BootLeg Betty

What Are Midler’s Chances Of Winning A Tony?

New York Post
Tony’s no laughing matter
Last Updated: 10:59 PM, April 23, 2013

Photo: Richard Termine
Photo: Richard Termine

Can the “Divine Miss M” win a “Divine Miss T?”

That is, can Bette Midler win a Tony Award (which is named after Antoinette Perry)?

Midler returns to Broadway tonight for the first time in nearly 35 years in “I’ll Eat You Last,” a new play by John Logan (“Red”) at the Booth.

I hear she’s giving a rollicking performance as Sue Mengers, the lumpy, caftan-clad, pot-smoking Hollywood agent whose clients included Michael Caine, Faye Dunaway, Ali MacGraw (who’s coming tonight) and Steve McQueen (who’s dead).

It took Midler a few weeks to get back her Broadway sea legs. She called for lines during early previews, and had mini bouts of self-doubt. But under the steady hand of director Joe Mantello, she pulled the performance together. I predict she’ll be laying out the papers in her Fifth Avenue apartment tomorrow morning and reveling in the reviews.

Since most of the aged Tony nominators have been Midler fans since her “Clams on the Half Shell” revue in 1975, she’s almost certain to get a nomination.

But to win, she has to overcome the Tonys’ long-standing prejudice against comedies and comedic performances.

Seldom in the 65 years of Tony history has a comedy won Best Play or a comic performer, Best Actress.

Looking at the winners from the last 13 years, “God of Carnage” is the only comedy on the list. And even that’s debatable, if only because the playwright, France’s Yasmina Reza, says, “I do not write ze cometies. I write ze social commentaries.” (Then she puts on her sunglasses, adjusts her Hermès scarf and takes a long drag on her Gauloise.)

The only comedy in the last 20 years that won a Tony, in 1991, was Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers.” It had some dark tones, but Simon writes for laughs.

As for performers, Marcia Gay Harden won in 2009 for “Carnage,” but while she got huge laughs, I’m sure Madame Reza wasn’t amused. In fact, I remember hearing that at one rehearsal, when Harden, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels were slaying the room with laughter, she said, “I do not recognize my play” — and went home to Paris.

Julie White won for “The Little Dog Laughed” in 2007, which might bode well for Midler, since White played an acerbic Hollywood agent who cracked Mengers-type jokes.

But, on the whole, the winners for the past 20 years have been from the school of Acting Is a Very Serious Business — Cynthia Nixon (“Rabbit Hole,” about the death of a child), Viola Davis (“Fences”), Vanessa Redgrave (“Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” a real laugh riot).

This year, Midler will be up against some very serious actresses giving some very serious performances.

The excellent Fiona Shaw will certainly be nominated for “The Testament of Mary.” She takes off her clothes, which is always proof of real acting.

Laurie Metcalf will get a nod for “The Other Place,” in which she played a woman who was mentally ill. In her big scene she plopped down on the floor and slobbered Chinese food all over herself. Said one wag: “This is good for a Tony nomination at the very least!”

In “The Assembled Parties,” Jessica Hecht plays a former teenage movie actress turned Upper West Side doyenne. Ben Brantley praised her “gracious, willful whimsicality” that allows her to “keep moving as if life were a lovely, lovely dream when all the evidence screams that the opposite is true.” Which means: Tony nomination.

The fourth nominee will probably be Holland Taylor, who gives a sharp performance as Texas Gov. Ann Richards in “Ann.” Taylor gets plenty of laughs, but her one-woman play deals with serious issues such as loss and alcoholism.

(By the way, none of this season’s starlets will be in the mix. Scarlett Johansson was done in by director Rob Ashford in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Emilia Clarke took off her clothes in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but the cat got more attention. And Jessica Chastain tried and failed to banish memories of the great Cherry Jones in “The Heiress.”)

For Midler, a cut-up, to beat the Serious Girls, she’s going to have to charm her way through a thicket of Tony voters.

Let the do-ya-do-ya-wanna-dance begin!

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3 thoughts on “What Are Midler’s Chances Of Winning A Tony?

  1. Bette Midler they have a huge place in my heart and they will win because they always give their best, right from her heart! Good luck and millions of hugs

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