ICYMI: Judging a Tony Winner By Its Cover

If you got a glimpse of any of the red carpet fashion at the Tony Awards last weekend, you might’ve noticed a lot of stars stepping up their game. And also that Kendall Jenner was there. Main reason: Anna Wintour. She showed up and so did the theater folk. Here are some of our faves from Broadway’s biggest night.

Tony Awards 2015: Best Dressed

If you love both theater and fashion, the Tony Awards are just about the snazziest night of the year. Unless you’re me, reading tweets about the event while on flight delay at O’Hare, eating a $6 pile of kale – during 30 minutes of free wifi. 30 MINUTES. As though you can accomplish anything on the internet in the duration of an episode of Step By Step (with commercials). But while I’m basically in the developing world (in that there’s scant wifi and it cost 1/3 of my paycheck to buy two cups of vegetables), the stars are shining on the broad way. Here were the best dressed of the night. But be forewarned: due to cruddy bandwidth, the first time I saw these outfits they were on people so pixelated they looked like they were made of Lego.

Dame Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka

Well, look who’s making sure you don’t forget the “dame” in front of her name. I love that Mirren never tries to dress too young, but she also doesn’t wear stuffy “lady of a certain age” outfits – nor should she. If you told me “dramatic lace sleeves” I would have told you “absolutely not,” but this actually looks great.

Jennifer Lopez in Valentino

I don’t know why 3/4 of the people on this red carpet are on it (Kendall Jenner: book for Finding Neverland? Costume design for Curious Incident ? No, she’s just there). J.Lo is at least taking this seriously, and this gold and midnight blue number is so event-appropriate. I also like that it’s not that one kind of dress she usually wears. You know the one.

Vanessa Hudgens in Naeem Khan

The musical Vanessa’s from is High School, but she looks Broadway-ready. I tend to think there are different levels of conventionality required for the different awards shows. You can take bigger risks at the Grammys than at the Oscars, for instance. I’d say the Tony’s are traditional, but not so much that a print seems out of place. Even Anna Wintour’s daughter wore one. Besides, a large print is one of those youthful looks that you may as well wear while you can. Great place to wear a less-known designer, too!

Kelli O’Hara in Oscar de la Renta

I don’t know if Kelli KNEW that this was the year she’d break away from being a Broadway Susan Lucci, but she sure is dressed like she is. So on one hand, this gold and black dress is formal enough for the event. It actually reminds me of damascena jewelry. But on the other, the shorter length makes it look a lot fresher than a longer gown situation.

Sydney Lucas in Erin Featherstone

I haven’t seen Fun Home, but just from listening to the great soundtrack you can tell that Sydney Lucas isn’t just some kiddo belting Tomorrow (I know, some great actresses have played Annie, it’s just not a role with a lot of levels, you know? She’s more at a Daisy Eagan in Secret Garden-level). I’m so happy everyone got to see that when she performed at the Tonys! Plus, it’s adorable that she’s obviously a young lady who cares about her fashion. One of my favorite parts of the Tonys is seeing all of these actresses that you’ve only seen in costume getting to really shine, and this girl absolutely looks like a Broadway star.


Since we’re judging people solely on their looks, let’s look back at the 2014 Tonys, when we went back into the archives and found the headshots of all the nominees, naturally basing their professional photos on whether or not they had a shot of actually winning a Tony.

2014 Tony Award Winner Predictions (Based Solely On Headshots)

The all-powerful headshot can make or break an acting career. You thought it was talent, hard work, and luck? So did I – until I was 12. That was the year that all of my acting friends got the secret memo to wear makeup and flat-iron their hair before updating their photos. They all looked like they walked out of Seventeen magazine, whereas I looked like.. well, like:

Yep, that’s the headshot of someone who’s going to be stuck in child roles for a good while. The only way I would be playing a girl next door is if the main character happens to lives next door to a Victorian orphanage. So trust me, headshots matter. That’s why I’m pretty confident that the key to this year’s Tony wins is in the almighty 5×7. To be as impartial as possible, we are judging this year’s winners solely by the headshots available on the official Tony Awards website.

Best Performance By A Leading Actor In A Play

Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night

Okay, the dabbled gray background is a little school portrait. But the icy blue, straight on stare says “I can play dramatic roles!” and the slight smirk says “but if the dialog gets a little funny, I’m on top of it!” The bright flash highlights Barnett’s pale complexion, as if to say “I can play British.”

Bryan Cranston – All The Way

The fuck, Cranston? No. NO. You’re like that one kid whose parents didn’t properly understand sending in a baby picture for that one section of your senior yearbook, and sent one from freshman year instead. You are the default silhouette picture from Myspace. Even Tom doesn’t want to be friends with that.

Remember Tom, everyone?

Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice And Men

Well as I live and breathe. Chris O’Dowd has out-Cranstoned Cranston. There are actual people in the actual background, and you know what? Blurring them out by enlarging the “blemish remover” function on iPhoto is just making me notice it more. Good luck winning a Tony with this Photobucket-quality headshot, buddy. Good freaking luck.

