year is on June 7th.
Billy Elliot, The Musical
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical
WHO'S MISSING: 9 to 5, [title of show], 13
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: Again, I'm not passionate about any one show, and it seems pretty clear that Billy Elliot is going to win, but at this point I'm pulling for Next to Normal. It's certainly the most moving and ambitious of the nominees.
Best Book of a Musical
Billy Elliot, The Musical, Lee Hall
Next to Normal, Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical, David Lindsay-Abaire
[title of show], Hunter Bell
WHO'S MISSING: 9 to 5, Rock of Ages
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: As I mentioned, I'm pulling for Hunter Bell, but I have a feeling this one is going to be a toss-up between Yorkey and Hall.
Best Original Score
Billy Elliot, The Musical, Music: Elton John, Lyrics: Lee Hall
Next to Normal, Music: Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Brian Yorkey
9 to 5: The Musical, Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Shrek The Musical, Music: Jeanine Tesori, Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
WHO'S MISSING: Again, inexplicably Jason Robert Brown for 13, as well as Neil Bartram for The Story of My Life
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: Next to Normal, all the way. People may love Billy Elliot, but Elton John's score is weak and forgettable. Plus, he's already won for Aida, and the Tony voters often prefer to spread the wealth.
Best Revival of a Musical
Guys and Dolls
West Side Story
WHO'S MISSING: Nobody. Pal Joey and Guys and Dolls got this one by default because there were only four revivals.
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: Hair, big time. West Side Story had the momentum for a while, but Hair seems to have overtaken it. And rightly so.
Best Actor in a Musical
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish‚ Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal
WHO'S MISSING: Matt Cavenaugh for West Side Story
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: First, let me just say nominating all three Billys is annoying. So the Tony voters weren't brave enough to select one over the others? I saw Kiril Kulish, and his dancing was great, but his acting was one-dimensional. This one's a toss-up for me, between Gavin Creel and Brian D'arcy James, but I'm going to have to say BDJ, if only because I went to college with his sister. (You laugh, but do you really think the Tony voters don't take such things into account? I mean, c'mon.)
Best Actress in a Musical
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story
WHO'S MISSING: Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty for 9 to 5, Lauren Graham and Kate Jennings Grant for Guys and Dolls. I think the latter two may have been penalized because so many people didn't like the show, but I enjoyed both performances very much.
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: I really think this is Alice Ripley's year. She absolutely kicks major amounts of butt in N2N. Janney is a contender, but the tide of opinion seems to be turning against her show.
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair
WHO'S MISSING: The sexy and dynamic Mitchell Jarvis for Rock of Ages
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: Despite my deep affection for Christopher Sieber, and the fact that he's an absolute stitch in Shrek, I'm gonna have to go with Will Swenson, who has this unbelievable stage presence and vibrancy as Berger. Plus, he's frickin' hot as hell. (Why should that matter? Oh, please. As though the Tonys had anything to do with actual quality...)
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical
WHO'S MISSING: Amy Spanger for Rock of Ages, Allie Trimm from 13
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: I'm gonna say Karen Olivo, who is the best thing in West Side Story. She was such a revelation in this show, after being given such an underwritten role in the overrated In the Heights.
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal
WHO'S MISSING: The Story of My Life, with its lovely and simple all-white set, and A Tale of Two Cities. Tony Walton's skeletal, modular wonder was just about the only thing on stage at the Hirschfeld worth looking at.
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: The set for Pal Joey was colorless and dull. The Billy Elliot set is hideous beyond belief. Everyone hates Guys and Dolls. So, I'm going with N2N, with its sleek and functional three-tier grid.
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair
WHO'S MISSING: A Tale of Two Cities: Sure the show sucked, but the costumes were glam, and period pieces, even if they're huge flops, often score a nom. Heck, even Lestat got a costume nod.
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: I'm going with Shrek here. Yeah the reviews were tepid, and the show is losing money every week. But Hatley's costumes add considerable life to this lackluster affair, and all the other shows feature costumes they could have assembled from the casts' collective closets. I'm not saying that they did, but they coulda.
Best Direction of a Musical
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair
WHO'S MISSING: So many big hitters were roundly ignored this season, including Arthur Laurents for West Side Story, Joe Mantello for 9 to 5, and Richard Maltby Jr. for The Story of My Life
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: I'm going with Diane Paulus, who, with the able assistance of choreographer Karol Armitage, breathed dynamic life into a show that could easily have come off as shaky museum piece.
Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
WHO'S MISSING: Sergio Trujillo for Guys and Dolls, Joey McKneely for West Side Story. (Hey, if Ann Reinking can win a frickin' Tony for Chicago, why couldn't McKneely get a nom for WSS?)
WHOM I'M ROOTING FOR: He doesn't have a chance, but Randy Skinner did some pretty stellar work on White Christmas. The man is a tap whiz, and he really knows how to dress a stage. But something tells me this one is going to go to Darling. Blankenbuehler's a talented man, but his style was totally wrong for 9 to 5.