Tony Award forecast 2014: Best Actor in a Musical

Neil Patrick Harris leads the pack in one of the year’s most crowded Tony races

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As the theater world girds its loins for the Tony Awards on June 8, we’ll be taking periodic closer looks at the competition for some of the major prizes. First up: Best Actor in a Musical, a category that is jam-packed with worthy candidates this year—so much so that it is almost as interesting for who wasn’t nominated as for who was.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Photograph: Joan Marcus

The front-runner

As a gender-neutral East German glam rocker with a mutilated crotch in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Neil Patrick Harris is giving the kind of star turn that can best be described (with apologies) as balls-out. Harris’s pop-culture stardom—and his excellent service to the Tonys as a four-time host of the telecast—works in his favor, but his performance in Hedwig is the opposite of coasting. Center stage for nearly the entire show, he sweats, he strains, he kicks; he flirts; he wigs out, sings his face off and even strips to his skivvies. Not since Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz has a male performer held the audience so raptly in his thrall. The Tony is his to lose, and he most likely won’t.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder Photograph: Joan Marcus

The dark horse

In most years, Jefferson Mays would seem a shoo-in for his delicious performance as multiple unsavory English toffs in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It’s a marvel of versatile comic assurance, but Mays—who won a 2004 Tony as Best Actor in a Play for his comparably virtuosic I Am My Own Wife—will have a hard time overcoming the Harris momentum this season.

Rocky

Rocky Photograph: Matthew Murphy

The honorable mention

Although the Tony-nominating committee showed little love for Rocky, it could not ignore the pumping heart at the center of the show: Andy Karl as the lovable lug who gets an unexpected shot at big-time boxing redemption. In a different season, he could have been a contender.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables Photograph: Matthew Murphy

The filler

Ramin Karimloo is a handsome leading man with an international musical-theater following who does yeoman’s work as the high-singing ex-con Jean Valjean in the latest revival of Les Misérables, but at the end of the day he’s upstaged by the show’s cinematic projections. And although the talented Bryce Pinkham provides important grounding as the ambitious antihero of Gentleman’s Guide, he is overshadowed by his costar Mays; like Stark Sands in last year’s Kinky Boots, his nomination seems like a consolation nod (and a reflection of the nominators’ general affection for his show).

The Bridges of Madison County

The Bridges of Madison County Photograph: Joan Marcus

The egregiously overlooked

The golden-voiced Steven Pasquale deserved a nod for his romantic turn as a sexy photographer in The Bridges of Madison County, but the nominating committee showed little love for his divisive musical.

First Date

First Date Photograph: Joan Marcus

The understandably overlooked

Three musicals that closed quickly in the first half of the season—First Date, Soul Doctor and Big Fish—featured strong lead performances by Zachary Levi, Eric Anderson  and Norbert Leo Butz, respectively, but closed shows tend to be no-shows at the Tony-nom party. Bullets Over Broadway’s Zach Braff and Aladdin’s Adam Jacobs couldn’t stand out amid their shows’ glitzkriegs. And although Will Swenson’s Javert in Les Misérables was a welcome improvement over Russell Crowe’s weak turn in the movie, the role never quite seems a leading one.

Cabaret

Cabaret Photograph: Joan Marcus

The great but ineligible

Alan Cumming’s turn as the Emcee in Cabaret is one of the classic musical-theater performances of our time, but since he won a Tony for it in 1998, he was out of contention this year. Fun fact: Among the many actors who succeeded Cumming in the revival’s original run was—in his 2003 Broadway-musical debut—a rising former child star named Neil Patrick Harris.



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