Inside the Tony Award Nominees: Best Revival of a Play
As we look ahead to the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 10, EW is taking a closer look at this season’s nominated selection of new musicals, plays, and revivals, all of which will be competing for Broadway’s highest honor. Today, we dive into this year’s nominees for Best Revival of a Play. (See also: Best Musical, Best Play and Best Revival of a Musical.)
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Opened: March 15, 2012
Closed: June 2, 2012
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Andrew Garfield, Linda Emond, Finn Wittrock
Written by Arthur Miller; directed by Mike Nichols
Synopsis: Miller’s classic American story follows traveling salesman Willy Loman (Hoffman) as he reaches the end of his career. After a long life of work and exhaustion, Loman tries to piece together his future with steadfast wife Linda (Emond) and mend his strained relationship with unambitious son Biff (Garfield).
EW’s Review: “Compliments must be paid. Director Mike Nichols’ stirring Death of a Salesman harbors no radical agenda, no modern glosses or reinterpretations of Arthur Miller’s text. Instead, Nichols & Co. play it straight. And rarely has a classic work seemed straighter, or truer. Nichols restores key elements of Elia Kazan’s original 1949 production (which he saw as a Manhattan high schooler), including Alex North’s jazzy incidental music and Jo Meilziner’s scenic design, placing a stylized, sepia-toned version of Willy Loman’s Brooklyn house center stage. A” (Thom Geier)
Tony nominations: 7 — Best Revival of a Play; Best Leading Actor in a Play (Philip Seymour Hoffman); Best Featured Actor in a Play (Andrew Garfield); Best Featured Actress in a Play (Linda Emond); Best Direction of a Play (Mike Nichols); Best Lighting Design of a Play (Brian MacDevitt); Best Sound Design of a Play (Scott Lehrer)
Odds on winning: Salesman will likely be one of this year’s biggest winners (in both quantity and categorical heft). In addition to runaway victories for Best Revival of a Play, expect deserved wins for Hoffman and Garfield in their acting categories, as well as an all-but-guaranteed Tony for director Nichols. It’s also worth noting that Emond stands the strongest chance of knocking out competitor Judith Light in the Featured Actress race.
Finn Wittrock on his first time meeting the cast: “I remember walking into the very first rehearsal and seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman just sitting there looking at the set. I had to go to the bathroom to just make sure that this was still real life, and it was, and then from that moment on, they were nothing but gracious and welcoming. I think one of Mike’s — I can call him Mike, which is cool — biggest contributions is that he really wanted to make it a family play, and not just a play about a man. I felt really warmly immersed in their world very quickly.”
Linda Emond on why the show received such critical acclaim: “It’s really rare when the pieces are right. You’ve got to give Mike Nichols a lot of credit for that, because that’s his job. He got the pieces right, and he made everything around it,” she says, citing Nichols’ re-creation of Jo Mielziner’s set design for the original production, Brian MacDevitt’s lighting design, Ann Roth’s costumes, and Scott Lehrer’s sound design. “There were a lot of like-minded individuals in the house, but in the end, it’s Arthur Miller. I’m really proud that we attempted one of the greatest plays ever written and I feel like we did rise to the occasion.”
Opened: January 26, 2012
Closed: March 17, 2012
Starring: Cynthia Nixon
Written by Margaret Edson; directed by Lynne Meadow
Synopsis: In the final hours of her life, an English professor (Nixon) dying of ovarian cancer recalls her diagnosis, treatment, and condition — and the life decisions that got her there.
EW’s Review: “Fearless doesn’t even begin to describe Nixon’s performance. She never leaves the stage — the same stage, incidentally, where she delivered her Tony-winning performance in Rabbit Hole in 2006. And from her ”Hi! How are you feeling today?” introduction until her rebirth-like valediction, she never fails to captivate. Even in the shadow of the red baseball cap covering her bald head, her blue eyes flicker wildly with intelligence (she pulls out a pointer and schools us in sonnets) and rage. A ” (Melissa Rose Bernardo)
Tony nominations: 2 — Best Revival of a Play; Best Leading Actress in a Play (Cynthia Nixon)
Odds on winning: Don’t expect any wins for Wit on June 10; with too much fierce competition (especially in the Best Leading Actress category), this isn’t Nixon’s year.
Cynthia Nixon on the unexpected humor in Wit: “The thing that Margaret Edson, who wrote the play, did so brilliantly was that she front loaded it with all these laughs. Mike Nichols always said that the leading character of a play, the star of a play, is the person who gets the most laughs, so right away she makes the audience love Vivian, even though Vivian is unlovable. And then they think, ‘Oh. this isn’t so bad, this cancer play. It isn’t so scary — it’s funny!’ And that’s when you’ve got them by the throat and that’s when you turn the waterworks on!”
NEXT: Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Opened: November 3, 2011
Closing: June 17, 2012
Starring: John Larroquette, Eric McCormack, James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury
Written by Gore Vidal; directed by Michael Wilson
Synopsis: Two presidential candidates sling mud and vie for endorsements on the eve of their party’s national convention.
EW’s Review: “Director Michael Wilson’s revival boasts an impressive collection of pros, particularly in some of the juicy supporting roles. Why, there’s 81-year-old James Earl Jones chewing gum (and Derek McLane’s scenery) as the Truman-like former president who’s expected to play kingmaker among the contenders but mostly delivers gems like this: ‘In those days we had to pour God over everything, like ketchup.’ And there’s 86-year-old Angela Lansbury, sharp as a tack even if she needs a cane now to command the stage, as the Southern grand dame who chairs the party’s women’s division and sways the crucial women’s vote. B” (Thom Geier)
Tony nominations: 2 — Best Revival of a Play; Best Leading Actor in a Play (James Earl Jones)
Odds on winning: The strength of this politico revival doesn’t match Death of a Salesman, which will almost certainly win in both categories in which Best Man is nominated.
John Larroquette on his three ingredients for a successful awards season: “Sense of humor, persistence, and clean suits.”
NEXT: Master Class
Opened: July 7, 2011
Closed: September 4, 2011
Starring: Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess
Written by Terrence McNally; directed by Stephen Wadsworth
Synopsis: Opera diva Maria Callas holds a master class with young vocal students, diving into memories of her fading career while simultaneously building up and destroying the hopes of her charges.
EW’s Review: “[Daly’s] Callas is nothing less than compelling, from the moment she sweeps on stage in her well-tailored black pantsuit and expounds upon the importance of having ‘a look’.… She’s especially captivating during flashback sequences in which a vulnerable Maria virtually begs for the love of a very crude Aristotle Onassis (also played by Daly). B+” (Melissa Rose Bernardo)
Tony nominations: 1 — Best Revival of a Play
Odds on winning: Unfortunately, the odds that Master Class will win in its only nomination — for Best Revival of a Play, no less — are slim to none.