May 222019
 

As June 9, the Tony Awards night, nears, here are my thoughts on who and what will win versus should win.  The “will” part always requires a certain application of features that have little to do with the quality of the nominee: Will a Tony help the show in touring and will the voters with touring connection carry the voting? Is there a certain sentimentality or feeling of respect for the nominee?  Is the show still running so the Tony might effect box-office or be fresh in the mind of the voters?  Occasionally I cheat on the “will” category, predicting two possible winners.  The “should,” of course, is entirely my own assessment of the category.  Unfortunately, there were probably performances or achievements that I feel should have been nominated but were not.  With a few exceptions, rather than question the nomination process (and there is certainly room for that), I stick to only those who were nominated.  Finally, I see almost all the shows that play Broadway, but, at times, various factors prevent me from seeing production: scheduling, cost, and, yes, personal taste.  I will note those missed shows.

Best Play

Going into the nominations, it appeared one play was a sure bet.  The Ferryman has been a favorite and deservedly so.  Jaz Butterworth’s portrait of a Northern Ireland extended family in the later days of the IRA conflict is certainly the best play by him that I have ever seen.  The production directed by Sam Mendes is absorbing and the original cast was truly remarkable (including a live baby and an equally alive goose).  While I had a few reservations about the handling of the IRA elements, it was a moving and engrossing drama.  Of late, there has been a lot of buzz about What the Constitution Means to Me that transferred to Broadway after two successful runs Off-Broadway.  The nomination of Heidi Schreck’s autobiographical argument that the U.S. Constitution has failed to adequately protect women has taken on political steam.  Ms. Schreck’s analysis is right on the button and particularly relevant in light of “#Me Too” and recent legislation aimed at reversing Roe v. Wade.  But as theatre, “What Means” is more of an agitprop rather than a fully realized play.  It makes its points by revisiting Ms. Schreck’s childhood debate competitions on the Constitution and ends with a contemporary debate – partially written, partially improvised – between Ms. Schreck and a teenage challenger. 

The strangest nominee is Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus by performance artist Taylor Mac.  This a combination farce and satire that finds two lowly Romans cleaning up the mess of bodies left at the end of Shakespeare’s violent first tragedy. This might have been a very entertaining comedy were it not for George C. Wolfe’s surprisingly misguided direction.  The characters spend the entire 90 minutes yelling at each other and that gets quite tiring after about 15 minutes.  There is no sense of the rhythm or structure of farce in Wolfe’s interpretation and even two comic giants, Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen, cannot overcome the director’s excesses (e.g., for some strange reason, the Roman clown played by Lane has a cockney accent). In any other season, Ink, a lively and fascinating retelling of Rupert Murdock’s initial venture into British media in collaboration with his ruthless editor, Larry Lamb, would be a winner.  The production, directed by Rupert Goold and first produced by London’s Almeida Theatre, is full of telling observations and lots of theatricality with amazing performances by two of Britain’s best, Bertie Carvel and John Lee Miller.  A worthy runner-up!

It is interesting that neither of the adaptations of movies (and a novel) were nominated as best play.  Both “Network” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” were not nominated, even though both productions received multiple nominations in other categories.

Should: The Ferryman

Will: The Ferryman

(Note: I saw one of the nominees, Choir Boy, in its Off-Broadway production several years ago at the Manhattan Theatre Club, it’s Broadway producer.)

Best Musical

This category is a competition between utter originality and wonderful traditionalism. It’s tough to predict which will win out, although the outcome could be related to touring marketability and one good show attracting votes from another good show.  Hadestown is a remarkable achievement.  I fell in love with it several years ago in its acclaimed Off-Broadway run at the New York Theatre Workshop, one of NYC’s premiere developmental theatre companies.  It started out as a cult concept album by Anais Mitchel, a sort of folk opera telling of the Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice, merged with the story of the King of Hades and his wife, Persephone.  The NYTW production was an intimate and moving modern portrait of the lovers’ battle to save themselves from the tyrannical ruler of Hell. After it’s downtown run, it moved to a regional theatre in England and, eventually, in a greatly expanded production, to the National Theatre in London and a run in the West End.  Throughout its development, director Rachel Chavkin collaborated with Ms. Mitchel and the result is a truly original and fascinating show like no other you have ever seen.  For that successful originality, Hadestown is both my “should” and “will,” although that is hardly a reliable prediction.  There are two other very traditional shows in the running that could defeat the unusual, Tootsie and The Prom.  Of course, the former is an adaptation of the classic film and it is the level of success in adapting the original that puts it into the running.  Frankly, entering the theatre I expected another disappointing effort to make money off of the original’s popularity (think “Pretty Woman”).  But Robert Horn’s book is so full of laugh-outloud lines and skillful avoidance of the potentially negative contemporary political offenses of the original that it is that rare movie adaptation that feels fresh.  At times, that reworking is supported by David Yazbeck’s music and lyrics.  Mr. Yazbeck, whose extraordinary score for “The Band’s Visit” helped drive it to winning 11 Tonys last year, is most successful in the songs related to character development (a la Band’s Visit), but his production numbers come off a bit too traditional to match the book’s success. 

