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Pssst . . . Anything Goes

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Let me make you smile...I’m very versatile: Neil Patrick Harris hosted the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards (pictured here) and the 63rd Annual Tony Awards, both in 2009. He’s returning to host the Tony Awards this month. Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS.

Can this year’s Tony Awards get here soon enough?
by Donalevan Maines

When Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tony Awards in 2009, he earned his first Emmy Award. Now, he’s baaaack! What’s more, Broadway boasts three sure-fire Tony winners in a blockbuster musical about a closeted Mormon missionary (by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park), an acclaimed revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, and the return of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.

Twelve was a lucky number for the short-lived musical The Scottsboro Boys, when the swan song of Cabaret composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb managed Nominations Day’s most jaw-dropping surprise, garnering two nods short of the 14 bestowed on prohibitive favorite The Book of Mormon. It’s the most nods “evah” for a show that’s already closed. Ironically, Kander & Ebb’s Steel Pier racked up 11 nominations in 1979, didn’t win any of them, then closed before the end of the month. (Fun fact: OutSmart cover girl Kristin Chenoweth made her Broadway debut as Precious in Steel Pier.)

Other nominees for best musical are the “movie-cals” Sister Act, based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy, and Catch Me If You Can, a song-and-dance version of the 2002 Steven Spielberg caper starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The frontrunner for best actor in a musical is Australian actor Tony Sheldon as Bernadette in the musical version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He hopes to follow in the heels of last year’s cross-dressing winner, Douglas Hodge as Albin in La Cage aux Folles.

Competitors include Norbert Leo Butz (Catch Me If You Can), both Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells in The Book of Mormon, and Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys).

So slim were the pickin’s for best actress in a musical that Broadway baby Sutton Foster, as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, has only three rivals: Beth Leavel (Baby It’s You!), Patina Miller (Sister Act), and Donna Murphy (The People in the Picture).

Anything Goes and The Normal Heart seem assured of Tony wins for best revival of a musical and a play, respectively, but then things turn into a free-for-all.

Nominees for best play are Good People, Jerusalem, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, and War Horse.

Joe Mantello (Ned Weeks in The Normal Heart) and Mark Rylance (Jerusalem) square off for best actor in a play, but both have to fend off Brian Bedford (The Importance of Being Earnest), Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf**ker with the Hat), and Al Pacino (The Merchant of Venice).

Academy Award-winners Frances McDormand (Good People) and Vanessa Redgrave (Driving Miss Daisy) face Nina Arianda in Judy Holliday’s Oscar-winning role in Born Yesterday, as well as Lily Rabe (The Merchant of Venice) and Hannah Yelland (Brief Encounter).

Expect the unexpected?

Among featured roles, our fingers are crossed for John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart), whose star might also be on the rise for his role as Laura Linney’s brother in Showtime’s The Big C. As Sean, he uttered two of 2011’s best lines in one episode: “The last time I drove a car, Reagan was ignoring AIDS” and “Can’t anyone tell the f–king truth?”

Ellen Barkin (The Normal Heart) and Edie Falco (The House of Blue Leaves) will contend for best featured actress in a play. John Larroquette (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) is the biggest name in the featured actor–musical category, while diva Patti LuPone slums among fellow featured actress–musical nominees for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

The American Theatre Wing’s 65th Annual Tony Awards from Beacon Theatre in New York City also will honor playwrights Athol Fugard and Eve Ensler; producer Philip J. Smith; Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company as best regional theater; and Handspring Puppet Company’s gay couple Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones for the life-sized horse puppets in War Horse.

Here are nominees in craft and music categories:

Best Book of a Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Book of Mormon
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act

Best Original Score
The Book of Mormon
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Best Scenic Design of a Play
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
War Horse
Jerusalem
The Merchant of Venice

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
The Scottsboro Boys
Anything Goes
The Book of Mormon
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Best Costume Design of a Play
The Merchant of Venice
The Importance of Being Earnest
La Bête
Born Yesterday

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Anything Goes
The Book of Mormon
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Best Lighting Design of a Play
War Horse
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
The Merchant of Venice
Jerusalem

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
The Scottsboro Boys
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Anything Goes
The Book of Mormon

Best Sound Design of a Play
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Brief Encounter
Jerusalem
War Horse

Best Sound Design of a Musical
The Scottsboro Boys
Catch Me If You Can
Anything Goes
The Book of Mormon

Best Orchestrations
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
The Scottsboro Boys
The Book of Mormon
Catch Me If You Can

TV’s annual Valentine to Broadway is set for 7 p.m., Sunday, June 12, on CBS (cbs.com).

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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SIDEBAR
Speaking of Theater

Gay men are the raison d’etre for musical theater, so it should come as no surprise that two books—Larry Stempel’s professorial but easy-reading Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater and Mickey Rapkin’s giddy delight Theater Geek: The Real-life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the Famous Performing Arts Group—have their “moment” when acknowledging the link between gays and musicals. Showtime traces the rumblings of Broadway musicals as far back as America’s 13 colonies, but picks up speed around the time of Stonewall when, he writes, “the gay subtext started to become the text of some shows,” including Coco, Applause, Seesaw, and A Chorus Line. The “gay musical,” such as La Cage aux Folles, and the “gay anti-musical”—Falsettos, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, etc.—followed, paving the way for today’s fare. Theater Geek tracks a trio of young performers through their final session at Stagedoor Manor, the premier summer theater camp for children and teenagers since it was founded in the Catskills in 1975. Being there and being gay was always practically synonymous, but in recent years, it’s also been über-liberating, as when the roll is called and, instead of answering “here,” the gay kids answer “Queer!” Stagedoor Manor inspired the 2003 film, Camp, which pales in comparison to this book of entertaining reporting. • Showtime: W.W. Norton & Co. (wwnorton.com) and Theater Geek: Free Press (simonandschuster.com). —D.M.

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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