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Awards Season

Back Stage Critics Make Tony Predictions

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Back Stage Critics Make Tony Predictions
Photo Source: Joan Marcus
Will it be "Once" or "Newsies"? Will the author of "Other Desert Cities" or "Clybourne Park" be mounting the stage at the Beacon Theatre to pick up Broadway's highest honor at the 66th annual Tony Awards? Back Stage chief critics Erik Haagensen and David Sheward have seen all the nominees and offer their opinions on who will win, who should win, and who was overlooked. Take a look at their picks and keep them handy as you watch the Tonys June 10 on CBS.

PLAY

"Clybourne Park"
"Other Desert Cities"
"Peter and the Starcatcher"
"Venus in Fur"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: "Other Desert Cities"
It's a close race between "Cities" and Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize winner, "Clybourne Park," but Jon Robin Baitz's dysfunctional family drama is more emotionally satisfying.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: "Other Desert Cities"
"Clybourne Park" is not as dangerous as it should be or thinks it is.

Sheward: "Clybourne Park"
Norris' stinging satire on race relations covers new territory and shakes up theatergoers' perceptions.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward: "The Lyons"
Nicky Silver's savage comedy wounds with wit and tears at the soul.

MUSICAL

"Leap of Faith"
"Newsies"
"Nice Work If You Can Get It"
"Once"

WILL WIN


Haagensen and Sheward: "Once"
It's another close race, here between quirky Irish romance "Once" and scrappy New Yawk "Newsies," but this should go the way of the 2004 "Avenue Q" and "Wicked" contest, with victory going to the intimate artsy underdog rather than the commercial crowd pleaser.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: "Newsies"
"Once" is "Ghost" for would-be hipsters.

Sheward: "Once"
This edgy charmer evokes the bonhomie of a Dublin pub and the power of music in an improvement on the hit indie film on which it is based.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward: "Lysistrata Jones"
Though it suffered in being pushed to Broadway size, Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn's update on Aristophanes had wit, sass, and melody.

REVIVAL OF A PLAY


"Death of a Salesman"
"Gore Vidal's The Best Man"
"Master Class"
"Wit"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: "Death of a Salesman"
It's Arthur Miller's masterpiece with the great Mike Nichols at the helm. It also got most of the reviews and is the hottest ticket in town.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: "Gore Vidal's The Best Man"
Andrew Garfield's miscasting as Biff compromises the power of "Salesman" more than Michael Wilson's unfortunate choice of Kerry Butler as Mabel Cantwell does Gore Vidal's expert political comedy-drama.

Sheward: "Death of a Salesman"
Nichols' production holds no surprises but still delivers a knockout blow.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward: Nothing


REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL


"Evita"
"Follies"
"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
"Jesus Christ Superstar"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: "Follies"

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: "Follies"
A flawed production of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's towering 1971 musical about the ravages of time and regret still trumps a bastardized classic ("Porgy and Bess") and indifferent takes on two Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice megahits ("Jesus Christ Superstar," "Evita"). Also, "Follies" the show has never won a Tony.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward: Nothing

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY


James Corden,
"One Man, Two Guvnors"
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
"Death of a Salesman"
James Earl Jones,
"Gore Vidal's The Best Man"
Frank Langella, "Man and Boy"
John Lithgow, "The Columnist"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Philip Seymour Hoffman
The race is between Hoffman and James Corden, but tragedy usually bests comedy.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: James Earl Jones
Hoffman is fine but not great, while Jones, playing a Southern white cracker of an ex-president of the United States, is consistently surprising and wonderfully funny.

Sheward: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Though nearly 20 years too young for Willy Loman, Hoffman is heartbreakingly real and convincing as this broken, regretful working stiff.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward:
Stacy Keach for "Other Desert Cities"
Keach's conservative patriarch of a political family has scads of subtext going on underneath his carefully constructed surface, resulting in one of the most complex characters of the season.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY

Nina Arianda, "Venus in Fur"
Tracie Bennett, "End of the Rainbow"
Stockard Channing,
"Other Desert Cities"
Linda Lavin, "The Lyons"
Cynthia Nixon, "Wit"

WILL WIN

Haagensen: Linda Lavin
It's another of those close races, this one between Stockard Channing and Lavin, but "The Lyons" opened late in the season and Lavin has the flashy star role, while Channing blends into a superb acting ensemble.

Sheward: Stockard Channing
Channing has been with her show since its Off-Broadway run last season, and she gets to deliver marvelous zingers along with an incredibly powerful monologue that wraps up the play.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: Stockard Channing and Linda Lavin
Both are so good that I'm rooting for a tie.

Sheward: Tracie Bennett or Nina Arianda
I'd be happy with either, because the challenges of both roles are so different, and both these actors meet them with such panache and skill.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED


Haagensen and Sheward: Tyne Daly for "Master Class" and Rachel Griffiths for "Other Desert Cities"
Daly polished a flawed Washington, D.C., performance into a glistening Broadway gem in a role that doesn't naturally suit her. Nobody plays damaged better than Griffiths, who made a masterful American stage debut.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL


Danny Burstein, "Follies"
Jeremy Jordan, "Newsies"
Steve Kazee, "Once"
Norm Lewis, "The Gershwins'
Porgy and Bess"
Ron Raines, "Follies"

WILL WIN


Haagensen and Sheward: Danny Burstein

SHOULD WIN


Haagensen and Sheward: Danny Burstein
Burstein is one of our most versatile actor-singers, and he topped himself as Buddy, particularly in the heartbreaking "The Right Girl" and a tour de force "God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues?" He and wife Rebecca Luker are beloved in the Broadway community, and it's his time.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED
Haagensen and Sheward: No one

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Jan Maxwell, "Follies"
Audra McDonald,
"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
Cristin Milioti, "Once"
Kelli O'Hara, "Nice Work If
You Can Get It"
Laura Osnes, "Bonnie & Clyde"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Audra McDonald
It's a nail-biter between McDonald and Jan Maxwell. McDonald is a Tony favorite, with four wins in the featured categories but still lacking the big one. Maxwell is a four-time nominee (once in each category, a rare feat) who has never won and is overdue. But voters will want to give the controversial "Porgy and Bess" some love, and it's likely to be shown to McDonald.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: Jan Maxwell
Like Tyne Daly, Maxwell improved on a shaky out-of-town performance to stunning effect. McDonald's forced work as Bess is considerably less than her best.