If Hadestown does not win, I would be perfectly happy to see The Prom take the award.  This original musical tells the story of four long-ago famous Broadway stars trying recapture their coverage in the media by traveling to a small town in Indiana to support a lesbian high school student who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.  This is a show with a very funny book and lots of attractive music to support its portrait of the washed-up actors and the efforts to convert the town to support the young gay couple (a bit of a stretch for Indiana).  It’s full of jokes about Broadway (the principal implores the actors to remember that “there are straight people who like musicals”).   The company is uniformly strong and the production numbers are lots of fun.  However, both Tootsie and The Prom could fall victim to one of the uncontrollable factors in voting by theatre professionals: they could attract votes from each other allowing Hadetown to take its rightful place as “Best Musical.”

Best Revival of a Play

For me, there is only one choice, but there is certainly competition.  Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was an insightful and harrowing production as relevant today as it was when it was written just after WWII.  I had always seen Miller’s play as a good, but not quite great, play.  But veteran director Jack O’Brien and a stellar cast headed by Annette Benning, Tracy Letts, and Benjamin Walker showed me things I had never noticed in Miller’s critique of responsibility in “military industrial complex” years before that phrase became an American idiom.  It’s a great example of Miller’s skill in humanizing the effect of the external on the internal.  Almost every element of this production was pitch perfect, capturing the audience in the struggles of its characters to live with their past.  Two other shows have a reasonable chance of winning. The revival of The Boys in Band last summer was a startling look at the portrayal of gays, historically and currently.  Mart Crowley’s play, the first to celebrate and comment on the life of urban homosexuals circa the 1960s, has been the subject of admiration and rejection by the gay community for 50 years.  This star-studded revival won praise both from the press and the gay community.  In those 50 years, the gay culture moved from closets to pride parades and the current proliferation of gay-based plays made Mr. Crowley’s biting portrait of pre-Stonewall life appear to be just one more historical snap-shot.  While the production had “sparkle,” figuratively and literally, the editing of the text into a one-act, 90 minute piece greatly reduced the power of the destructive game played by the characters, originally the full subject of the second act.

There is some “buzz” that The Waverly Gallery might be a dark horse winner. Frankly, I was puzzled by the warm reception received by this revival of the play by Kenneth Lonergan.  It’s the story of family and acquaintances dealing with the progression of an aged Village art dealer into dementia.  I did not find many interesting insights and the performances were generally “workable” (see Best Actress comments below).  The revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, no longer a “trilogy” but a skillfully edited two-acter, was wonderful with Michael Urie when I saw it Off-Broadway last year.  But its transfer to Broadway could not find an audience and it closed long before anticipated.  I did not see the other nominee, Burn This, with a critically acclaimed powerful performance by Adam Driver.

This is a tough category to predict a winner.  The “buzz” around The Waverly Place is significant, if undeserved.  Boys in the Band has a chance; it is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and NYC is planning a big celebration in theatres and on the streets.  All My Sons received raves from every mainstream critic except Jesse Green in The Times.  It’s produced by a not-for-profit which can be a disadvantage in a competition with for-profit voters.  So my “will win” is more a matter of hope than expectation — and it’s still running, usually an advantage, even for the profitless.

Should: All; My Sons

Will: All My Sons

Best Revival of a Musical

This year’s “competition” demonstrates the disadvantage of limiting the nominees to Broadway productions.  There are only two nominees because there were only two Broadway revivals and one was a transfer from an Off-Broadway production.  Both are the products of not-for-profits.  Kiss Me, Kate, produced by Roundabout Theatre, is a great revival of a musical that fails to live up to its reputation. Not surprisingly, Kelli O’Hara gives a smashing performance as the title character; not so much so for Will Chase’s Petruchio.  But some of the tamed fire in Chase’s performance is due to director Scott Ellis’ efforts to tone down the shows inescapable misogyny. For me, the real fault in this production is the show itself.  Written several years after Rodgers and Hammerstein along with Agnes de Mille changed musical theatre by integrating all of the elements of the show — book, music, and dance.  Kiss Me, Kate plays like a 1930s musical where the musical numbers are only tangentially related to the plot and the book is paper thin.

