PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 27-June 2: Before and After the Ball

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 27-June 2: Before and After the Ball Well, here it is the first week of June, when the League of American Theatres and Producers or the American Theatre Wing or the Gods or whoever make it so theatre journalists are equipped with blinders and write about the Tonys and nothing but the Tonys. Much of this scribbling -- as those who have glanced at the dailies and weeklies in recent days -- has to do with predictions, always a fool's game, and a certain way to prove yourself wrong in a very public manner.
Clockwise: Claudia Shear, Stephen Dillane, Marin Mazzie, Heather Headley, Gabriel Byrne, Rosemary Harris.
Clockwise: Claudia Shear, Stephen Dillane, Marin Mazzie, Heather Headley, Gabriel Byrne, Rosemary Harris. (Photo by Photos by Aubrey Reuben)

Well, here it is the first week of June, when the League of American Theatres and Producers or the American Theatre Wing or the Gods or whoever make it so theatre journalists are equipped with blinders and write about the Tonys and nothing but the Tonys. Much of this scribbling -- as those who have glanced at the dailies and weeklies in recent days -- has to do with predictions, always a fool's game, and a certain way to prove yourself wrong in a very public manner.

That said, prognosticators surprisingly found they had their work cut out for them this year. For many weeks now, it has seemed like the season of the three "C"s -- Copenhagen, Contact, and, er, Ciss Me, Kate. But, it really isn't that simple, as the nominations bear out. Aside from a few of the top categories -- for play, musical and musical revival -- the Tonys are going to be an evening of genuine contests.

Among the major slug-outs are The Real Thing against A Moon for the Misbegotten for best revival of a play, a case of a modern play people enjoy, which unfortunately happens to be British, and a proper old American play which people more admire than enjoy. There is a little bit of jingoism in play, too, between best actor in a play combatants Gabriel Byrne and Stephen Dillane (although the Irish Byrne is only pretending to be a Yank by starring as one in an American play, and, really, as a movie star, belongs to no particular country).

For best actress in a play, it looks to be Rosemary Harris of Waiting in the Wings, soaking up the veteran vote for what many believe is not one of her greatest performances, vs. Claudia Shear of Dirty Blonde, raking in the newcomer vote, plus a few extra nods for having, incidentally, written the play in which she stars. The category most likely to leave bad feelings in its wake is best actress in a musical, in which Heather Headley, a youngster whom people regard as the only great thing in Aida, may snatch the crown from the head of three-time nominee Marin Mazzie, who, unfortunately for her, is just one of many great things in Kiss Me, Kate.

But the nominations are lousy with Youth vs. Experience contests. A Moon for the Misbegotten's Roy Dotrice seemed a shoo-in for best featured actor in a play but now appears to have a worthy opponent in Dirty Blonde's Kevin Chamberlin. And Eartha Kitt of The Wild Party will have her hands full fighting off the likes of Deborah Yates, that Girl in the Yellow Dress in Contact. Standing between the two, career-wise, is Contact's Karen Ziemba, making best featured actress in a musical the only true three-way race this year. As for direction, both categories -- play and musical -- seem to be a matter of "Who can beat Michael Blakemore?" The director of Kiss Me, Kate and Copenhagen is the favorite in both columns, but faces a challenge from James Lapine of Dirty Blonde, for direction of a play, and Susan Stroman of Contact, for direction of a musical.

The problem with the above horse races is they will all be decided fairly early in the Tony broadcast. Look for things to get a bit predictable at show's end, with the three "C"s rightfully taking what's theirs.

But, enough about the Tonys. What about what happens on Monday, after the ball is over? Usually, decision night is followed by the quick shuttering of unlucky shows. (Indeed, The Green Bird decided to not even wait for the outcome and announced a closing date of June 4.) But, in a surprise twist, the post-Tony landscape probably won't look too different from the pre-Tony one. Aside from a couple shows which may post closing notices on June 5, many productions look to be staying put, Tonys or no Tonys. A Moon for the Misbegotten and The Real Thing were always intended as limited runs and will no doubt complete their engagements. True West has received a new lease on life with the announcement that the new duo of Elias Koteas and Josh Brolin will replace John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman on June 21. Crowd-pleasers Aida and The Music Man (will people please stop calling it Meredith Willson's The Music Man; none of us are confusing it with any other show called The Music Man) are going nowhere, and Swing! will most likely keep swinging, at least through the summer. And the Shuberts will make sure Dirty Blonde gets its shot at success.

Then, what? Well, the first show of the new season. That would be Macbeth. And we start all over again.

-- By Robert Simonson