American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert sure seemed pumped catching a performance of Hair: The American Tribal Rock Musical on a quick trip to Broadway last week. Hair is the favorite to win Best Musical Revival when CBS broadcasts the Tony Awards this Sunday. Neil Patrick Harris will be hosting. That’s right, the sitcom star of How I Met Your Mother has stage credits stretching from Cabaret to Rent. If you saw NPH fire up SNL this season or spoof himself as a horndog junkie in two Harold & Kumar movies you know the former Doogie he has the sass to kick ass.
OK, why should anyone who lives outside of Manhattan give a damn about the Tonys? Listen up. The best of Broadway is usually smart, funny and provocative in ways Hollywood has given up on. Maybe that’s why so many movie and TV actors have decided to forgo fat paychecks and take a shot onstage where critics are ready to go medieval on their ass at the first sign of movie star ego or laziness. Look at the nominees — good and god-awful — in major categories, and make your own picks:
- Dividing the Estate (Author: Horton Foote)
- God of Carnage (Author: Yasmina Reza)
- Reasons to Be Pretty (Author: Neil LaBute)
- 33 Variations (Author: Moisés Kaufman)
- Will Win: God of Carnage has audiences lining up to watch stars James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels in person and in comically great working order. Hollywood is bound to make a movie of this domestic comedy and cast Twilight actors in these roles. See it before disaster strikes.
- Should Win: Reasons To Be Pretty is Neil LaBute at his scalding best on the hurt we inflict on each other in the name of love. But it’s not a hit. Tony likes hits and hates shows that close.
- Spoiler: Dividing the Estate playwright and legend Horton Foote died in March at the age of 92 without ever winning a Tony. Huh? What? You do the math. Attention must be paid.
- Billy Elliot, The Musical
- Next to Normal
- Rock of Ages
- Shrek The Musical
- Will Win: Elton John’s megahit Billy Elliot, from the better movie of the same name, will win everything. Which is wrong since damn near all the charm of the film is lost on stage. As for Shrek The Musical, it deserves to be slimed by ogres.
- Should Win: Next To Normal, with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and award-caliber music by Tom Kitt, deals with the effect of a mother’s bipolar disorder on her family. It’s a breakthrough rock musical that explodes with passionate spirit. How can it lose? Two words: Elton John.
Best Revival of a Play
- Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
- Mary Stuart
- The Norman Conquests
- Waiting for Godot
- Will Win: The Obamas came to Broadway last Saturday night to catch the justly acclaimed revival of August Wilson’s take on the black experience in Joe Turner. The Obamas are hot right now.
- Should Win: The Obamas did not fly in to catch Matthew Warchus’s superb restaging of The Norman Conquests, Alan Ayckbourn’s comic trilogy of sexual game playing among Brits. Edge lost.
Best Revival of a Musical
- Guys and Dolls
- Pal Joey
- West Side Story
- Will Win: West Side Story is the biggest hit of the four, and every minute of it rang artificial to me. But money talks on Broadway.
- Should Win: Hair. It’s great, and Adam Lambert flew in to see it. And Adam Lambert is hot right right now.
Best Performance by a Leading
Actor in a Play
- Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
- Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
- James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
- Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
- Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty
- Will Win: Geoffrey Rush. He’s an Oscar winner for Shine. He wears funny makeup and makes a lot of noise on stage. That’s acting!
- Should Win: I loved the comic fireworks between James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels, but Thomas Sadoski played it from the heart.
- Spolier: Raúl Esparza: When sushi poisoning (yeah, right!) forced his costar Jeremy Piven off stage and back to his entourage, Esparza carried on like the class act he is in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow.
Best Performance by a Leading
Actress in a Play
- Hope Davis, God of Carnage
- Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
- Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
- Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
- Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart
- Will Win: Tony voters lose their heads over the eloquence of Brit actresses, and Janet McTeer gives them reason to as the doomed Mary. So did her costar Harriet Walter as Elizabeth I. On Twitter, Kevin Spacey told me they should call both actresses to the stage and make them wrestle for the Tony. My, my, Keyser Soze.
- Should Win: Marcia Gay Harden. Her costar Hope Davis gets to vomit like a comet all over the stage, but Harden gave God of Carnage its grieving heart.
- Spoiler: Jane Fonda returned to Broadway after nearly a half century in a flawed play. But there was nothing flawed about her performance.
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
- David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical
- Gavin Creel, Hair
- Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
- Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
- J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal
- Will Win: The three boys who spell each other at different performances of Billy Elliot have been nominated for a single award that idiotically squishes their unique talents into a single mishmash. It makes no sense and it can’t miss. Think of the photo op.
- Should Win: J. Robert Spencer for anchoring Next To Normal as a father and husband at the breaking point. Spencer sings and acts beautifully. If only he had two other actors helping him play the role.
- Spoiler: Constantine Maroulis is the first American Idol contestant to ever be nominated for a Tony. Adam Lambert, eat your heart out.
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
- Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
- Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
- Alice Ripley,Next to Normal
- Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story
- Will Win: Aliced Ripley as the tormented mother in Next To Normal defines what a great performance in a musical is: unmissable and unforgettable.
- Should Win: Alice Ripley
- Spoiler: Alice Ripley. I’m covering all bases. I will wear a sign and picket the Tony administration building if she doesn’t win.
Best Special Theatrical Event
- Liza’s at The Palace
- Slava’s Snowshow
- Soul of Shaolin
- Your Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush
- Will Win: Liza Minnelli. Are you kidding? Liza is a living, breathing Special Event. What chance does a snowstorm or a Chinese martial-arts pageant have against Liza and her gay army!
- Should Win: Will Ferrell for giving Dubya one more hilarious kick in the ass. Ferrell recently joked to Conan O’Brien that Liza would win even though she was a Commie traitor and an insult to the American flag. Nice try, Ferrell.