Ironically, the other nominee is a rethinking of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ground-breaking creation, Oklahoma!.  This production originated at Bard College’s summer festival a few years back and was revived at the always experimental St. Ann’s Warehouse last fall before transferring to Broadway’s only theatre-in-the-round, Circle in the Square.  This is a remarkable production, stripped of the usual dazzle typical of traditional musicals.  Instead, this Oklahoma! is played amazingly realistically — with the realism and down-to-earth viewpoint of its inspiration, Lynn Riggs’ “Green Grow the Lilacs.”  The cast is small and they are all more actors than singers and dancers. Ado Annie is played convincingly by Ali Stroker, a person with a disability in a wheelchair.  This new take on this classic lets the audience see the brilliance of Hammerstein’s book and especially his lyrics.  This is a portrait of the American push to the West and this production allows this musical to be worth looking at anew.

Should: Oklahoma!

Will: Oklahoma!

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

If Hadestown does not win this award, there is no justice.  Original, frequently hummable, and full of insight, Anais Mitchell has joined a genre that has not been on Broadway for a very long time: a folk-opera.  As noted above, both The Prom and Tootsie have workable, and at times distinctive, music, but neither even attempts the level of sophistication and inventiveness of Hadestown.  There is a possible sleeper in this category, Be More Chill. I did not see this show and the critics were not kind, but it’s a very popular show with the millennials, giving it an audience in spite of its negative critical reception and the usual demographics of audiences for Broadway musicals.  Another oddity is the nomination of To Kill a Mockingbird in this category.  “Mockingbird” is a straight play with incidental music; frankly, I saw this production and have no memory of the incidental music.  Composer Adam Geuttel is considered a Broadway composer and his musical fame rests largely on “The Light in the Pliazza.” I can only guess that the nominating committee wanted to recognize a line of composers usually ignored at theatre awards. (Note: I have not seen the other nominee, Beetlejuice.)

Should:  Hadestwon

Will: Hadestown

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

This is a stiff competition. Paddy Considine, as the would-be master of the house in The Ferryman,” was fascinating and multi-dimensioned.  Playwright Jaz Butterworth is always more interested in character than plot and Considine fulfilled that interest.  Jeff Daniels was competent as Atticus Finch but unfortunately he falls into the trap of playing a character made famous by one of Hollywood’s greatest, Gregory Peck — he’s no Gregory Peck.  But Daniels does not fail because of Peck’s shadow.  He is a good actor with good instincts.  But Atticus Finch has to have a sort of charisma.  We have to be drawn to him for reasons we cannot explain, even though the play (movie and book) gives us lots of obvious reasons to like this southern small town lawyer.  It was recently announced that Richard Thomas will head the cast of the national tour of “Mockingbird.”  While he’s no Gregory Peck either, he has a natural charm and earthiness that could make the tour especially attractive.  For me, the best performance was unquestionably Bryan Cranston as the dangerously disenfranchised anchorman, Howard Beale.  This is another role for which the actor has to overcome the memory of an Oscar wining performance, in this case by Peter Finch. Unlike Daniels, Cranston succeeds in flying (but disturbing) colors.  Seeing this play, I kept thinking about the brilliance of the original author, Patty Chayevsky. Forty-five years ago he predicted exactly where we are today in the world of media.  Cranston clearly recognizes the contemporary relevance and Ivo van Hove’s production gives him the unrestrained environment that makes Beale’s excesses not only credible but also terribly distressing.  The prediction of “will win” is tough.  Daniels certainly has a good chance as does Jeremy Pope who gave a wrenching performance in “Choir Boy,” especially if Cranston and Daniels cross each other out in the voting.

