Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is It Really Patti LuPone's Turn At This Years Tony Awards?

Tony nominations in 26 categories were announced last Tuesday, but among diva-worshipping Broadway fanatics, only one award sets off a great debate: Leading Actress in a Musical. Patti LuPone, in Gypsy, http://www.applause-tickets.com/gypsy.asp Kelli O’Hara, in South Pacific, http://www.applause-tickets.com/south-pacific.asp and Faith Prince, in A Catered Affair, http://www.applause-tickets.com/catered-affair.asp are all beloved musical-comedy actresses, and all three performances (and two of the three shows) drew enormous raves. (Most agree that the other two nominees, Kerry Butler, in the fluffy spoof Xanadu, http://www.applause-tickets.com/xanadu.asp and Jenna Russell, in Sunday in the Park With George, http://www.applause-tickets.com/sunday-in-the-park-with-george.asp turned in strong performances but don’t stand a chance.) Here is a look at the race after reading a lot of Tony gossip and where the voters might be leaning.

THE DIVA Patti LuPone
TONY READINESS Painfully ready. Hasn’t won since 1980 for Evita; was nominated in ’88 for Anything Goes and came close in ’06 for Sweeney Todd. “She’s the biggest Tony loser [of recent decades], so it’s her turn.”
SINGING As usual, a vocal tsunami, if occasionally lacking clarity. “Gypsy’s the hardest show [of the three] to sing because of those two monster numbers.” “She does ‘Rose’s Turn’ brilliantly—breaks up in the middle and has a fit.” “From a purely vocal point of view, it’s rough going” for her.
ACTING Overcame a slight shtickiness in last year’s Encores! run to slam-dunk a visceral, complex Mama Rose, a huge, Lear-like role. “We saw vulnerability and flaws and cracks in the armor.” “You know you’ll see her go insane, hit those notes.”
INDUSTRY GOODWILL Once flagging, now revived. “Sweeney Todd engendered a lot of goodwill; there she was, lugging that tuba around.” “The question is whether she’s annoyed enough people.” “This is probably her last big shot.”

THE DIVA Faith Prince
TONY READINESS Somewhat ready. Won in 1992 for her much-loved Adelaide in Guys and Dolls; nominated in ’01 for Bells Are Ringing. “We love that Faith Prince is back on Broadway.”
SINGING Fine, workmanlike performance of a quiet score. “She sings it nicely, but doesn’t have anything interesting to sing.” “She’ll say herself she doesn’t consider herself a real singer.” “Not particularly challenging compared to the competition.”
ACTING Unimpeachable, nuanced delivery of lead in glum anti-musical. “Very heartfelt, but perhaps the whole show is a little too sincere.” “When you’re sleeping, you can’t [judge] acting.”
INDUSTRY GOODWILL Strong despite a stint in L.A. “People love her, but you can’t transcend a show that most people think, ‘Why is this on Broadway?’ ” “That’s not fair, but that’s how it works.”

THE DIVA Kelli O’Hara
TONY READINESS Not urgently ready. No prior Tony, but nominated twice in recent years, for The Light in the Piazza and The Pajama Game. “I don’t think there’s a groundswell yet.” “She’s young—she’s not going anywhere.”
SINGING Lovely voice, in a role sung with some understatement and minimal brass. “The best vocal performance of the three—Kelli is a real singer.” “Pitch-perfect—I think she’s flawless.” “I thought she was boring. I don’t love her voice.”
ACTING Brought winning self-awareness to a dated role; perhaps a bit too low-key. “Delightful, but Nellie Forbush requires a lot less Sturm und Drang than Mama Rose.” “A little dull.” “There was no way that man would’ve fallen in love with her. Too chipper.”
INDUSTRY GOODWILL Very high; folks call her a hardworking, kind, brainy Broadway sweetheart. “There’s a new crop of blonde sopranos who all come from farms; she’s managed to rise above them.”
THE TAKE-HOME Whom They’d Vote For: Six of eight said Patti. (One said Kerry Butler: “She nailed the Olivia Newton-John accent, and she’s doing it on skates!” And one said Jenna Russell: “She makes you totally forget Bernadette Peters” in the role.)The Likely Winner: Every single respondent said LuPone’s going to win. “She got the New York Times on her side, and now it’s hers to lose.” “Not giving it to her—it’s a slap in her face. Every queen in the world will rise up and shout. Truly.”

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