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The Drowsy Chaperone, The Pajama Game and city of Seattle set to shine at this year's Tony Awards
The Drowsy Chaperone, The Pajama Game and city of Seattle set to shine at this year's Tony Awards
by Spencer Fairbanks - Special to the SGN

60th Annual Tony Awards

Sunday, June 11 - 8:00 PM

CBS stations - visit www.tonyawards.com for more information

It's time for the best and brightest to shine at the 60th Annual Tony Awards. The American Theatre Wing will hand out its coveted medallions Sunday night to the very best of Broadway at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

Thousands of miles away, the Tony has found its way to Seattle by spotlighting local connections and talent. Most excitingly is the award given to Intiman Theatre for Best Regional Theatre in the country. This will most assuredly help with fundraising, publicity and local support. Artistic Director Barlett Sher, nominated for Awake and Sing has a lot to be proud of. His production has nabbed a total of eight nominations.

Sher isn't the only Seattle success story. Donald Byrd, former Spectrum Dance theatre member, is acknowledged for his choreography in the musical version of The Color Purple. And 5th Avenue Theatre's recent birth of the new musical The Wedding Singer has garnered five nominations.

Here are my picks and predictions for this year's hottest races.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

Three very different entries make up this year's race. The dark horse, The Three Penny Opera, is a bizarre mix of Broadway veterans, pop-star icons, and TV comedians. It has been heavily panned and desperately needs a Tony to survive through summer. It's going be between the macabre masterpiece of Sweeney Todd and the frothy revival of The Pajama Game. The shows could not be more opposite and it's hard to compare the two. The Pajama Game stars the popular Harry Connick Jr. and features a ton of dance. Tony voters are often bowled over by such extravaganza. Yet Sweeney has been running since last fall and is the first Sondheim show to turn a profit in recent memory. It's also inventive by the fact it has no orchestra, the cast plays all the instruments for the score. It's a tough call, but I'm going with Sweeney to win by a body part.

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

The caliber of talent in this category is overwhelming. Kelli O'Hara, fresh from her success in The Light in the Piazza is nominated for her portrayal of "Babe" in The Pajama Game. She holds her own against the barrel-chested Connick Jr. and is fast becoming a major Broadway player.

The legendary Chita Rivera is nominated for her tour de force Chita Rivera, The Dancer's Life. Though not a huge hit, audiences were amazed at the stamina and dexterity of this actress now well into her 70's. La Chanze, currently emoting as '"Celie" in The Color Purple, is a strong contender. Her performance is said to be the heart of the production and commanding standing ovations at every show. Patti LuPone, a Tony winner for her legendary portrayal of Evita, is rightly nominated for her "Mrs. Lovett" in Sweeney Todd. LuPone has carved out a frightening, yet funny performance. Her leather lunged voice sends thrills down the spine of fans and is deserving of a win. Then comes Sutton Foster. Coming in at the last minute in The Drowsy Chaperone, she seems unstoppable in collecting her second Tony. She's the Katie Couric of Musical Theatre and audiences can't seem to get enough of her. Pretty and perky, she will get a chance to show her stuff on Sunday before she goes home with a statuette.

BEST MUSICAL

The last prize to be awarded is the most anticipated. The top honor will go to The Wedding Singer, The Color Purple, The Drowsy Chaperone or Jersey Boys. You can count The Wedding Singer out. It's playing to half houses and on life support. Those who saw the first incarnation here at 5th Avenue would see a very different show in New York. However, a tepid score and a list of 80's jokes doesn't translate to Tony winner. Having Oprah Winfrey's name above the title certainly hasn't hurt the box office of The Color Purple. But it has failed to catch fire outside of a segmented audience. A tour is already underway, opening in Chicago for this fall, and it could be a surprise winner.

In all likelihood, it's between Jersey Boys and The Drowsy Chaperone. Pundits are buzzing over who will win. Politics play a role here, including the viability of a touring production. It looked like Jersey Boys had the inside track. It has already won several accolades, including the Outer Critics Circle Award. It's a jukebox musical, telling the rise of fame of Franki Valli and The Four Seasons. Full of popular hits, it is both a critical and audience favorite. The sleeper of the season, The Drowsy Chaperone, is a nostalgic look back at the silly musicals of the 1920's. It's a completely original piece not based on a play, book or movie. This looks like a musical comedy that Tony voters traditionally adore. It reminds me of the undeserved wins of The Will Rogers Follies and Thoroughly Modern Millie. It appears nothing can stop the steam-roll success of this show, which will probably go on to win Best Musical of 2006.

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