rambling reporter

Tony night wish list: 'Grey' lady, Mr. 'Nixon'

When I saw Christine Ebersole in "Grey Gardens" months ago, it seemed like a slam-dunk that she'd be picking up a Tony this year as best actress in a musical. That still seems absolutely fitting come Sunday, when the 2006-07 Tonys are dispensed, even considering the superhot competition that came up late in the game from two particularly noteworthy competitors: Donna Murphy in "LoveMusik" and Audra McDonald in "110 in the Shade." Tony-wise, best actor in a musical most likely will be Raul Esparza in "Company," though neither his performance nor this particular revival rank very high in my book. "Company" is the Sondheim musical I admire most, but not this time. There are too many focus-stealing musical instruments being paraded around onstage, too little charm from Esparza and too many gimmicks for a brilliant show that doesn't need a single one of them. Best actor in a play? Despite more competition than any performer deserves, "Frost/Nixon's" Frank Langella should immediately start rehearsing his walk to the stage. Best actress in a play will probably be Eve Best in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" because she has what her competitors don't: a brilliant play in which to show her wares. The most deserving: Angela Lansbury, who is stunningly good in a script, "Deuce," that gives her only minimal help as an actress. Despite that, Lansbury shines like solid gold. Best play: "The Coast of Utopia" will take that prize, though my pick would be "Frost/Nixon." Best musical: "Spring Awakening" has the tidal wave in its favor, but I liked "Grey Gardens" much more. Best revival: "Journey's End," which is the saddest story of the year because it's so good, so compelling, so well acted and such good theater; it gives its final performance, in a sea of red ink, Sunday afternoon, just before those Antoinette Perry awards are dispensed. That's the same day "Moon" ends, too, but it's going out in black-ink glory, the most financially successful (and quickest payoff) of Eugene O'Neill's play to date. After its original run in 1957 with Franchot Tone and Wendy Hiller, there were revivals in 1973 with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, in 1984 with Ian Bannen and Kate Nelligan, in 2000 with Gabriel Byrne and Cherry Jones and the current run with Kevin Spacey and Best. This newest version will have done 71 performances when it wraps. The longest run of any of the "Moons" was the Robards-Dewhurst revival, at 313 performances. The shortest was the Bannen-Nelligan version, which dropped its curtain after 40 performances. … Michael Feinstein opens his latest run tonight at his own club, the spiffy Feinstein's at Loews Regency, this session celebrating the great Bobby Short and running through June 16. Feinstein, the heir apparent to Short as the town's premier cabaret talent and lightning rod, will be followed June 19-30 by Mary Wilson of the Supremes. … On Saturday, Jeff Harnar and Shauna Hicks, backed by a 30-piece orchestra conducted by Barry Levitt, will be doing a full-scale musical show at Town Hall saluting the music and movies of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. It's titled "I Got Rhythm! Mickey and Judy's Hollywood." Barry Kleinbort directs.