The most important question for me about the 2013 Tony Awards is not: Is Kinky Boots a shoe-in for the bulk of its 13 Tony Award nominations, more than any other show this season?
Or: Will Matilda, with 12 nominations, dominate the night?
Or: Will Tom Hanks be the lucky guy he’s always been and win a Tony for his Broadway debut?
The question is: Why do so many theatergoers care what 435 people think?
There are just 868 voters for the Tony Awards. As theater critic (and Tony voter) Jeremy Gerard pointed out last week in his diatribe against “Phony Tony Voting“, many of these voters are from out-
of-town and don’t even see all the shows they’re voting on. Who are these voters? Many are theater artists; most seem to be in the business of commercial theater. Only 25 are critics; the rest of the critics are excluded under the Orwellian/Alice in Wonderland argument that we can’t be impartial since we’ve gone public with our opinions. Meanwhile, the decision-making is allowed into the hands of people who have a financial interest in the outcome.
In his article, Gerard also argues it is “rotten… that, after 67 years, the Tonys still exclude off-Broadway while claiming to celebrate the best of American theater.”
So why are the Tony Awards given so much more importance than any of the many, many other theater awards that have sprouted up since the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theater were established in 1947? The answer is simple: The Tony Awards show is the only one that is televised on a broadcast network. It is the only opportunity each year for millions of theater lovers to catch up on what’s happening on New York stages. Its influence is profound: Billy Porter, nominee this year for best performance of an actor in a leading role in a musical, says it was watching Jennifer Holliday perform in the 1982 Tony Awards that persuaded the then-12-year-old Pittsburgh native to become a professional performer.
Below are my picks for the 2013 Tony Awards — by which I mean, whom I would choose among the nominees. These are not my predictions of who will actually win: How can I guess what 800-odd people who haven’t even seen all the shows will vote for? And why should I, since I have seen all the shows?
Nominees: The Assembled Parties; Lucky Guy; The Testament of Mary; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Those who’ve been able to catch the 1955 movie of “The Big Knife,” with Rod Steiger’s absurdly over-the-top portrayal of the thug-like movie studio head, can even more appreciate Kind’s performance, which is modulated and credible before it becomes explosive; he seems to inhabit the role.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees: Charl Brown, Motown The Musical; Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody; Will Chase,The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical; Terrence Mann,Pippin
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees: Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots; Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella; Andrea Martin,Pippin; Keala Settle Hands on a Hardbody; Lauren Ward Matilda The Musical
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Nominees: Pam MacKinnon Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Bartlett Sher,Golden Boy; George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
My choice: John Lee Beatty The Nance
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Nominees: Soutra Gilmour Cyrano de Bergerac; Ann Roth The Nance; Albert Wolsky The Heiress; Catherine Zuber Golden Boy
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Nominees: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer Lucky Guy; Donald Holder Golden Boy; Jennifer Tipton The Testament of Mary;Japhy Weideman The Nance
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Nominees: John Gromada The Trip to Bountiful; Mel Mercier The Testament of Mary; Leon Rothenberg The Nance; Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg; Golden Boy
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL