Ridiculous, I suppose, to worry about Denzel Washington. The artist and megastar will doubtless get along fine without a Tony nomination for his magnificent portrayal of Walter Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun."
Foolish, I know, to feel hurt for Daniel Radcliffe. But his wrenching performance of Cripple Billy in "The Cripple of Inishmaan" was ignored by the Tony nominators, as were his two previous Broadway achievements since he stepped so boldly and admirably from the hulking, boyish shadow of Harry Potter.
Mostly, I believe I have to slap myself out of this sentimental spasm of faith in the Tony Awards as defining symbols of excellence. I must remind myself that competition between artists is neither sensible nor humane and that the Tonys are an industry marketing tool with its own ethos and goals.
But, really, no Washington and no Radcliffe? No Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart and nothing for their exhilarating repertory of Pinter and Beckett? No Michael C. Hall, Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette and Tracy Letts, and nothing for their edgy, dark, oddly delightful play, Will Eno's "The Realistic Joneses"? No Rebecca Hall for her rigorous, uncompromising performance in the also shunned and stunning revival of "Machinal"? No Debra Messing for her confident Broadway debut in "Outside Mullingar"? No James Franco for playing the less flashy role in "Of Mice and Men" with such intelligent grace, and no Zachary Quinto for galvanizing the unpredictable center of "The Glass Menagerie"?
We are talking about more than a few Hollywood stars with bruised vanity. And, let's be clear, we are not mourning the omission this season of Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Tom Skerritt, Fred Thompson and maybe even Mary-Louise Parker. They didn't deserve nominations.
We are talking, or at least I am, about incomprehensible rejections of much of the most praised, most exciting and distinguished work of the season -- particularly Washington in one of the richest performances I have ever seen. Yes, all these happen to have been accomplished by artists with famous Hollywood names. But they are not celebrity carpetbaggers sweeping in for an easy legit credit. And no matter how big a happy face is put on things, this public insult must sting.
Not surprisingly, people involved with snubbed actors and plays are not eager to chat with the press about it. Commenting can easily sound like sour grapes. It can also hurt the chances for producers' other nominated actors and other nominated productions. (The 33 nominators, representing different areas of the theater, are not permitted to speak to the press. They are not even allowed to speak to one another.)
In other words, I felt a lot of my own rejection for interviews for this column, either through silence or by polite refusal to dignify an awkward situation with unpleasantness.
The brave exception is Jeffrey Richards, producer of five major projects this spring. He got splendid news about three of them -- "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" (two nominations, including one for Audra McDonald), "All the Way" (one each for Bryan Cranston and the play) and "The Glass Menagerie" (seven, including Cherry Jones and the revival but not Quinto).
Richards' other two worthy shows brought less of a glow. "The Bridges of Madison County," which is now closing next Sunday, got four nominations, including ones for the wonderful Kelli O'Hara and Jason Robert Brown's extraordinary score. But the big prize is best musical. And although the nominators had the option of picking five musicals, they chose only four and left this one out. Then there was the total shutout of "The Realistic Joneses" and the four-star cast.
"I sat there in the first row during the nominations," Richards told me in a phone interview. "I kept thinking of that film with Maggie Smith and Timothy Bottoms -- 'Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing.'
"There are always good things that are omitted and always good things included," he began diplomatically. "It can't go your way all the time."
Yes, but isn't this year more egregious than others? "Denzel Washington, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Daniel Radcliffe, Zachary," Richards said. "There are five big names right there and five pretty extraordinary performances. I haven't seen 'Of Mice and Men' yet, so I don't know about James Franco, but that's a lot of people left out."
When we spoke, Quinto was on a movie shoot and Richards hadn't yet confronted the uneasy fact that he was the only one in the cast without a nomination. "What will I say?," he answered my question. "I'll say I feel he deserved a nomination and that, without him, we would not have had the nomination for revival. This is very much an ensemble."
He is glad that the four actors for "The Realistic Joneses" got a Drama Desk award for best ensemble. "That's a wonderful award for all of them." Richards petitioned the Tony committee to put all four into the featured-actor category, but the committee insisted they compete as lead actors.
"I don't know if that would have changed anything," he admitted, then added a sober thought about Eno's play. "I'm more concerned that a new and original voice on Broadway was overlooked," he said, listing some of the nominated -- and less well-reviewed -- plays with an audible shrug. "I'm subjective because I love the play. The Tony nominators didn't have quite the same love."
As for forgotten stars, Richards was the producer of the revival of "Glengarry Glen Ross" last year, when Al Pacino wasn't nominated. Also left off the 2012-13 list were Bette Midler, Scarlett Johansson, Katie Holmes, Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Chastain, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Cumming, Debra Winger and Jim Parsons.
The previous year's grievously overlooked and/or conspicuously ignored were Ricky Martin, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew Broderick, Hugh Dancy and Henry Winkler.
I asked Richards if Hollywood stars -- or their agents -- would resist the Broadway lure if they felt unwelcome, or even humiliated. He listed several big names -- Hugh Jackman, James Earl Jones, Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor -- already cast for next season.
"Look," he said, "It would be wonderful for artists to be recognized for their work. But I'd like to think they're doing it for great roles and a love for being part of the theater, not for the icing."
Still, I suspect many of this year's overlooked would have been happy to have had the chance to say, "It was an honor just to be nominated" when they lose.