Meet the 2014 Tony Nominees: Best Actress in a Musical

The Tony race for Best Actress in a Musical is especially tight this year. Two previous winners are giving emotionally devastating life to a disfigured pilgrim and a dual vision of the same woman forced to choose between career and personal happiness, two others recreate music legends with amazing accuracy, while the fifth nominee explores the shifting emotions of a lonely Iowa housewife.

 

Jessie Mueller in Beautiful - The Carole King Musical (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Jessie Mueller earned a Tony nomination for her lead role in ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Mary Bridget Davies
A Night with Janis Joplin
In her Broadway debut, the amazing Mary Bridget Davies remarkably simulated the unique sound of the sandpaper-voiced Janis Joplin and recaptured the volcanic emotional power of such classics as “Me and Bobby McGee” and “A Piece of My Heart.” She won a Cleveland Critics Circle Award and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for the role during a pre-Broadway national tour.

Sutton Foster
Violet
Is there anything Sutton Foster can’t do? After catapulting into the spotlight in Thoroughly Modern Millie and dazzling us with her tap skills in Anything Goes (she won Tonys for both of those roles), she takes on the demanding title role in Violet, in Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of the 1997 musical. Foster shines as the determined young woman taking a cross-country bus trip in hopes of getting a televangelist to make her beautiful by healing a scar across her face. The two-time Tony winner is equally comfortable in all the genres of the eclectic score (gospel, country, R&B, rock) and she conveys Violet’s roller-coaster emotions from ecstatic anticipation of her new looks to crushing disappointment to finding new love. Besides her two wins, Foster was also previously nominated for Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone and Shrek The Musical.

Idina Menzel
If/Then
Previously won a Tony for Wicked. Also nominated for Rent.
Despite having her name mangled by John Travolta at the Oscars, Idina Menzel is riding high. In addition to performing the Oscar-winning Best Song (“Let It Go” from Frozen) on that ceremony, she is in the running for Broadway’s highest honor as Beth and Lizzie, two versions of the same woman following different paths in If/Then. In this double-role, she runs the gamut from hilarious confusion at sleeping with the wrong man to rage at a husband for getting killed in action to sadly viewing a friend’s wedding. Her magnificent voice blasts the roof of the Richard Rodgers and forces us to contemplate our choices.

Jessie Mueller
Beautiful—The Carole King Musical
Jessie Mueller perfectly captures the tender ache in legendary singer-songwriter Carole King’s voice as well as lovingly charting her journey from naïve teenage songwriter to iconic performer. After stealing the show in supporting roles in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (for which she also received a Tony nomination) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Mueller comes into her own as a Broadway star in this career-making role. She breaks your heart as Carole survives a broken marriage with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin and then puts it back together again as she embarks on her solo career, putting over such hits as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Natural Woman,” and the title song.

Kelli O’Hara
The Bridges of Madison County
This Tony-nominated star has given magnificent performances in a variety of roles from the child-like daughter in The Light in the Piazza and the confused suburban matron in Far From Heaven to the feisty union leader in The Pajama Game and the loyal but conflicted nurse in South Pacific. But in the musical version of Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel, she plays her most complex character, Francesca, the lonely Italian-bornIowa housewife embarking on a weekend-long affair with Robert, a traveling photographer. From her opening aria, “To Build a Home” to “One Second and a Million Miles,” her soaring duet with Robert, she passionately expresses Francesca’s longings, dreams and brief joys. This is O’Hara’s fifth nomination.

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