April 12, 2001

Tony Talk

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The May 2nd deadline of eligibility for the 2001 Tony season is approaching fast. The nominations will come out May 7th, and the ceremony is set for June 3rd. Here’s the early scoop for the four main categories.

New Musicals

Even though A Class Act opened to rave reviews at the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) Off-Broadway, it lost its intimate feel by moving to a larger Broadway theatre. Another Broadway debut, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is suffering from very little press. The producers are taking a huge risk by putting it in the mammoth-sized Minskoff Theatre. Don’t expect it to run past August.

Jane Eyre is out of the race. Look for Marla Schaffel as best actress, Paul Gordon for music and lyrics, and Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer to win for best lighting. But the negative reviews are stamped on the show, and it won’t win for best musical. Similarly, Kevin Chamberlin will get a nod for best actor in Seussical, but don’t expect much from the show itself. The show has a wonderful first act, but a painful second.

The two main contenders are The Full Monty and The Producers. Monty opened to raves. Its user-friendly lyrics and catchy tunes leave the audience with a huge smile. The play by Terrence McNally stays true to the movie’s script, and the humor still works well on stage. Usually nudity is a problem on stage. It ruins the audience’s suspension of disbelief, and we’re suddenly aware that an actor, and not a character, is naked. But this works wonderfully with Monty, since these characters are incredibly nervous about baring it all. We transfer the nervousness to them, not the actors.

Mel Brooks’ adaptation of his Oscar-winning Producers also won over the New York audiences. It stars Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Roger Bart, Tony winners all. Susan Stroman always awes an audience with her choreography and direction. Look for Producers to edge out Monty. It will be the hottest ticket in town this summer, despite what musical theatre professor Scott McMillin, says.

Musical Revivals

Since there are only four musical revivals this year, they’ll all be nominated to fill the slots. Rocky Horror is a teen and groupie pleaser, but it won’t pull much weight with the more highbrow Tony voters. Bells are Ringing has the adorable Faith Prince (a definite best actress possibility), but it isn’t attracting a lot of attention at the Plymouth Theatre. 42nd Street is opening (appropriately) at the Ford Center on, you guessed it, 42nd Street. But it is opening at the last minute, on May 2nd. It will have to scramble for press to make a big enough impact with the voters.

The main contender in the race is Stephen Sondheim’s jewel, Follies. The always-competent Matthew Warchus directs, with choreography by Kathleen Marshall. The show was slighted in 1971 and did not win best musical. The Tony committee won’t make the same mistake again. This one is a landslide.


Neil Simon will get a nod for his successful comedy The Dinner Party. Twice a Pulitzer winner, August Wilson’s King Hedley II will open with ever-popular actor Brian Stokes Mitchell. The sharp-witted Tom Stoppard play, The Invention of Love, may also stand a chance.

But the two plays to beat are Stones in His Pockets and Proof. Stones recently won London’s Best Comedy Olivier award. But, Proof has it in the bag. The show has been lauded ever since it opened at MTC last year. It hasn’t lost any of its momentum after moving to Broadway this past fall. Proof‘s Mary Louise Parker is also a shoo-in for best actress.

Play Revival

The Best Man and Betrayal are out of the race. They were both limited runs, and since they closed so early in the season, they are out of memory. Judgment at Nuremberg and Design for Living are getting mixed reviews. If I had to make a decision now, I’d say One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Gary Sinise is wonderful as the rebellious R.P. McMurphy. The show was bred at Chicago’s prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre, and went on to London. I’d like to see Cuckoo walk away with the award, but this is definitely the closest race to call at this point. Just make sure you don’t bank on Kelsey Grammer’s Macbeth, which lasted a paltry thirteen performances.

Cuckoo’s Nest and Producers aren’t steady leads, but I’d bet money on them. Proof is a leader in its race, and Follies is more of a sure thing than Julia Roberts was. You heard it here first.

Archived article by Daniel Fischer