Each year the Tony awards, in an effort to reverse a seemingly inexorable ratings decline, drop a few more of the actual awards from the live telecast (on CBS Sunday evening at 9 p.m. EDT). The goal, of course, is to make room for the program's real raison d'etre: excerpts from the Broadway shows it is busily trying to sell to tourists planning summer trips to New York. But there are 26 little statuettes to be given out tonight, and I have a special stake in reminding you of that. I'm one of the 796 Tony voters.
I don't pretend that my votes are any kind of reliable predictor of who will or won't win. I don't even pretend that they're backed by any special knowledge or coherent reasoning hey, I'm a theater critic, not an expert in sound design. Indeed, the dirty little secret is that voting for the Tonys is a dangerously haphazard affair. It's not a pretty picture, but here's a quick run-down of how I voted and why listed in the (somewhat arbitrary) order they're given on the ballot, which you can see here (and is continued here)
Three Brit imports (Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer and The 39 Steps) vs. a lone American play, August: Osage County, and for once the homegrown entry is the favorite. And for once I'm backing a winner: Tracy Letts' explosive family drama is the easiest choice of the night.
Two campy trifles (Cry-Baby and Xanadu) vs. two more adventurous, new-style musicals, Passing Strange and In the Heights. Both are worthy, but Heights, as the fuller theatrical experience, is my narrow choice.
Best Book of a Musical
No good options here. For all four nominees (the same four as above), the book was actually the weak link. I opted for Stew's autobiographical Passing Strange, but only by process of elimination.
A tough one, but my vote went for Lin-Manuel Miranda's mix of salsa and hip-hop for In the Heights over Stew's appealing alt-rock melodies.
Best Revival, Play
Two good choices: The Homecoming, a sharp Pinter revival, and a great, grisly new Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart (my pick). What I really want to do is vote against Boeing Boeing, an inane sex farce up for far too many awards.
Best Revival, Musical
Liked 'em all: snazzy new versions of Grease, Gypsy and Sunday in the Park With George, and a fairly traditional but winning revival of that long-unseen warhorse, South Pacific. The oldie gets my vote.
Best Actor, Play
No competition here: Stewart was a titanic Macbeth. But buzz is building for Mark Rylance's annoying comic turn in Boeing Boeing. I'm preparing to be outraged or as outraged as one can get at the Tonys.
Best Actress, Play
Both nominees from August: Osage County - Deanna Dunagan as the lethal matriarch and Amy Morton as the suffering daughter - are deserving, but Dunagan's performance is showier and more memorable.
Best Actor, Musical
Stew (Passing Strange) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) were winning presences onstage. But acting? I go with Paulo Szot, South Pacific's charismatic romantic lead.
Best Actress, Musical
Kelli O'Hara, a favorite of mine, didn't seem quite right as Nellie in South Pacific. But Patti LuPone, no favorite of mine, got the role of her life in Gypsy and did wonders with it.