By breakfast-time Monday morning, May 3, all the speculation regarding Tony nominees will be moot -- but until the big announcement at Sardi's, one can't help but pick and predict this year's vote-getters and left behinds. Here's a quick peek at the apparent heirs apparent.
PLAYS: Look for Side Man and Not About Nightingales as the obvious -- and sole American -- choices here. Side Man, a Pulitzer finalist, has been invisible from several other major awards this year (e.g., Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle) because it had already been considered last year in its Off-Broadway incarnation. This will be Side Man's first crack at the Tonys, however; and it's likely to be a front-runner. Nightingales, a 1938 play by the late Tennessee Williams, just got an extra boost by winning Best Play from the Outer Critics Circle.
The rest of the slate is likely to be all-UK. In fact, if David Hare had magic powers, he could knock out Nightingales take the remaining three slots alone, with Via Dolorosa, The Blue Room and Amy's View. The likelihood, however, is that only the latter will make the cut, since The Blue Room may be perceived as more a celeb "event" than a play, and Dolorosa has the one-man-show stigma that wins acting awards but not best play honors.
It'll be a dogfight, though, for the last two slots. The Weir received a rave from the New York Times, but word of mouth has been mixed. Closer looks good if the Tony committee looks past the show's intentional vulgarity. The Lonesome West received raves everywhere but the NY Times, but that show also has to fight a perception that it's only about ugliness and violence. All three plays are recent-openers and still running, giving them a leg up on the dark-horse Blue Room.
MUSICALS: It'll be a dogfight finding four shows to put into this category. Certainly Fosse will lead here, with the critically-hailed It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues also likely. Both are revues of old songs (as is the critically-drubbed The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm and the nearly-forgotten Evening With Jerry Herman). Parade which received mixed reviews and is, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a flop, will almost certainly get a nomination -- perhaps the only "new" score to receive one. (It doesn't hurt that copies of the RCA Victor Parade cast CD were recently sent out to members of the industry.)
The Civil War got a critical drubbing, but Frank Wildhorn's score has its serious advocates (and not just Jekkies and Pimpies). He'll get a composer nomination, but will the show -- planned from the beginning as an "oratorio" rather than a full book musical -- make the grade as a whole? If so, it would be long-in-coming recognition that Wildhorn, a critical whipping boy, has nonetheless tapped into the public's musical tastes. If not, don't count Footloose out (though the Drama Desk and OCC seem to have). It, too, is a new American musical and it's been a winner at the box office for many months now. A nomination would mean a big lift for potential national tours.
If the Tony committee is feeling particularly spikey (or really wanted to snub Footloose and Fascinating Rhythm), they could also give a nod to Sandra Bernhard's I'm Still Here...Damn It! or Band in Berlin. A somewhat lighter dark-horse: Mandy Patinkin's Yiddish song cycle, Mamaloshen.
PLAY REVIVALS: All together now -- Death of a Salesman versus The Iceman Cometh. The critically lauded Electra also has a shot here, as does Ring Round the Moon, which got zonked by the NY Times but just opened, and is therefore fresh enough in the committee's memory to squeeze out, say, Lincoln Center's popular if unevenly received, Twelfth Night. If voters don't relegate Night Must Fall to the realm of mindless chiller (like last year's Wait Until Dark), that, too, could get a nod. Still, voters are more likely to reward the star-driven The Lion In Winter.
MUSICAL REVIVAL: A weak category, so the three front-runners are pretty obvious: Little Me, Annie Get Your Gun, and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The fourth slot pits the return of Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan (still running) and George C. Wolfe's commercially disastrous On The Town. Since Peter Pan was already nominated in 1991 (as was Rigby for Actress in a Musical), look for Town to grab the fourth slot, even if it's just a sentimental "thank you" to the still-very-active Betty Comden & Adolph Green. The Tony Awards will be held June 6, 8-11 PM at the Gershwin Theatre. Sources are saying that even at the May 3 nominations announcement, the producers won't yet be ready to reveal who will actually host the `99 Tony Awards. Any predictions?
-- By David Lefkowitz