Sheward: Audra McDonald
McDonald once again proves why she is one of the leading Broadway divas of the day, with a complex interpretation of Dubose Heyward and George and Ira Gershwin's flawed heroine.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen: No one

Sheward: Elena Roger for "Evita"
She may not have Patti LuPone's pipes, but Roger stalks the stage like a ravenous tiger, on the hunt for fame and power.

ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

Christian Borle,
"Peter and the Starcatcher"
Michael Cumpsty,
"End of the Rainbow"
Tom Edden,
"One Man, Two Guvnors"
Andrew Garfield,
"Death of a Salesman"
Jeremy Shamos,
"Clybourne Park"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Christian Borle

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Christian Borle
This race will be won by either Borle or Andrew Garfield, but Garfield had a vocal minority of critical detractors, while Borle was virtually universally loved for his screamingly funny limning of the pompous pirate Black Stache. This time comedy will defeat tragedy.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen: Jim Dale for "The Road to Mecca"
Even though the play suffered from being in a theater that was too large, Dale was extraordinary as the manipulative local reverend determined to get his way but nevertheless full of love for Rosemary Harris' eccentric sculptor, whose work the man of God found so threatening.

Sheward: Oliver Chris for "One Man, Two Guvnors"
Though this National Theatre production is essentially an ensemble piece, Chris is especially buffoonish as an upper-class twit crashing his way through Brighton.

ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY


Linda Emond, "Death of a Salesman"
Spencer Kayden, "Don't Dress for Dinner"
Celia Keenan-Bolger, "Peter and
the Starcatcher"
Judith Light, "Other Desert Cities"
Condola Rashad, "Stick Fly"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Judith Light
Stepping into a role in which Linda Lavin triumphed Off-Broadway, Light took a different approach and got notices proclaiming her even better than Lavin.

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen: Judith Light
Light should win, both for allowing the audience to dislike her (unlike Lavin) and for the agony of emotions playing across her face when the alcoholic Silda's failures and deceptions are made clear to her beloved niece Brooke.

Sheward: Condola Rashad
Rashad overcame the contrivances in Lydia R. Diamond's script to deliver a moving performance as an intelligent girl searching for the truth about her roots.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen: Candice Bergen for "Gore Vidal's The Best Man"
As the estranged wife of the womanizing liberal presidential candidate, Bergen uses razor-sharp timing to land every one of Gore Vidal's bons mots while also communicating the depth of feeling she still has for her infuriating husband.

Sheward: Marlo Thomas for "Relatively Speaking"
Despite the unevenness of Elaine May's one-act in this trio of comedies, Thomas took obliviousness to new heights of hilarity as a self-centered new widow imposing on the daughter of her former nanny.

ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL


Phillip Boykin,
"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
Michael Cerveris, "Evita"
David Alan Grier,
"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
Michael McGrath,
"Nice Work If You Can Get It"
Josh Young, "Jesus Christ Superstar"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Josh Young

SHOULD WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Josh Young
Young's phenomenal voice is matched with marked acting ability. His Judas often steals the spotlight from Jesus. The only question: How many voters didn't see him because he missed several critics' previews? If the producers are smart, they'll invite Tony voters back.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen and Sheward: Patrick Page for "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"
Page's wildly funny, over-the-top supervillain was the best thing about this controversial comic-book spectacle.

ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Elizabeth A. Davis, "Once"
Jayne Houdyshell, "Follies"
Judy Kaye, "Nice Work If You Can Get It"
Jessie Mueller, "On a Clear Day
You Can See Forever"
Da'Vine Joy Randolph, "Ghost
the Musical"

WILL WIN

Haagensen and Sheward: Da'Vine Joy Randolph
It's an award-winning part for starters (just ask Whoopi), she inexplicably gets the 11 o'clock number, and it's the flashiest of all the nominated roles. Judy Kaye is fine, but we've seen her do it better elsewhere. Jayne Houdyshell and Elizabeth A. Davis have tiny roles. Jessie Mueller was in a flop everyone would like to forget.

SHOULD WIN
Haagensen: Jayne Houdyshell
True, it's a tiny part, but Houdyshell is perfection as Hattie, the best since the great Ethel Shutta created her. Randolph indulges in too much tired shtick.

Sheward: Da'Vine Joy Randolph
Randolph gives this trite show the bite that it so desperately needs, with a tart, no-nonsense take on a fake medium shocked by a genuine encounter with the supernatural.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED

Haagensen: Rosalind Elias and Terri White for "Follies"
Elias, as aged Viennese operetta star Heidi Schiller, summed up "Follies" in an exquisitely sung and intensely moving "One More Kiss." White's crackling Stella Deems rang with period authenticity and tapped up a blazing storm in "Who's That Woman?"

Sheward: Lindsay Nicole Chambers for "Lysistrata Jones" and Melissa van der Schyff for "Bonnie and Clyde"
Both Chambers, as a spiky feminist finding love with the campus jock, and van der Schyff, as a prim Depression-era housewife drawn into a life of crime, were the bright spots of their indifferently received shows.

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