Should: Brian Cranston

Will: Paddy Considine

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Another tight race!  For me, Annette Benning gave the most remarkable performance among the nominees.  She took a character that is usually portrayed as the moping mommy incapable of confronting the truth and turned her into a controlling “master of the house,” largely responsible for the suffering of her family and her husband’s deserved guilt.  But I will be surprised if Elaine May does not win for her portrayal of the art dealer with dimentia in “The Waverly Place.”  Ms. May is a legend on Broadway dating from her early years as Mike Nichols comic partner.  Her performance received critical acclaim, although I found it to be one dimensional and bland when it should have created empathy for the characters trying to interact with her.  The other strong competitor is Heidi Schreck in her almost single character performance in “What the Constitution Means to Me.”  Many of the voting factors I noted in this play’s “Best Play” competition apply to Ms. Schreck’s performance, as do the the negative aspects that I noted.  She certainly believes in what she is saying and she turns her play into imploring the audience to see things as she does.  Yes, her analysis is correct and timely, but does that justify such a “hammer in the head” performance?  Laurie Metcalf is in a misguided and ever so superficial portrait of the Hillary and Bill Clinton written by the promising playwright Lucas Hnath.  She has won Tonys two years in a row (Hnath’s “The Dolls House. pt 2” and Albee’s “Three Tall Women”).  So it’s fair to assume that even though her performance is up to her high standard, she is unlikely to get three in a row.  However, she is the reigning queen of theatre on Broadway. 

Should: Annette Benning

Will: Elaine May

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

I have little doubt that Santino Fontana will win for “Tootsie.” He also was faced with the shadow of an amazing film performance by Dustin Hoffman.  He also had to “tame” the character so as not to offend the current audience members.  This was another competent but, to me, not particularly impressive performance.  Yes, he sang like a woman and landed the carefully crafted funny lines, but this was a character with very little character.  This was most telling when he was not talking; he always seemed to be waiting for next line rather responding to the various eccentricities of the other characters.  Damon Daunno acted the part of Curly in “Oklahoma!” convincingly, giving us a much more realistic view of a cowboy in the emerging state.  But his voice just was not up to the Richard Rodgers challenge.  Some would suggest that his insecure range contributed to the realism, but for me, it was a distraction.  I did not see either “Ain’t Too Proud (the Temptations music-box) or the musical adaptation of “Beetlejuice,” so I cannot comment on Derrick Baskin or Alex Brightman respecitively.  However, Brooks Ashmanskas was a joy in “The Prom.”  He conquered a very unique challenge; he had to play an ultra-swishy aging gay man without offending swishy aging gay men or unfairly reenforcing a stereotype.  His performance was so funny and always so on-the-mark that I had little time or desire to think about what this role on Broadway says about gay people, swishy or not.  While all four actors portraying actors were wonderful, Ashmanskas’ performance was charming and truly memorable.

Should: Brooks Ashmanskas

Will: Santino Fontana

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

For me, there are no standouts for this category.  Kelli O’Hara was her usual knockout self in “Kiss Me Kate,” almost singularly responsible for the revival’s popularity. Caitlin Kinnunen

as the persecuted lesbian in “The Prom” was endearing but the role was more of a motivation for others to shine than a probing portrait of the challenges a young gay person faces.  Beth Leavel was lots of fun as one of the egocentric actors in “The Prom,” but there was very little to compete with Brooks Ashmanskas’ “queen of the night.”  I did not see “The Cher Show” but friends and critics raved about Stephanie J. Block’s insightful portrait of the pop star and she is likely to win.

Should: No preference

Will: Stephanie J. Block

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

There is really no competiition in this category.  Bertie Carvel’s portrayal of the young Rupert Murdock won the Olivier Award in London and almost assuredly (and deservedly) will win the Tony in New York. Carvel gives fascinating dimension to a person we usually see as simply a villain.  James Graham’s script shows Murdock in conflict between his business instincts and his dwindling humanity and Carvel makes that conflict believable, even to those who loath the “mature” Murdock.  Robin De Jesus was truly wonderful as the ultra-queen in “Boys in the Band,” but the production is only a memory now.  Gideon Glick was as good as can be expected from an adult actor playing a young boy in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but the “adults as children” in this production was acceptable but not totally convincing.  Benjamin Walker as the surviving son in “All My Sons” was very good and were it not for Carvel’s performance, he might be my favorite. 

