Sunday, June 8, 2003

Local Tony voters reveal top picks

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Nobody's expecting a Producers-like sweep for Hairspray tonight, not even Rick Steiner. But Clear Channel Theatricals vice president Brad Broecker (and longtime head of Fifth Third Broadway in Cincinnati) says, "There's no question it's going to win."

But how many trophies will it get? Smart money says no more than eight. Steiner points out that in 1995 he predicted another project, Smokey Joe's Cafe, would be shut out.

In the opinion of this "biased realist with a point of view," seven or more and "I'll be ecstatic."

Here's how some local Tony voters call the top categories:

Scenic design: "I think we're gonna lose," Steiner says with a sigh. So does everybody else. Watch for Catherine Martin (Mrs. Baz Luhrmann) to win for La Boheme.

Choreography: Twyla Tharp for Billy Joel's Movin' Out, no contest. "I was knocked out," says Cincinnati Arts Association president Steve Loftin.

Performance by a leading actor in a musical: Steiner, of course, is voting for Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray. Broecker thinks the Tony is up for grabs.

Fierstein did not do himself any favors for his position on the recent Broadway musicians strike - and some voters, Broecker suggests, might like to use the trophy "to encourage Antonio Banderas (in Nine) to come back to Broadway" - to say nothing of catching the attention of his big-name Hollywood colleagues.

Performance by a leading actress in a musical: Marissa Jaret Winokur, who carries Hairspray home, gets a unanimous nod here.

Performance by a featured actor in a musical: Michael Cavanaugh, lead singer in Movin' Out, is a contender, but even Broecker thinks that Hairspray's Dick Latessa, the sentimental favorite, will win.

Book and original score: "May the best show win," says Steiner, and Hairspray undoubtedly will.

Direction of a musical: "This (category) is the one I had to think about the most," says Loftin. Steiner admits to being "too biased." They all think this is the category where a Tony-voting truism will play out: "First you vote for yourself, then for your friends, then against your enemies," laughs Steiner. "And only then what you think is best."

Special theatrical event: Both Broecker and Loftin think it will be Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.

Revival of a musical: "This is the interesting race," says Broecker. Will early sniping work for or against Gypsy? La Boheme started big, then sputtered. Is Nine the Musical the little revival that could? Split decision from our voters.

Revival of a play: The Tony will go to Long Day's Journey into Night. It will win a leading actress trophy for Vanessa Redgrave, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is front-runner for performance by a featured actor.

Performance by leading actor in a play: Steiner is going for Paul Newman in Our Town. "Phenomenal," he says. Broecker says he's been paying attention to the publicity mill and believes Eddie Izzard will slide past Newman and Long Day's Journey star Brian Dennehy to grab the Tony for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

Play: Another unanimous vote: Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg.

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