Berlin before Hitler, Broadway in the Prohibition era, several states in the American Southwest, fabled Arabia, and the legendary Brill Building, home of pop hits during the 1950s and ’60s. These are the diverse locations inhabited by this year’s nominees for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Each is made real and exciting by these dedicated performers.
Danny Burstein is one of Broadway’s musical most versatile performers. He’s been previously Tony-nominated for such diverse roles as the buffoonish Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone, the slick operator Luther Billis in South Pacific, the conflicted Buddy in Follies and the tough-as-nails trainer in Golden Boy. In Cabaret, he vivifies yet another character, the Jewish fruit-seller Herr Schultz who embarks on a doomed, midlife romance with his landlady, Fraulein Schneider. He is humorous and lovable, but there is an undercurrent of fear even as he claims the Nazis will never come to power.
Bullets Over Broadway
It’s the oldest story on Broadway — a relative unknown is given a break and steals the shows from a cast of veterans. For Nick Cordero, this cliché comes true every night as he gives gutsy, gritty life to Cheech, the brutish gangster who happens to be a natural playwright, in the stage version of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. In addition to believably combining Cheech’s violence-prone demeanor and his artistic acumen, Cordero skillfully leads a chorus of tap-dancing tough guys in the rousing tap number “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-Ness If I Do.”
Previously Tony nominated for The Scottsboro Boys and prominently featured in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Joshua Henry delivers a subtle and moving performance as Flick, the young African-American GI who unexpectedly falls in love with the white title character, Violet, during a cross-country bus ride during the 1960s. In his solo number, “Let It Sing,” Henry’s soaring voice creates an inspiring message of hope and compassion for the insecure Violet played by fellow nominee Sutton Foster.
James Monroe Iglehart
James Monroe Iglehart obliterates any memory of Robin Williams with his high-voltage, multiple-personality performance as the flamboyant genie in the stage version of the Disney animated film. All the critics agreed that he is the Energizer bunny that keeps the show running. “Every time this genie’s on stage, it’s as if Aladdin were mainlining Red Bull,” raves Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post. His big number “Friend Like Me” literally stops the show and receives a rare mid-performance standing ovation.
Beautiful—The Carole King Musical
Jarrod Spector made his Broadway debut as Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons in a replacement company of Jersey Boys. Now he’s playing another legend of the music industry — Barry Mann, half of the Top 40s songwriting team with Cynthia Weil, played by fellow nominee Anika Larsen. He’s wildly funny as the hypochondriac Barry and also solidly delivers such diverse pop hits as “Who Put the Bop” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”