Should: Bertie Carvel

Will: Bertie Carvel

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

This a particularly rich category.  Fionnula Flannagan is both funny and ingratiating as the dementia stricken Aunt Maggie Far Away in “The Ferryman.”  She elicits very real empathy from the audience.  Celia Keenan-Bolger overcomes the challenges of an adult playing a young girl as Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The audience comes into this play with a preexisting picture of what Scout should be and Keenan-Bolger fulfills that expectation.  Two masters of comedy are nominated from the messy production of “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus.”  Kristine Nielsen can make the dullest comic line hilarious by the simple contortions of her face and she certainly uses that skill liberally as Janice, the experienced clean-up woman.  But as noted above, George C. Wolfe’s direction forces the actors to overplay every aspect of the script.  It should be noted that Andrea Martin was originally scheduled to play Janice, but dropped out due to an injury. Martin’s name appeared above the title making Janice a major character (versus “featured”). But for some reason, Nielsen was reduced to a supporting character even though the character is on stage through the whole production and is no less a leading character than Lane’s clown.  The other “Gary” nominee, Julie White, is the likely winner and that would not disappoint me.  For some reason, she does not scream all of the time and her petite commentaries at the beginning of the play and toward the end are thoroughly entertaining.  There is lots of buzz around Ms. White and is likely to win. The strangest nominee comes from one of the strangest casting choices of the season, Ruth Wilson in “King Lear” played both Cordelia, daughter of Lear, and the fool. There were so many bad choices in Sam Gold’s production that trying to figure the point of this dual assignment is  pointless. 

Should: Fionnula Flannagan or Julie White

Will: Julie White

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

This is another rich category and unfortunately I did not see two of the performances in “Ain’t too Proud”: Jeremy Pope and Ephraim Sykes.  Andy Grotelueschen is the perfect roommate, Jeff, in “Tootsie” and he has one the show’s most entertaining musical numbers at the start of the second act, “Jeff Sums It Up.”  This is a stereotypical role — the true pal — but Grotelueschen makes the most of it.  Patrick Page has an amazing lower range, a true basso profondo, and that deep sound provides most of his strength as the King Hades in “Hadestown.”  On the other-hand, Andre De Shields’ jazzy vocals and ultra-smooth movement provides a rhythm and sparkle to the show’s narration as “Hadestown’s” Hermes.  He is a a living legend and his performance confirms that the legend is alive and well at 73 years.

Should: Andre De Shields

Will: Andre De Shields

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Lillie Cooper plays the role originated by Jessica Lange in the movie of “Tootsie,” Julie Nichols, the woman that Tootsie begins to see romantically.  Ms. Cooper plays the “straight woman” to Fontana’s drag well, but the performance is not that special.  On the other hand, Sarah Styles eats up the franticness of Sandy Lester, Tootsie’s former girlfriend, and her songs are delivered with crazed humor.  Amber Gray has gotten a lot of praise and buzz for her performance as Persephone, Hades’ frustrated wife.  She certainly knows how to sell a number and steal the scene — there’s no subtlety in her performance.  For me, the real competition is between Ali Stroker and Mary Testa in “Oklahoma!”  Ms. Testa is a favorite of mine and she is a perfect choice for Aunt Eller.  Her performance is probably the closest to the usual take on an “Oklahoma!” character in a production that consistently breaks with tradition.  It is Ali Stroker who best represents the total rethinking of this classic.  Her Ado Annie is in a wheel-chair but has all of the pep and uncontrollable “can’t say no” energy this role requires.  Yes, at first you say “Ado Annie in a wheel-chair?” But a few minutes into her performance, you just see a great Ado Annie.

Should: Ali Stroker

Will: Ali Stroker

Best Scenic Design of a Play

All of the nominees produced interesting and supportive designs. Rob Howell’s unit set for “The Ferryman” gave a true feeling of the locale and social status of struggling Northern Ireland farmers.  Santo Loquasto designed the stacks of bodies in “Gary” with a sense of absurdism that matched Taylor Mac’s farcical humor.  Miram Buether’s flexible design for “To Kill a Mockingbird” served Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation well, but it was not particularly distinctive. The two remaining nominees are my favorites.  Jan Versweyveld’s unit set for “Network” was possibly the most active unit set I have ever experienced.  Views of the control room, a small dining area, a fully operational studio room, and projections gave a real sense of the environment and matched the size and frenzy of the uncontrollable central character.  But for me, the most creative and informative set was Bunny Christie’s piled up newsrooms for “Ink.”  The stacked remnants of tradition news rooms gave a sense of the chaotic nature of the play’s action and set an appropriate environment for the play’s unusual style (e.g., dancing reporters vs. intimate cafe scenes).