On the other hand, maybe this is clever. Maybe it tells us that he is too busy for headshots — busy going to events where he, and blurry others, wear suits.

Mark Rylance – Richard III

White sheet backdrop aside, this is art. ART. The lowered left eyebrow. The tremulous sidelong glance. The windswept locks. His mouth is even ever-so-slightly agape. It is like everything that Jay Manuel and Janice Dickinson told contestants to do on the early seasons of America’s Next Top Model, except for posing with limbs askew and pretending to have been murdered. I think we might have our winner. And that earring? That’s just boss.

Tony Shaloub – Act One

Like, is this photo editing, or does he have a legitimage twinkle in both eyes? Speaking of Tyra Banks: smizing. Notice how you sort of feel like Tony Shaloub has read the story of your soul, and would recommend it to a friend? It’s all in the smize.
The winner, based on headshot alone: Mark Rylance. That headshot has RANGE.

 

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Play

Tyne Daly – Mothers And Sons

Okay, now we’re cooking with gas. There’s a neutral but varied background. There’s warm, soft lighting. You know what this looks like? This looks like a headshot where the actress is at least TRYING. See the Shaloub-esque half smile?
Also, I think that, as in paintings by Renaissance masters, if you look at this from different points in the room, Daly’s eyes follow you.
Her face is so captivating that I almost didn’t notice that this photo almost reaches a Glamour Shot-caliber boob suggestion. Glamour Shots: Not the boob itself, but the idea of the boob.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

FINALLY. Now it’s a contest. Look at this. It’s like Headshot Bingo. Or a headshot drinking game. Let’s count:
(1) Flowy wrap sweater
(2) Gently contrasting background
(3) Statement necklace
(4) HAND SHELF.
It’s like every headshot cliche in one photo. Ms Jackson, I salute you. Question, though: what is up with the curled-up, partially visible left hand?

Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie

I’m of two minds here. The first: the blurred background is, well… have we learned nothing from O’Dowd? It looks like Jones is in some sort of outdoor patio or porch situation, which is at least pleasant. Contrast that with O’Dowd, who is in some sort of formalwear context that is almost definitely not fun.
The second: Does she have the headshot smile down or what? Happy but not too happy. Warm without a photoshopped eye twinkle (unless that’s how Shaloub’s eyes are naturally, which… maybe, you know? Maybe.)

Audra MacDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill

Even if I didn’t know who Audra McDonald was, which I guess I’m trying to do here, I’d know this was the photo of a champion. That is the cozy sweater of someone who can play a mom or a business professional on a day off. Her hair is glorious. The background is neutral but, with the hint of light oak chair, not antiseptic. There’s gentle accessorizing. There’s nail polish. There’s attractive lighting, like in Barbara Walters specials.
Brava, Ms. McDonald.

Estelle Parsons

While I don’t deny that Estelle Parsons is probably a lovely person and a wonderful actress, this is simply not a Tony Award Winning headshot. That is the downward facing chin of a nominee, not the proud, upright chin of a winner!

Besides, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out that was a scarf tucked into her sweater and not some really weird collar or even weirder neck/chin situation. Tony voters don’t have time for that.
The Winner, Based On Headshot Alone: Audra. That’s the headshot of a lady who came to win.

 

Best Performance By A Lead Actor In A Musical

Now, for a little bit of the ‘man behind the curtain’ in the blogging world: my browser is doing something it’s never done before, and making text and photos appear straight on top of each other, and my curser is moving around will-nilly. So let’s just cut straight to the winner, shall we?
Winner, based on headshot alone:

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig And The Angry Inch

 

This was a process of elimination win. Ramin Karimloo looked a little too ‘intentionally disheveled hot guy.’ Andy Karl was posed in front of some sort of industrial piping, which, like, you’re in Rocky. We know. Jefferson Mays looked like he was going to turn me into ice with his crystalline blue stare. Between Bryce Pinkham and Neil Patrick Harris, Harris’s headshot was a little edgier. Pinkham’s, shot in soft light with a white background, seemed to say “I’m here for the art, not to win.”

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Musical

 

Can we discuss these award category names? They are all roughly twice as long as they need to be, right?
The winner, based on headshot alone:

Sutton Foster – Violet

This was another process of elimination. Idina Menzel, bless her talented heart, almost tries TOO hard in her headshot. I’m talking about a wind machine. Jessie Mueller manages to look most like someone I’d want to hang out with in real life – meaning, unlike some theater people, she doesn’t look absolutely exhausting. But she does have the visible, photoshopped background person going on. Kelli O’Hara has so much blinding white light going on that I think she might be the first person I’m seeing after dying.  Mary Bridget Davies brought her A-Game, but Foster’s got the approachable smile down. She was probably smile-coached along with Cherry Jones.

 

So, was my 12-year-old self right? Can you tell a great actor by headshot alone? Tune in to the Tony’s on Sunday night to find out!
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