Soon after the Tony Award nominations were announced, Gold Derby cornered one of Broadway's shrewdest gurus to get his take on who's out front to win: David Sheward, executive editor of Back Stage. Every year Sheward has one of the best track records predicting winners. Below are some of his early views of the current derby in his own words. You can listen to a podcast of our full chat by clicking on the right-pointing arrow below and learn what Sheward thinks about some other Tony topics too -- like why "Enron" and "American Idiot" were snubbed in the top races. Here is a full list of nominations.
Only two of the shows are open now -- "Red" and "Next Fall." I think the voters are going to go for "Next Fall." It's a very good play, very balanced, well constructed. It tells a moving story. "Red" is kind of esoteric.
The energy behind "American Idiot" may be diminished now [that it did so poorly at Tony nominations]. "Memphis" is the safe choice. It's a traditional book show with an 'up' kind of score that people can tap their toes to. It's not hard, hard rock like "American Idiot." "Fela," which has the most nominations with "La Cage," is very out there and unusual. "Million Dollar Quartet" is a jukebox show with a very thin story line. I think "Memphis" is going to win.
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
This will probably go to Denzel Washington ("Fences"). I don't want to say that's because he's the biggest star, but I think that's a bit of a factor. If I were voting, I think I'd go with Liev Schreiber ("A View from the Bridge").
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Viola Davis ("Fences") is ahead even though it's considered a supporting role by some. When Mary Alice originated the role in 1987, she won for best featured actress for the same part. The only one in this category who's still in a current production is Linda Lavin ("Collected Stories"). All other shows have closed. If there's an upset, I'd say Lavin.
BEST ACTOR IN THE MUSICAL
I think Douglas Hodge ("La Cage aux Folles") will win. He has the Olivier Award. [This is a race between Hodge] and Sahr Ngaujah, who won an Obie Award when "Fela" was off-Broadway. Ngaujah gives a fiery, wonderful performance and it's very different and daring, but I think they'll go with Hodge.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
I would say Catherine Zeta-Jones ("A Little Night Music") is out front because she's the big name. Or they might give it to Sherrie Rene Scott ("Everyday Rapture"). Montego Glover ("Memphis") could be the upset.
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
"Fences" is the most recent one. It's on people's minds. It got across-the-board raves.
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
"La Cage aux Folles" has struck a nerve and it's received positive reaction from the press.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Stephen McKinley Henderson from "Fences" stands a chance, but it'll probably be Eddie Redmayne ("Red"). He's on stage almost as much -- maybe a few minutes less -- than Alfred Molina and he has a big emotional monologue about a childhood trauma he suffered [which explains why] he wants to be an artist. And I think they'll want to give something to that show.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Could be Scarlett Johansson ("A View from the Bridge"). Jan Maxwell ("Lend Me a Tenor") is the only one who's in a play that is still running, so it might be her.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Probably Levi Kreis because it's a very showy part. He plays Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet" and practically steals the show.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
I really think this is between Angela Lansbury ("A Little Night Music") and Katie Finneran, who just stopped that show ("Promises, Promises"). She's the best thing in it. Marian Mercer won the Tony for that role in the original production in 1969. Barbara Cook ("Sondheim on Sondheim") is excellent. I think Lansbury is superior to her role in "Blithe Spirit," which won her a Tony last year. If I were voting, I'd vote for Lansbury. Voters may pick Finneran because they're thinking Lansbury has five already. She's broken the record. Katie Finneran only has one for "Noises Off" a couple of years ago.
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Not "Next Fall." Its direction is not very showy. With "Red," voters may think there are only two characters. Where's the challenge in that? So it might be "Fences."
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
It won't be "Ragtime" because that closed. They might split it and give best musical to "Memphis" and best direction to "Fela" in order to give it something because the direction is very interesting. I'm surprised "American Idiot" isn't here.
Photo credit: Shubert Theater
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