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Throwing darts for the Tony predictions

Friday, June 06, 2003

By Christopher Rawson, Post-Gazette Drama Critic

I'm just thrilled and honored to be remembered months later," said Michelle Pawk of her Tony Award nomination for best featured actress in a play, even though her play, "Hollywood Arms," closed Jan. 5. But she admits the nomination "didn't seem real until I tried my dress on yesterday."

Pawk was talking by phone from Chicago, where she has been rehearsing a new Stephen Sondheim musical, "Bounce." As a result, she's missed out on much of the pre-Tony excitement back on Broadway. But the Butler native and her dress by Catherine Regehr will happily fly back to New York Saturday to make the Sunday evening walk down the red carpet into Radio City Music Hall for the 2003 Tony Awards (CBS, 8-11 p.m.).

Pawk, a long shot, is Pittsburgh's chief hometown interest in this year's awards. She's also part of a rare conjugal double -- her husband, John Dossett, has been nominated, too, for best featured actor in a musical as Herbie in "Gypsy" opposite Bernadette Peters. "He's also thrilled to be nominated," she said, though he feels Dick Latessa in "Hairspray" is the best bet in his category.

Turning to the predictions, I might just as well throw darts this year, since I've seen only about half of the contending shows. And I haven't had a chance to confer with my own personal Tony guru, Michael Grossberg of the Columbus Dispatch, who always has an intricate analysis for how the competition's going to go in every category.

But I do have the benefit of the early betting odds established by www.goldderby.com, which convened a panel of seven Broadway pundits to make predictions. They see a clear favorite or at least a clear two-contender race in most of the 22 competitive categories. (There are also an unusually generous six special Tonys to be awarded, already announced.)

So, having consulted a few tea leaves and thrown the darts, not to mention a few chicken bones, here are my own shaky predictions.

Play: This is the only category where I've seen all the nominees, and Richard Greenberg's "Take Me Out" is a lock. (My review is in Sunday's paper.)

Musical: So is "Hairspray."

Revival, Play: And so is "Long Day's Journey Into Night." The dark horse is "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," and I have a soft spot for "Dinner at Eight" (that's George S. Kaufman -- another Pittsburgh rooting interest).

Revival, Musical: This is a horse race, but I think "Nine" and its high wattage femmes will edge "Gypsy," with "La Boheme" a respectable dark horse.

Special Theatrical Event: "Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on Broadway" should beat "The Play What I Wrote."

Actor, Play: What a category! The pundits say it's between Brian Dennehy ("Long Day's Journey") and Eddie Izzard ("Joe Egg"), with Paul Newman ("Our Town") and Stanley Tucci ("Frankie and Johnny") as also-rans. Izzard's my man, and not just because he's bringing his one-man show to Pittsburgh in October.

Actress, Play: I like them all. Jayne Atkinson was thrilling in "Enchanted April," Clare Higgins was deeply moving in "Vincent in Brixton" and I have admired Victoria Hamilton ("Joe Egg") in several London Shakespeare roles. But how could the Tony voters not recognize Vanessa Redgrave ("Long Day's Journey"), the greatest actress in the English-speaking world?

Actor, Musical: The pundits have it as a tossup between Harvey Fierstein's Edna in "Hairspray" and Antonio Banderas' Guido in "Nine," mainly because Fierstein has three Tonys already. I think he'll win a fourth.

Actress, Musical: Another tossup. I'll go with Marissa Jaret Winokur ("Hairspray") over Bernadette Peters ("Gypsy") -- the perfect role beating the stardust kid.

Featured Actor, Play: The Pittsburgh interest is Thomas Jefferson Byrd, who played Toledo in the star-crossed revival of August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." But it's a great category, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard (both "Long Day's Journey") and Denis O'Hare and Daniel Sunjata (both "Take Me Out"). Sunjata is really the lead, but O'Hare is the one audiences love, and love wins votes.

Featured Actress, Play: The Pittsburgh pick is Pawk. But the probable winner is Linda Emond ("Life x 3"), assisted by her off-Broadway triumph last year in "Homebody/Kabul."

Featured Actor, Musical: Dossett is right -- it's time for Broadway to recognize old pro Dick Latessa ("Hairspray").

Featured Actress, Musical: Of all the femmes in "Nine," Jane Krakowski is the femm-ist, which should give her a chad-width edge over co-star Chita Rivera.

Musical Book: Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, "Hairspray."

Original Score: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, "Hairspray."

Scenic Design: I adored John Lee Beatty's "Dinner at Eight," but I'd vote for Catherine Martin's (Mrs. Baz Luhrmann) "La Boheme."

Costume Design: Ditto Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie, "La Boheme," though I loved both William Ivey Long ("Hairspray") and Catherine Zuber ("Dinner at Eight").

Lighting Design: I haven't a clue, but I'll take a flyer on Donald Holder ("Movin' Out").

Direction, Play: Robert Falls ("Long Day's Journey") is the best bet, beating Joe Mantello ("Take Me Out").

Direction, Musical: A rare three-way race. I'll pick Baz Luhrmann ("La Boheme") over Jack O'Brien ("Hairspray") and David Leveaux ("Nine").

Choreography: Twyla Tharp ("Movin' Out") isn't a contender for the previous category because she'll win this one.

Orchestrations: Billy Joel and Stuart Malina ("Movin' Out") over Jonathan Tunick ("Nine").

Among the special awards, my favorite is the Regional Theater Tony for the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis.

Christopher Rawson can be reached at crawson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1666.

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