Tony Awards Preview: Our critic handicaps the big races on Broadway’s biggest … – New York Daily News
Like a striving starlet’s glamour gown, some of the biggest Tony Awards races decided tonight will be supertight.
One is the contest for best musical, the most important category. This faceoff, which fans can watch live starting at 8 p.m. on CBS, will be more up-in-the-air than it’s been in several years.
Four shows are vying for the prize. None is a slam dunk, but each each has good things going for it The Cotton Club revue “After Midnight” grooves to a vintage jazzy jukebox, “Aladdin” gets the full Disney treatment, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” floats on King’s nostalgia-nursing pop classics, and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” shines in a jewel-like production.
“Beautiful” and “Gentleman” have won their share of other awards, making them dueling front-runners. But expect “Aladdin” to collect. Credit split votes — not magic (though James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the genie, will win best featured actor in a musical).
The race for best play is an easier call. “Act One,” “Casa Valentina,” “Mothers and Sons” and “Outside Mullingar” can bask in the warmth of a nomination. But “All the Way” will go all the way to the winner’s podium at Radio City.
The sprawling, nearly three-hour LBJ drama covers Lyndon Johnson’s momentous first year as President. Its ambitious portrait of America in flux will earn the vote.
The gleam surrounding “All the Way” will extend to its leading man. Playing the controversial commander-in-chief, Bryan Cranston is fully magnetic. Not bad for a Broadway rookie.
Meanwhile, the best actress in a play will go to Audra McDonald for her uncanny star turn as another famous figure — jazz great Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” McDonald already has been awarded five Tonys, tying her with Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris. Program the DVR for this piece of Tony history.
The smackdown for best actor in a musical is one of the evening’s sure things. Neil Patrick Harris, who’s won Emmys for hosting Broadway’s big night, will go home with a Tony for his dazzling performance as a gender-bending girlie man in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Harris’ bold and bracing work has made the show a must-see, and a must-pick for Tony voters. Same goes for “Hedwig” for best musical revival. Best play revival will go to “Twelfth Night,” a 400-year-old play that felt completely new as realized in an impeccable and transcendent production.
Speaking of transcendent, look for “The Bridges of Madison County” star Kelli O’Hara as the champ in the best actress in a musical category. The competition is fierce. Jessie Mueller is a lovely Carole King in “Beautiful,” Idina Menzel motors “If/Then,” Mary Bridget Davies rocks hard in “An Evening With Janis Joplin” and Sutton Foster is tough and tender in “Violet.”
But in a season of wonderful performances, O’Hara, a Tony bridesmaid on four previous occasions, gives a performance as an Italian war bride questioning life, love and choices that you feel in your heart and bones. “Bridges” has closed and won’t be represented with a performance on the telecast — a shame since the show will win for its beautiful score and orchestrations.
Tonys celebrate excellence — that’s what O’Hara’s performance is all about.