Every cast is an ensemble; even Liza Minnelli has to pull herselves together. But some shows seem more like team efforts than others, and this Broadway season has so many that the Tonys, like the Drama Desks, ought to give out a prize in the category.
If all of the performances in a cast of more than, say, two, are terrific, let’s declare that nominatable. Consider the company of six in The Norman Conquests, or the four in reasons to be pretty, or the eleven in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Or look at Hair, whose exact cast size cannot be determined without tongs and a comb. Such shows do not provide star turns; the burden of storytelling is shared. Even having a noticeable lead is no deal-breaker. In Next to Normal, Alice Ripley (pictured) maintains the group’s fabric while blowing the lid off the Booth. Star-driven plays can feel like ensemble work too, if the roles are balanced: God of Carnage’s James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, and Hope Davis flawlessly pass the baton round and round, pausing only to beat one another with it. Were it not for that tuna meltdown, Speed-the-Plow might also be eligible for our imaginary prize.
But why should it be imaginary? The Tonys added a Special Theatrical Event trophy in 2001, for monomaniacs; this is basically the opposite. And who doesn’t want to see the mob from Dividing the Estate barrel past Liza on the way to the dais?