Who will win at the Tony Awards Sunday night?
There's "Follies" and then there's folly. The first is a winning revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical. The other is any attempt to handicap Sunday's Tony Awards. But here goes.
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Will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Death of a Salesman"). Should win: James Corden ("One Man, Two Guvnors").
That sounds insane, right? A deeply affecting Willy Loman losing to a British clown? But, if you recall, Hoffman's performance wasn't universally cheered, while Corden's has been. Corden might be brimming with humor as much as Hoffman is stalked by sadness, but in terms of MVP, imagine taking Hoffman out of "Death of a Salesman." Now imagine "One Man, Two Guvnors" without Corden. Miller's play would still float, but the farce would likely sink.
Will win: Someone who deserves it. Should win: Tracie Bennett ("End of the Rainbow").
Sorry, but anyone trying to find sunlight among the five women in this category is doomed. Like last year, it's just too hard. Nina Arianda is painfully delicious in "Venus in Fur," Tracie Bennett is insanely good in "End of the Rainbow," Stockard Channing is brilliantly brittle in "Other Desert Cities," Linda Lavin is arch and hysterical in "The Lyons," and Cynthia Nixon was heartbreaking in "Wit." No offense to any of them, but Bennett's performance is the complete package — acting, singing and descending into pill-popping madness. Perhaps the wisest course is to abandon the attempt and cheer the sheer strength of women on Broadway.
Will win: Steve Kazee ("Once"). Should win: Norm Lewis ("The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess").
This category is also pretty wide open, with the veteran Danny Burstein of "Follies" and the up-and-coming Jeremy Jordan of "Newsies" leading most polls. But Burstein may lose votes to his "Follies" co-star Ron Raines, and it may be too soon this year for the talented Jordan, who undoubtedly will have many Tony ceremonies to come. The effortless ease in which Steve Kazee played the aw-shucks hero in "Once" acts against him, especially against Norm Lewis, who shuffles across the stage and belts out his songs in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" from a deep, vulnerable place. But Kazee should benefit by riding his musical's winning Tony wave.
Will win: Audra McDonald ("The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"). Should win: Audra McDonald.
Audra McDonald is this year's Sutton Foster — the clear leading candidate. But Jan Maxwell in "Follies" was astonishing and she's an honorable silver to McDonald's gold. McDonald has four Tonys already, but never for a lead actress. That will change Sunday and deservedly so. She is graceful and tender and strong — and simply the best thing about Catfish Row. Tony voters will sing "I Loves You, Bess."