What kind of a season was it on Broadway? As usual, it depends onwho you ask.
On the one hand, there's Tom Hanks, who made his Broadway debut inthe late Nora Ephron's "Lucky Guy," not only surviving the gauntletof critics but looks to be in line for a Tony Award tonight whenthe 67th annual commercial theater love-in is broadcast on CBStonight (8 p.m.).
On the other hand, Frank Wildhorn's revived and re- conceived"Jekyll & Hyde" opened to a string of pans, including the New YorkTimes' description of the mega-successful composer's work as "thecrabgrass of Broadway." Even the so-called Jekkies, the show'sdie-hard fans, were scared away as it gave up and closed two weeksafter it opened.
Late in the season, Broadway got three smash hit musicals -- "Matilda," "Kinky Boots" and an innovative revival of "Pippin" -- exactly the sort of money machines that keep the theater districthumming. Yet even though ticket prices keep spiraling upward (nowas high as $167, not counting premium surcharges), the total boxoffice for Broadway this season, $1.14 billion, is actually down ahair from the previous year, the first slippage in five years.
Still, the Tony Awards are all about the hyping and marketing ofBroadway, so tonight's ceremony -- again hosted by Neil PatrickHarris, known for remaining cool under pressure and looking good ina tuxedo -- will try to accentuate the positive.
The telecast, a notoriously low ratings-getter, likes to showcasethe many stars of film and television who landed on Broadway. Theproblem is that most of them landed in sub-par shows and were notrewarded with nominations. Hanks is an exception and he has beenannounced as a presenter, as well as good sport snubs ScarlettJohannson ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof") and Cuba Gooding, Jr. ("TheTrip to Bountiful"). However, do not expect to see the likes of AlPacino ("Glengarry Glen Ross"), Alec Baldwin ("Orphans"), KatieHolmes ("Dead Accounts"), Jessica Chastain ("The Heiress") or AlanCumming ("Macbeth"), none of whom was deemed award-worthy.
Cumming's "Macbeth" was one of several one-person shows on Broadwaythis season, including Holland Taylor in "Ann," Bette Midler in"I'll Eat You Last, A Chat with Sue Mengers" and Fiona Shaw in "TheTestament of Mary." That last one, a monologue by the Virgin Marytelling her side of the New Testament story about her son, drewcharges of blasphemy and pickets from a nonprofit Catholicorganization. That sort of protest usually gains a productionattention and added business, but audiences still stayed away indroves.
On yet another hand, playwright Christopher Durang -- who had hisown troubles with the Catholic Church many years ago with hisoff- Broadway comedy "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You"-- had his first Broadway production in 17 years and his first Tonynomination in 35 years for his Chekhovian romp, "Vanya and Soniaand Masha and Spike," a front-runner for Best Play. But the Tonys,like the Oscars, are wary of giving its top award to comedies.
The only sure thing is that the broadcast will be over in threehours. Because of its low ratings, the network does not allow theshow to run overtime, as the Oscars inevitably do. There are boundto be surprises tonight, but the running time will not be one ofthem.
HAP'S TOP TONYS PICKS
Here, as a gambling aid, in case you can persuade someone to bet onthe Tony Awards, are Hap Erstein's highly unreliable picks fortonight's 67th annual Tonys:
BEST PLAY -- "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike"
BEST MUSICAL -- "Matilda The Musical"
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY -- "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL -- "Pippin"
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL -- "Matilda The Musical"
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE -- "Kinky Boots"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR, PLAY -- Tom Hanks, "Lucky Guy"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS, PLAY -- Cicely Tyson, "The Trip toBountiful"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR, MUSICAL -- Billy Porter, "KinkyBoots"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS, MUSICAL -- Laura Osnes, "Rodgers &Hammerstein's Cinderella"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR, PLAY -- Richard Kind, "TheBig Knife"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS, PLAY -- Judith Light, "TheAssembled Parties"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR, MUSICAL -- Terrence Mann,"Pippin"
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS, MUSICAL -- Andrea Martin,"Pippin"
BEST SCENIC DESIGN, PLAY -- "The Assembled Parties"
BEST SCENIC DESIGN, MUSICAL -- "Matilda The Musical"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN, PLAY -- "The Nance"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN, MUSICAL -- "Rodgers & Hammerstein'sCinderella"
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN, PLAY -- "Lucky Guy"
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN, MUSICAL -- "Matilda The Musical"
BEST SOUND DESIGN, PLAY -- "The Nance"
BEST SOUND DESIGN, MUSICAL -- "Motown The Musical"
BEST DIRECTION, PLAY -- "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"
BEST DIRECTION, MUSICAL -- "Pippin"
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY -- "Kinky Boots"
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS -- "Matilda The Musical"
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