Award programs fluster people.
Audiences tune in to look at stars as they are, instead of as characters, and to see who receives the Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy or other prize being bestowed, but they don’t like slogging through awards that don’t involve performers, and they lose some interest when they don’t know the nominees or have a nominee for which to root.
The Tony Awards, which mark the end of a Broadway theater season, are probably the orphans of the Big Four awards ceremonies. Most viewers have not heard of, let alone seen, the shows being cited, and some actors who are gods and goddesses to theater buffs are unknown to the public that doesn’t frequent 12 particular blocks in Manhattan.
Oscars and Grammys feature a slew of nominees with whom people are unfamiliar, but the Tonys seem to have a cavalcade of them.
Many of the nominees eligible to receive a Tony this Sunday are household names made famous by their many television and movie appearances.
Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” has garnered all kinds of kudos and much justified fame. Neil Patrick Harris just ended a long skein on “How I Met Your Mother” and came to wide public attention as Doogie Howser, M.D. He has been a popular performer since he was a child.
Idina Menzel is enjoying new fame following her role voicing Elsa in “Frozen” and singing the Oscar-winning song, “Let It Go,” which can be heard issuing from every moppet age 4-8 on any given occasion. John Travolta’s mangling of her name on the Academy Awards broadcast gave Menzel more notice.
Cherry Jones was President Alison Taylor on Fox’s “24” for several seasons. Tyne Daly has been the linchpin for two popular shows, “Cagney and Lacey” and “Judging Amy.” Estelle Parsons, in addition to having one of the most distinguished careers in acting history, is remembered for her stint at Roseanne’s mother. Tony Shalhoub earned great popularity as the title character in “Monk” and plays an obsessive germophobe in the play for which he’s nominated, “Act One.” Mare Winningham is a well-known Brat Packer and has eight Emmy nominations.
Audra McDonald, who could make history Sunday, should be better known, but she may be recognized as the actress who played the “Mother Abbess” and thrilled viewers with her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” on NBC’s live showing of “The Sound of Music.” Sutton Foster had a brief stint in the national limelight on “Bunheads.”
So people tuning into the Tonys may know more of the nominees than they expect.
Besides, the Tonys are the most entertaining of the award shows. It features musical numbers from the nominees, giving viewers across America the chance to see some Broadway brightness and be entertained by some of the greatest performers in the world. There is, after all, no one as special as a Broadway dancer.
In terms of awards for technical and design achievement, I prefer to regard awards ceremonies as industry events to which the television audience is invited as interlopers. The best approach is to enjoy the victory of a talented person who is rarely recognized in the public spotlight and patiently wait for the next award for acting.
To make the Tonys more interesting for you (I hope), I will handicap the major races here and provide a headstart. The best approach is category by category.
Best Actor in a Musical: Neil Patrick Harris showed his energy, stamina, versatility as a performer, and gifts as an ad libber while acting as host of the Tony programs the past four years. This season, he is a likely winner for his turn as a transgender rock performer in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Harris brings amazing wit to his role and can break your heart in the bargain. His main competition is Jefferson Mays for his rollicking turn as several characters in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”
Best Actor in a Play: Bryan Cranston is having an incredible year. After wrapping up “Breaking Bad,” on which he made Walter White a character engrained in TV history, he took on the role of Lyndon Johnson in “All the Way” and is magnificent in it. He is also doing a fine job in the movie, “Godzilla.” Cranston’s competitors for the Tony crown are the redoubtable Mark Rylance, who could make Tony history by earning two acting prizes in one evening, and Tony Shalhoub, for his “Act One” turn in which he plays three distinct characters.
Best Actress in a Play: Cherry Jones was intelligent and spellbinding as Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie.” She will have heady competition from Audra McDonald, who acts out a nervous breakdown while giving a complete concert as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” set in Philadelphia. Latanya Richardon Jackson is an off-chance possibility for “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Best Actress in a Musical: This award is the most wide open. My preference is Jessie Mueller for her sharp, touching, and natural performance as singer-composer Carole King in “Beautiful.” Sutton Foster also does beautiful work that grows in power in “Violet.” Kelli O’Hara, a perennial nominee but never a Tony recipient, could be chosen for “The Bridges of Madison County,” a musical her quiet but poignant performance dominates. A win for O’Hara would be sweet.
