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Should win » Bryan Cranston.
Are you going to argue with Walter White? Cranston, fresh off his triumph as a drug kingpin in "Breaking Bad," shows what he can do in a Broadway debut, and it’s astonishing. He looks nothing like President Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way" but no matter: With his hair slicked back, his pants hiked up and in a pair of thick black glasses, Cranston stretches his rubbery face into a near-constant Johnson scowl and makes that good ol’ boy accent run riot. He makes Mark Rylance’s "Richard III" look like a cub scout. The other competitors — Chris O’Dowd, Tony Shalhoub and Samuel Barnett — need not have a speech ready.
The 68th Annual Tony Awards airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2. (Tape delayed in this time zone.)
Will win » Audra McDonald.
Should win » Audra McDonald.
McDonald will have her sixth Tony for a role that showcases all her stage skills — singing and acting and just being Audra McDonald. In "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill," she plays Billie Holiday with humor and grit. You get to hear "Stormy Weather" live and somehow enjoy Holliday and McDonald at the same time. Cherry Jones, who was marvelous in "The Glass Menagerie," had this wrapped up until McDonald decided to join her on Broadway this season. Their other competitors — Tyne Daly, Estelle Parsons and LaTanya Richardson Jackson — were great too but none can beat McDonald and Holiday.
Will win » Neil Patrick Harris.
Should win » Jefferson Mays.
Not to take anything from NPH, but Mays puts everything he has into his eight roles in "A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder." Harris will win for a tour de force as a German transsexual in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and he deserves it. He is willing to eat cigarettes and lick the stage. But May deserves applause, too, as the four noblemen and two noblewomen standing in the way of an inheritance. Both actors are sweating at the end. One has killed, and one has been killed, over and over again. Other competitors — Ramin Karimloo, Andy Karl and Bryce Pinkham — all are young and will surely be back.
Will win » Idina Menzel.
Should win » Kelli O’Hara.
Menzel lets her impressive lungs loose in the dual heroine lead of "If/Then," which should have produced two paychecks. But O’Hara, in "The Bridges of Madison County," also put her heart and the imprint she puts on her songs will outlast her rival, even though the show hasn’t. Sutton Foster in the understated "Violet" is a worthy competitor and Jessie Mueller is an appealing Carole King, but no one can beat the vocal fireworks of the woman who taught us to let it go.
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