What Should Win The Best Musical Tony? God, We Hope One Of These Shows Gets It
The Top Prize at this Sunday's 68th Annual Tony Awards is anybody's guess. These days, Broadway musicals aren't exactly known for being surprising: you pretty much know what you're getting when you buy a ticket, whether it be people in lion masks, a death-defying Spider-Man, or a chorus line of transvestites wearing kinky boots. So for an art form that's widely perceived as being relatively staid, the Tony Awards are ironically often full of surprising upsets. Remember back in 2004 when Avenue Q, a show full of profane puppets, snuck up behind blockbuster juggernaut Wicked, stole the Best Musical trophy and ran? Or the following year, when The Light In The Piazza racked up the most awards of the night, only to have the Big One snatched away at the last moment by family-friendly Spamalot? Or heck, even just last year, when those Kinky Boots upset the perceived front-runner, Matilda?
Well, more fool we for pretending like we have any idea which way the Tony voters are going to swing this year. But that doesn't mean we can't give it the old college try! Heck, there are only four nominees, we means we have — at the very least — a 25% chance of getting it right.
4. After Midnight
A sexy and smoky compilation of Jazz Age music, Midnight has some of the absolute best singing and dancing Broadway has to offer right now. But it's also a revue, which means that while it's strong on nostalgia, it's also light on story. With no plot to speak of, Midnight relies solely on the strength of its singers, dancers, and band — which are all admittedly fantastic.
But is that enough to earn it the title of Best Musical of 2014? Doubtful. Then again, it wouldn't be the first revue to win: Fosse, a compilation of some of the choreographer's biggest hits, won the trophy in 1999 — over Jason Robert Brown's gut-wrenching Parade, no less.
Disney is a veritable hit-churning factory, having transferred seven of its own films to Broadway and mounted two more non-filmic works (Aida, Peter And The Starcatcher). Three of those adaptations are currently on the Great White Way: The Lion King, Newsies, and Aladdin. But while audiences turn out in droves to see these big, colorful musicals, only one Disney Theatrical Production has ever won the Tony's top prize — The Lion King, which took home the trophy way back in 1998.
In the demerits column: Disney musicals are often accused of being style over substance, and Aladdin has the fewest total nominations of the Best Musical contenders this year, with a scant five. One thing in Aladdin's favor: the Best Musical winner almost always goes on tour, and Disney's seminal classic is a big enough name to sell out theaters across the entire Continental United States... and even beyond.
2. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Best Musical will almost certainly go to either of these next two contenders — unless voters are so strongly divided that they split the vote and one of the other two options manages to squeak through the crack. Beautiful tells the story of the life and career of singer-songwriter Carole King through her own music. Anchored by a stellar performance from Jessie Mueller (herself a nominee), critics have been raving about this little gem of a musical.
With its scaled-down production, it's tailor-made for a tour, and its use of popular '60s and '70s hits should strike right to the heart of baby boomers in the Tony voting pool. But it's also a jukebox musical (a show consisting of preexisting music, usually centered around one person or group), and they don't always fare well come awards season. For every Jersey Boys (which won Best Musical in 2006), there's a Mamma Mia! (which didn't take home a single trophy in 2002).
1. A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder
Gentleman's Guide (also pictured at top) is the only wholly original musical in the category this year, and for that reason alone it deserves to win. Not only is it the only nominee with original music, it's also the only one with an original story (one is based on true events, one is based on a movie, and one doesn't have a story at all). Throw in the fact that the show also happens to be utterly fantastic, and you have the makings of a sure-fire winner.
Gentleman's Guide tells the story of a nefarious long-lost member of a noble family who hatches a scheme to kill the eight relatives ahead of him in line in order to inherit the fortune. The twist? All eight of the heirs are played by the same person: acclaimed actor Jefferson Mays (nominated this year for Guide, and a previous winner in 2004 for the one-man play I Am My Own Wife). The show's delirious originality, unparalleled performances, and infectious black comedy should make Guide the one to beat.
On the other hand, some voters might be nervous when considering that the winner will mount a National Tour. Gentleman's Guide has played extremely well in Manhattan, but will audiences in the Heartland respond as warmly to this unusual little show? In 2006, The Drowsy Chaperone, an equally quirky musical-lovers dream, lost out to Jersey Boys, a crowd-pleasing jukebox musical. Could we be about to see history repeat itself? We'll find out Sunday night!
Images: Jujamcyn Theaters (2); The Nederlander Organization; Disney Theatrical Productions; Roundabout Theatre Company