NEW YORK —
It’s spring in New York and that means it’s time for the Tony Awards, which recognize the best musicals, plays and actors on Broadway.
Sex is in the Heel is one of the show-stopping tunes that garnered Kinky Boots a Tony nomination for Best Musical. David Cote, theater critic for "Time Out New York," says its 13 nominations are well-deserved.
“Kinky Boots is a bright, funny, silly but sentimental show about drag queens in a shoe factory in England,” he said. “It’s an underdog story. So in that sense it’s a good show, it’s a fun show, it’s a crowd-pleaser, it’s an American show."
Kinky Boots faces stiff competition from Matilda, a Royal Shakespeare Company production based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book.
“It’s also is about an underdog,” said Cote, “a young girl named Matilda who has some horrid parents and a terrible headmistress named Miss Trunchbull at this English public school where she attends…And it ends with a song called Revolting Children, in which the children sort of wallow in their own revoltingness and how revolting society is and how revolting her rhymes are. It's an anthem to bad behavior."
Both Best Musical frontrunners are conventional Broadway productions, according to Cote.
“They have a little bit of comedy here, a little bit of conflict, but everything turns out all right in the end. And even if there’s a little sexual ambiguity with the characters, like you have drag queens and uptight straight characters sharing the stage,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of musicals that are dark or weird or ambiguous or whose music really pushes the boundary for what we hear onstage.”
Of the four nominees for Best Actor, two are well known stars. Nathan Lane is up for his role in The Nance, about a burlesque performer in the 1930s, and Tom Hanks plays the lead in Lucky Guy, a Nora Ephron play about a real life New York reporter during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
“Tom Hanks is magnificent in this play,” Cote said. “He’s got the charisma, the swagger, the kind-of old school patter down perfectly. It’s a love letter to New York and tabloids.”
Lucky Guy is also nominated for Best Play. To win, it has to beat three other plays, including a comedy called Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, by veteran playwright Christopher Durang.
“It’s kind of about being middle-aged and sad and feeling your life hasn’t really ended up where you wanted it,” Cote said, “themes that any average theater critic can relate to."
Some Tony watchers are interested in who got snubbed. Many were surprised that singer and comedienne Bette Midler, who plays a colorful foul-mouthed Hollywood agent in I’ll Eat You Last, was not nominated for a Tony.
Casting a celebrity may boost ticket sales, but it doesn’t guarantee a Tony.
"A lot of industry people vote for the Tonys, and they may really want to nominate and award people who are stage stalwarts,” said Cote.
Just who will win the Tonys at Sunday's ceremony is a closely guarded secret. But that’s show business. Otherwise, where would the drama be?