S.B.: I’m with you there. At some point, this perfectly winning, perfectly workmanlike, black box of a show became the one to sniff at. Any other year, it’d be considered a solid double.
J.G.: What is that, a sports reference? Anyway, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was even more unfairly maligned. David Yazbek’s score, at least on CD, is the best of the season.
S.B.: Can’t follow you out on that limb, sir. Verge is still a gaudy blur of lyrical hotdogging, even on the cast album. But listening to “Model Behavior” made me remember what an anime-eyed tour de force Laura Benanti delivered as the ditzy Candela—she’d be my pick for Featured Actress. But this one will go to Victoria Clark, as part of the Sister Act appeasement package. For Featured Actor, my heart’s with Mormon scene-stealer Rory O’Malley; in terms of sheer lovability, he barely edges Adam Godley, the lambent Brit-noodle of Anything Goes. Sister Act’s Patina Miller was lively, and probably has Leading Actress sewn up, though I think that role has the depth of a baptismal font. By rights, the medallion belongs to Anything Goes’s Sutton Foster, whose de-brassed Reno Sweeney is hugely appealing up there.
J.G.: Give Victoria Clark all the Tonys; she’s incapable of a false note, even in a false role. I’d also put in a word for Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge—say what you want about the production, but Bart Sher got a disciplined (and therefore thrilling) performance out of her. The Mormons will, as you say, probably take the featured categories. But for Lead Actress I’m betting on Foster—along with her masseuse, trainer, and cobbler as runners-up. Interesting that there was so little depth to that category this season; the committee even had to drop one slot.
S.B.: Oh Sherie Rene Scott, how the pendulum swings!
J.G.: Whereas the director categories are oversubscribed. Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw will win for Mormon, but I wish voters would save a nod for Susan Stroman, who electrified The Scottsboro Boys—sometimes literally.
S.B.: Agreed. In a year of very cluttered stages, she pursued a bracing austerity policy. And while I know it’s fashionable to pooh-pooh Rob Ashford, I thought his stage pictures and dance arrays for How to Succeed constituted some of the best-built stuff this season. I hope he squeaks out Best Choreography, if only on the Daniel Radcliffe sympathy vote.
J.G.: But Kathleen Marshall’s nine-minute showstopper to close Act One of Anything Goes should make this category a good tap-off. The Best Direction of a Play category is really competitive, too.
S.B.: With Brian Bedford pointedly excluded, it looks like Daniel Sullivan will win that one, for The Merchant of Venice. Which I can’t really argue with: I loved the spooky, literal-and-figurative banker’s cage he erected around the play. That show was so hard-core Edwardian, it almost played as steampunk S&M. For me. Funny, though—Pacino looks like a long shot now for Best Actor, especially if the anti-Hollywood wind keeps blowing. So Sullivan, who also directed Good People, will collect all the residual goodwill on Al and Lily Rabe’s behalf.
J.G.: I’m not so sure about that; goodwill is not a notable trait along Broadway at awards time. Or casting time. Just ask Kathleen Turner.