Guys thrive as tuners survive

Tonys Preview: The Music Men

The current Broadway season is awash with new tuners sporting original scores and books. There are nine, not including “Spider-Man,” and that lofty number measures very well against the 1950s heyday when there were never more than 11 per season, and sometimes only five.

Equally intriguing, those tuners, along with the new revivals and jukeboxers, are very guy-heavy. Has the male domination of the movies, which began in the 1950s, finally found its way to the Broadway musical?

“The Scottsboro Boys” was nothing but men, with a breakout perf by Joshua Henry. Ditto that of Benjamin Walker, who was “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams get to wear all the best dresses in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” Even though they don’t share all that much stage time, Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit have a deeply moving bromance going on in “Catch Me if You Can.” Forget the “Mad Men”-style secretaries: The real heat in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” is between Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. And Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells undergo a unique metamorphosis together in “The Book of Mormon.”

The 1950s spirit of Ethel Merman, Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin lives on. But actresses in lead roles aren’t quite so plentiful this season. Previous Tony winners like Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes”), Beth Leavel (“Baby It’s You”) and Donna Murphy (“The People in the Picture”) might be tapped again, along with the twice-nommed Sherie Rene Scott (“Women on the Verge”). Also in the running are Janet Dacal, the very adult Alice in “Wonderland,” and Olivier-nominee Patina Miller, who essays the Whoopi Goldberg role in “Sister Act.” Come May 3, the Tony committee has no choice but to deliver that uncomfortable verdict of not nominating just one of these eligible lead actresses.

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