Now onto the performances! This year has been filled with powerful, hilarious, and acclaimed performances. First up is Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. The nominees for this year are as follows, including the score for the entire production and the cast score (although, keep in mind that this score takes the entire cast into account).
- Elizabeth A. Davis, Once. Overall: 89, Cast: 97.
- Jayne Houdyshell, Follies. Overall: 84, Cast: 86.
- Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It. Overall: 69, Cast: 73.
- Jessie Mueller, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Overall: 38, Cast: 56.
- Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost: The Musical. Overall: 37, Cast: 50.
In Once, Elizabeth A. Davis plays Reza, which she originated in the Off-Broadway debut of this movie adaptation. A true quadruple threat, Davis acts, sings, dances, and plays the violin in her role in Once (sometimes simultaneously), while winning laughs as the saucy roommate of Girl. Ben Brantley deems her “a gentle knockout” in his review, while David Shewardcalls her “sharp and sultry,” earning this talented star a TONY nod.
Jayne Houdyshell stole the show in the latest revival of Follies with her adorable rendition of “Broadway Baby” as Hattie Walker, garnering her acclaim and a nomination. Proving that no role is too small, Houdyshell was scintillating and endearing in the Sondheim classic. Terry Teachout called her performance an “over-the-fence homer.” Brian Scott Lipton raves of her turn in the show: “Jayne Houdyshell is hilarious as Hattie Walker, earning laughs before literally stunning the crowd with an ultra-belty ‘Broadway Baby.’”
Judy Kaye of Nice Work If You Can Get It has been cited as definite standout in this Kathleen Marshall production. Portraying Estonia Dulworth, the founder of the Society of Dry Women, Kaye, along with fellow nominee McGrath, has stolen the show from theatrical heavyweights Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Broderick. David Rooney raves “Every one of these performers hits the spot, but the chief scene-stealers are McGrath and certified musical-theater treasure Kaye. Their duel between three-quarter and four-quarter time – pitting the elegance of the waltz, ‘By Strauss,’ against the syncopated jazz of ‘Sweet and Lowdown’– is an ingenious mashup.”
Jessie Mueller, who portrayed Melinda Wells in her Broadway debut, has been seen as perhaps the only bright spot in the failed revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Though reviews were negative (receiving the lowest Broadway score in Curtain Critic’s history, until Ghost came along), Mueller was consistently praised for her ability to make something out of a poorly written and undefined character. Ben Brantley claims that she has a “fetching affinity for swing-era song stylings” and states that her “Ev’ry Night at Seven” is a the show’s high-point.
A shining star in another panned musical, Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Oda Mae Brown in Ghost: The Musical, portraying the character made famous by Whoopi Goldberg. Although the musical received terrible scores, Randolph’s role was praised by the critics, with particular emphasis on her comedic performance. Jonathan Mandell, one of the few advocates of this production, claims: “There is even some real humor, thanks to newcomer Da’Vine Joy Randolph as the helpful psychic. Randolph also supplies ‘Ghost’ with its irrefutable show-stopping numbers, ‘Talkin About A Miracle’ and ‘I’m Outta Here.’”
While it certainly is a tough race, Kaye’s ability to steal the show from such acclaimed performers makes her the frontrunner, with Jayne Houdyshell being another possible pick for the TONY.
Our Prediction: Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It.