Should: Bunny Christie

Will: Bunny Christie or Santo Loquasto

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Once again there are two shows in the running that I did not see: “Beetlejuice” and “Ain’t Too Proud” and my guess is that Beetlejuice is certainly in the running.  “Oklahoma!” had very little in the way of a set, part of the show’s charm.  The few elements that Laura Jellinek provided were very supportive of the style of the production. The Tony nominators have taken the unusual step of announcing ahead of the awards show a special Tony for the creators of the monster in “King Kong.”  Since that mega-puppet is the main attraction of this otherwise boring musical, and the sets look like the 1930s styles of the original movie, Peter England’s set in not distinctive — but what a monster!  For me, the “Hadestown” set by Rachel Hauck deserves Tony recognition.  It’s another unit set with moving parts that beautifully supports the action of the show.

Should: Rachel Hauck

Will: Rachel Hauck or ???

Best Direction of a Play

It’s tough to distinguish among several truly remarkable works by directors.  For me, “Ink,” “The Ferryman” and “Network” were each lessons in fine directing.  Unfortunately, the director I would give the directing award to was not even nominated: Jack O’Brian for “All My Sons.”  His production left me literally breathless.  Bartlett Sher did what Bartlett Sher does best for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Even though this is a play about a horrible injustice, Sher brought a tone of sentimentality to this production, sort of pandering to an audience that has loved this book and movie for generations. Sam Mendes gave “The Ferryman” a moving sense of time and place.  The emphasis in Butterworth’s writing is on characters and Mendes knows how to bring out the true souls of his actors. Ivo van Hove is one of those “love him” or “hate him” artists and I am happily a member of the former group.  The challenge here was to create a theatrical telling of a story that the audience knew very well from its classic film.  Working with his production team from his home-base in Amsterdam, he created a fascinating sense of the current excesses of media superstars.  Yes, he goes overboard occasionally, like a live video broadcast from the street near the Belasco Theatre, but then this is a play about being overboard.  For me, Rupert Goold’s direction of “Ink” made this play a fascinating and entertaining portrait of a time and place that continues to distort and pander to our weaknesses.  The success of a new play frequently requires a productive collaboration between the playwright and the director.  It is clear that the collaboration between Goold and playwright Graham blossomed in the original production at London’s Almeida Theatre and continued in the Manhattan Theatre Club transfer.

Should: Rupert Goold

Will: Sam Mendes

Best Direction of a Musical

There are three strong contenders in this category: Casey Nicholaw for “The Prom;” Daniel Fish for “Oklahoma!” Rachel Chavkin for “Hadestown.”  Casey Nicholaw proved that an old-fashioned musical with a contemporary twist could still entertain a Broadway musical audience.  “The Prom” does slow down during the second act, but Nicholaw’s energetic choreography and sleek comedic sense in direction make for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  Rachel Chavkin has shepherded “Hadestown” from a small Off-Broadway adaptation of a cult concept album to a full-scale Broadway extravaganza.  What is most amazing about her collaboration with composer Anais Mitchell is her ability to rethink and expand each iteration.  But for me, the most remarkable achievement in musical direction this year is Daniel Fish’s reimagining of “Oklahoma!”  Last year we had a luke-warm restaging of “Carousel” that could have left a young theatre goer saying “what is all the fuss about?”  Fish’s realistic, scaled down “Oklahoma!” is exactly the type of new wave that rethinks “the old wave” that should stimulate future productions of classics.  A remarkable achievement.

Should: Daniel Fish

Will: Rachel Chavkin or Casey Nicholaw

(Note: Did not see “Ain’t Too Proud” and was not impressed by Scott Ellis’ work on “Tootsie”)

 Posted by at 4:00 pm

  One Response to “2019 Tonys: Who Should Win and Who Will Win”

  1. I am in agreement with most of your choices but I prefer Santino Fontana for best actor in a musical, Benjamin Walker for best featured actor in a play and Celia Keenan-Bolger for best featured actress in a play, Kelli O’Hara is my choice for best actress in a musical, but I didn’t see Stephanie J. Block. I prefer Sam Mendes over Rupert Goold for best direction of a play and Rachel Chavkin for best direction of a musical.
    I will be upset but not surprised if Elaine May gets best actress in a play. Perhaps I saw her too soon after a botox treatment, but her face didn’t move. I am also upset that one of my favorite plays of the year, the intelligent, funny Lifespan of a Fact, with three terrific performances, was completely overlooked.

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