The great comedian W.C. Fields is credited with the line, "Never work with children or animals." He would have had trouble on Broadway this season.
There were kids at every turn — "Motown: The Musical," "Kinky Boots," "Annie," "Matilda the Musical," "A Christmas Story, the Musical" and "Pippin." And animals? Dogs in "Annie," "Pippin" and "A Christmas Story, the Musical," a cat in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," a dead crow in "Macbeth" and even a live vulture in "The Testament of Mary."
But now that it's Tony Awards time, it's the moment for the adults to shine. No kids or pets made it through the nomination process, so only grown-ups will emerge victorious Sunday night.
Will win: "Kinky Boots." Should win: "Matilda the Musical."
Though it's been a horse race between "Kinky Boots" and the import "Matilda the Musical" — both coincidentally having actors adopting British accents and both featuring men in dresses — the consistently high marks for all aspects of "Matilda" should sweep it to victory, but won't. "Kinky" is unabashedly sentimental with a classic message of acceptance, while "Matilda" is rebellious and edgy, a place Tony voters don't naturally feel comfortable.
Will win: "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." Should win: "The Assembled Parties."
Christopher Durang's comical "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," which takes characters and themes from Anton Chekhov and sets them in present-day Pennsylvania, is sly and funny and lovely. But Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties," a meditation on time and family, leaves a lasting impression.
Will win: "The Trip to Bountiful." Should win: "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."
The Cicely Tyson-led revival of Horton Foote's play is lovely and well done. You walk out hopeful and sunny — the opposite of what the revival of Edward Albee's play felt like. Superbly acted and directed, it was a cage-match with intellectuals. But Tony voters like sunny and inspirational.
Will win: "Pippin." Should win: "Pippin."
"Annie" is pretty good, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" was rollicking, "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" is sweet and smart, but "Pippin" is thoroughly thrilling, rebuilt with a circus inside. Diane Paulus rides the Big Top theme — fire jugglers, teeterboards, knife throwing and contortionists — but she also teases out the wandering nature of the mysterious players and zooms up the physicality of the story. Magic.
Will win: Tom Hanks. Should win: Tracy Letts.
Everybody loves Tom Hanks. He is just so darn lovable. In "Lucky Guy," he gets to be funny and poignant and noble while dying. What kind of monster are you if you don't like Tom Hanks?
But, speaking of monsters, Tracy Letts showed a hint of one in the seemingly weak-willed history professor George in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" "He was savage and sad, allowing years of pain and frustration to seep out of a semi-broken man." Hanks, David Hyde Pierce and Nathan Lane turned in fine performances, but nothing touched Letts, an actor at the top of his game.
Will win: Cicely Tyson. Should win: Laurie Metcalf.
Cicely Tyson's return to Broadway for the first time in 30 years to be in Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful" has been met by deserved high praise. But Laurie Metcalf was simply astonishing as she went from a snippy, bossy scientist to a broken, confused intruder wolfing down Chinese food on the floor in "The Other Place." The other three women in this category — Amy Morton, Kristine Nielsen and Holland Taylor — also are admirable, but Metcalf was soul-stirring.
Will win: Bertie Carvel. Should win: Billy Porter.
Both men are deserving of the honor and, believe us, both actors look sensational in skirts, but Billy Porter in "Kinky Boots" bares his heart a little more and pushes his poor body a little more than his rival in "Matilda the Musical." Bertie Carvel won the Oliver Award — Britain's equivalent of the Tony — in the role of Miss Trunchbull and brought his terrifying skill to Broadway without being cartoonish, but Porter can make tears fall down your cheeks.
Will win: Patina Miller. Should win: Patina Miller.
While Laura Osnes from "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" is perfectly cast as a princess-to-be and sings beautifully, Patina Miller is a muscular creature with a hat and cane, a grimace plastered to her face, who dances tough Bob Fosse steps and does tricks on a trapeze while singing in Diane Paulus' retelling of "Pippin." Miller is fierce and that always beats cute.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits