Being a Tony Awards pundit is a dizzy job. We must rush around Broadway to see many top contenders that open in the last few weeks of the eligibility period so they can be freshest on voters' minds. Then we must dish with voters and peers so we can gauge a consensus view. Only the bravest of gurus dares to offer predix before the last few days prior to nominations and winners being unveiled.
But Entertainment Weekly contributor Melissa Bernardo responded with fearless bravado when we asked her to give us her current take on likely Tony nominees, which will be announced on May 4. However, soon after offering her insights, she voiced some nervous second thoughts. Maybe she was wrong not to list John Gallagher ("American Idiot") in the race for best featured actor? And what about "Sondheim on Sondheim"? It doesn't really have a book, but maybe voters will nominate it in that category anyway? Tribute shows full of rehashed songs without a story line threaded between them don't usually get nominated for best musical, but, hey, reviews have been so good that maybe this one can break through.
Dear Melissa: We know your angst, and befuddlement, but — sorry — we don't have the answers! Dear readers: Below are Melissa's predix in her own words. (Thanks, Melissa!)
BEST MUSICAL: "Come Fly Away," "Fela!," "Million Dollar Quartet," "American Idiot." Four musicals and not an original score among 'em. If that's going to keep nominators up at night, I think they'll go for "Memphis" and bump "Fly" (which I, personally, would be sorry to see go).
BEST PLAY: "Enron," "Next Fall," "Red," "Time Stands Still." (Are people talking about "In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play" because it was a Pulitzer finalist? If they are, I don't hear them.)
SCORE: Well, "Memphis" and "The Addams Family" since apparently "Fela!" is ineligible. But I wouldn't be shocked to see Branford Marsalis' original music for "Fences" thrown in. Remember 1999, Jeanine Tesori, and "Twelfth Night."
BOOK: Slim pickings, though not as slim as original score. "Everyday Rapture," definitely. Then … whew. "Memphis." And probably "Million Dollar Quartet." "Fela!" may get in, but, man, that book is such a mess.
LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: I think Montego Glover ("Memphis"), Sherie Rene Scott ("Everyday Rapture") and Catherine Zeta-Jones ("A Little Night Music") are close to locks. Kristin Chenoweth ("Promises, Promises"), Kate Baldwin ("Finian's Rainbow"), Bebe Neuwirth ("The Addams Family"), and Christiane Noll ("Ragtime") will battle it out for the last two slots. Barbara Cook ("Sondheim on Sondheim") is technically a leading actress (as is Vanessa Williams), so unless she gets moved into the featured-actress category, she could get the "because she's a legend" nomination.
LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Douglas Hodge ("La Cage Aux Folles") is a definite, and also the front-runner; Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!") will be there. Sean Hayes ("Promises") and Chad Kimball ("Memphis") are very likely. So the question is: Nathan Lane ("The Addams Family") or Kelsey Grammer ("La Cage")? I don't think the Tonys want to tick off Nathan Lane, do you?
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Angela Lansbury ("Night Music") is already being touted as the winner, though there's tons of buzz about Katie Finneran ("Promises"). I think "Come Fly Away's" fantastic Karine Plantadit gets in, along with Lilias White ("Fela!"). The last spot probably goes to Rebecca Naomi Jones ("AI"), unless Cook gets moved here. (But I wouldn't be a bit shocked if "MDQ's" Elizabeth Stanley snuck in.)
FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: "MDQ's" Jerry Lee Lewis — Levi Kreis — will be here, and could very well win. Of the "Come Fly Away" men, I think Charlie Neshyba-Hughes (the wacky waiter) gets the nod. "La Cage's" Robin de Jesus should nab his second nom in three years. I suspect "Ragtime's" Bobby Steggert won't be forgotten. As for that fifth slot, I'm leaning toward "AI's" Tony Vincent.
LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: The toughest category of the year. Alfred Molina ("Red") and Liev Schreiber ("A View from the Bridge") definitely; Denzel Washington ("Fences"), unless he goes terribly wrong. Christopher Walken ("A Behanding in Spokane") is a pretty safe bet. And perhaps Jude Law ("Hamlet"). That leaves out a pretty respectable bunch: Norbert Leo Butz ("Enron"), Gregory Itzin ("Enron"), Michael Cerveris ("In the Next Room"), Patrick Breen ("Next Fall"), Tony Shalhoub ("Lend Me a Tenor") and who knows who else in this play-packed season …
LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Oh, eligibility! Is "Fences'" Viola Davis lead, or featured? Honestly, producers are going to want her wherever she can win. But let's assume she's featured, like Mary Alice in the original. That means it's Linda Lavin ("Collected Stories"), Laura Linney ("Time Stands Still"), Valerie Harper ("Looped") — people loooved her, even if they hated the play — Carrie Fisher (hey, there's no "special theatrical event" this year, so she deserves this for "Wishful Drinking"), and Jan Maxwell ("The Royal Family"). Alison Pill ("The Miracle Worker") and Laura Benanti ("In the Next Room") are likely overlooked.
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Viola Davis, definitely, if she's deemed featured; then it gets hazy … I say Jessica Hecht ("View"), Scarlett Johansson ("View"), Marin Mazzie ("Enron"), and Jan Maxwell ("Tenor"). Yes, two noms for Maxwell. It happened with Kate Burton in 2002 — lead for "Hedda Gabler" and featured for "The Elephant Man."
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY: Assume "Red's" Eddie Redmayne gets moved here from leading; he won the supporting-actor Olivier Award. Add "Time Stands Still's" Brian d'Arcy James. Probably Stephen Kunken ("Enron"). And you can count on at least one, maybe two "Fences" noms. August Wilson plays are great for featured actors. My money's on Chris Chalk and/or Mykelti Williamson. (I'd love to see Stephen McKinley Henderson recognized, but his part's just not as flashy.) And don't rule out Michael Cristofer ("View").
MUSICAL REVIVAL: "La Cage Aux Folles," "A Little Night Music," "Ragtime" and "Finian's Rainbow," unless people flip for "Promises."
PLAY REVIVAL: "A View from the Bridge," "Fences," "Hamlet" and "Lend Me a Tenor." "The Royal Family" could edge out "Hamlet" or "Tenor."
And I've been making this prediction for weeks: Even though he won two Tonys last year (score and orchestrations for "Next to Normal") and just, you know, won a Pulitzer, Tom Kitt will be taking home a Tony for his "American Idiot" orchestrations.