Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Leading Men

A few days ago, I wrote about the leading men in plays, so I would like to follow that up today by writing about the leading men in musicals.  This year, this category (and, in fact, all the acting categories for musicals) looks pretty easy because there are enough shows this that do not lend themselves clearly to showcasing individuals in a traditional way.  In particular, I am thinking this way about American Idiot, Come Fly Away, and Sondheim on Sondheim, for which I cannot imagine ANY acting nominations coming to light.  In Bye Bye Birdie, we have John Stamos who starred in a terrible production and who gave a performance to match the show he was in -- no likelihood of a nomination there.  And while Finian's Rainbow had a number of stellar FEATURED performances, neither of the leading men (Cheyenne Jackson and Jim Norton) was good strong enough for a nomination.  As for Million Dollar Quartet and the revival of Promises, Promises, while they likely have some good roles for actors, I think the shows themselves are too much in the wildcard category for me to predict what will come of them in terms of actors ... especially given the strength of the other shows about which we already have good information.

That being said, it seems pretty clear that Sahr Ngaujah of Fela! is going to get a best actor nomination.  The character of Fela is a demanding role in this year's biggest new blockbuster, in a performance that was praised by everyone I've spoken to about it.

Next up is Chad Kimball in Memphis.  Having done my research, I found out that Kimball's character in the show, Huey Calhoun, is based on real-life Memphis DJ "Daddy-O" Dewey Phillips, whose rise to fame (and subsequent fall) is relatively close to what was portrayed in the musical.  Phillips' substance abuse, mannerisms, and voice were exactly as we saw Kimball perform them.  While we may not have known much about the man behind the character before knowing of this musical, the same can be said of Christine Ebersole's most recent Tony winning role -- Edith Beale, and it is no overstatement to say that Kimball channels his character just as well as Ebersole did hers.

Next up is Quentin Earl Darrington in Ragtime.  With the strong reviews this show got, especially for its actors, Darrington was singled out as among the better performances in this show.  Also, in the previous production of Ragtime on Broadway, Brian Stokes Mitchell received a Tony nomination for the same role.  While the show closed too early to guarantee him a win, Darrington has a strong shot at a nomination this year.

Then we get to Nathan Lane in The Addams Family.  This show is looking to be a big spectacle, and is a highly anticipated entry in the current Broadway season, which gives this show a good chance come time for nominations.  Lane is a recurring and beloved face in the New York theater scene and a somewhat frequent nominee for his work in musicals.  Also, how much more perfectly could the role of Gomez Addams have been cast than with Mr. Lane?  His looks and talents are so clearly suited to the role that not to nominate him would be a crime!

Last in this category is Alexander Hanson, who plays Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music.  He is the only member of the London production to have transferred with the production to Broadway, and it is easy to see why.  He performs the complex music with apparent ease and conveys the conflict within the character quite well -- a difficult character overall that he pulls of in style.  There is also the history that Len Cariou, who played the role in the original broadway production, was also nominated.  Most importantly, however, the fact that he is able to hold his own against the likes of Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones is no small consideration.

There are two potential monkey wrenches into this system which will have to wait to be seen once the productions actually open before I can tell if they are good enough to knock any of my predictions off the list.  The first (which I highly doubt to come true, but to whom I want to give the benefit of that  doubt) is Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises in the same role for which theater vet Jerry Orbach won his Tony over forty years ago.  The other (who might actually have a chance) is Douglas Hodge in La Cage Aux Folles.  It's a very showy role that won George Hearn his first Tony and gave Gary Beach an additional nomination.  On this one, I will have to feel out the buzz and the politics over the coming few months before officially giving him a nomination prediction.

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