Best Musical: In this year when revivals of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Cabaret” trump a lot of the new, the field is nonetheless varied and filled with wonderful shows, all of which have much to recommend them. My preference and prediction is “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” a fast and merry romp that keeps you laughing through a spate of serial killings. “Beautiful” is a strong contender, as Carole King’s story is told with intensity. “After Midnight” is a exhilarating fizzy revue. “Aladdin” rounds out the category. Movie derivatives “Rocky” and “Bullets Over Broadway” could easily have been included.
Best Play: The season has not produced a classic, but it has offered a lot of solid work that was enjoyable and entertaining. The main contenders are “All the Way,” a look at LBJ’s first year as president, and “Act One,” a well-made play in an old theatrical style that was good to see return. My preference is for “Act One” because the story of Moss Hart covers so much ground and because it rekindles a mode of playwriting that has been missing and is welcome. “All the Way” is the most likely recipient because of its scope, its incisive look at President Johnson as he shows how even an “accidental president” can play politics. Harvey Fierstein’s “Casa Valentina” is also a possible recipient. “Outside Mullingar” is on the Philadelphia Theatre Co.’s roster for next season.
In supporting roles, Mare Winningham from “Casa Valentina” and Celia Keenan-Bolger from “The Glass Menagerie” lead the Best Supporting Actress in a Play contention while Mark Rylance should take the Supporting Actor award for “Twelfth Night.” Everyone nominated should be called up for the Best Supporting Actress in a Musical category. I predict Lena Hall will prevail from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” My choice would be Anika Larsen from “Beautiful.” For Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, I highly favor Nick Cordero from the neglected “Bullets Over Broadway.” James Monroe Inglehart from “Aladdin” or Danny Burstein from “Cabaret” are more likely winners. Joshua Henry from “Violet” is also strong.
Covering the action
Kenneth Moton and Eva Pilgrim of Channel 6 did a fine job reporting the Philadelphia police search for a man who brandished a gun at the Community College of Philadelphia, but I thought the star of the “Action News” coverage was anchor Sarah Bloomquist, who asked salient and defining questions from the desk.
Bloomquist was off-camera, but she focused Moton and Pilgrim on what was important.
The reporter who was most concise and who captured and explained the news from PCC most concisely was Channel 3’s Walt Hunter. No surprise there. Hunter has cultivated police sources and had some information faster than his colleagues did. Most importantly, Hunter could fashion what we learned into a complete report that included details in the midst of sentences that covered the headlines.
Following the pack
Proof that news teams tend to be a pack that cover the same stories without much individuation from station to station was found in the coverage of this year’s Pennsylvania primary.
All of the local news departments gave ample time to the governor’s race, but none of them seemed to care that Philadelphia had a run-off for a vacant Council-at-Large seat. To find out who was running and what they thought, I had to go to websites. That’s how badly the news teams ignored a critical race that affects millions of people.
I would have loved to praise a station that broke the mold. Rather, my suspicion that they watch each other and repeat the same old goop is confirmed.
That begs the question, “Why be loyal to any of them when they’re essentially the same in ignorance as well as in coverage?”
On Dom Giordano’s radio program last Friday, I added to the challenges aimed at “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart from Philadelphia.
Dom and I were discussing Stewart’s slams at Philly when talk of the Art Museum steps arose. I said running up the steps for any reason is exercise. (Stewart said Philadelphians thinks it’s exercise.) Dom asked if I would dare Stewart to a run. I said I would.
So there we have it. Training starts the minute Stewart agrees.
I am heard on “The Dom Giordano Show” every other Friday at 10:50 a.m. on WPHT 1210 AM. I’ll be back Friday, June 13.
Thursday at 8 p.m., I will be with Lauren Hart on her program, “All Hart,” on Channel 44, WMCN-TV. The topic will be Sunday’s Tony Awards.Tags: actor, actress, concert, movie, music, producer, singer, television, tv