Next Tuesday we'll officially get one of my favorite announcements of the season: the Tony Awards! I recently got back from a trip to New York City, and while I don't think I did as well in advance of the awards in terms of what I'm seeing getting nominated (I wanted to keep both of my kidneys so getting Hamilton tickets was off the table), I did have a marvelous time and am excited to see what musicals, plays, and actors are about to have their Broadway dreams come true. We'll kick it off with the category everyone is excited for...
So, umm, Hamilton. That's it right? It kind of sucks for the also-rans, but there's almost no point in mentioning them if you're just concerned about the winner as not since The Book of Mormon has there been such a lock for a nomination and win. It'll be, likely like The Producers, almost comical how quickly they stack up every statue.
There will, of course, be other contenders in the lineup, as there are three other nominations. Waitress (which I did catch) has a leg-up both because its star is getting hugely successful reviews and because it seems to be a hit with audiences; the same could be said for Bright Star and School of Rock, the first major hit for Andrew Lloyd Webber since Sunset Boulevard, which is saying something. While other plays like American Psycho or Tuck Everlasting could also compete (and with their film origins the Broadway community might want to back them to help push a touring company), they don't have the Box Office or reviews that normally associate with this category, even if it's harder to tell the final slots when the winner is so obvious.
Finally, it's hard to tell whether or not Shuffle Along will be nominated. A star-studded musical, it's very original in its book and script, but for some reason wants to be considered a revival (wait, the reason is simple-it wants to win and not compete against Hamilton while doing so). I have trouble believing the Tony committee classifies it as such, so I'm sticking with it here, and with Scott Rudin on board it's likely to be included wherever it ends up being eligible.
My Predictions: Hamilton, School of Rock, Shuffle Along, Waitress
Unlike Best Musical, the winner here hasn't been preordained in granite for months now. I suspect, though, that you can take at least Danai Gurira's Eclipsed and Stephan Karam's The Humans to the bank-both have dominated the conversation and have been major players in recent weeks on Broadway, and in a rare twist are actually from American playwrights, which isn't usually the case for the Tony Awards. On the flip side is Mike Bartlett's King Charles III, which is about Prince Charles taking the throne and already had a successful run in the West End.
The remaining contenders are a bit of a hodgepodge. Our Mother's Brief Affair got strong reviews, but is it too small to make it here? On the flip side, you have plays like Misery and An Act of God coasting off of major celebrity/name recognition that will look a bit down-the-nose to Tony voters. As a result I'm going to finish off the list with a longtime Tony favorite Frank Langella, whose The Father is probably a safe, reliable pick to be included (though likely not to win).
My Predictions: Eclipsed, The Father, The Humans, King Charles III
As I stated above, it's quite likely that Shuffle Along could be included here, but if they aren't stretching the truth, this is a battle between five musicals, in which case only three slots are a possibility. The top choice, in my opinion, will be The Color Purple, which has gotten solid buzz and has a likely play in the Best Actress field. Name recognition makes me think the final two spots will be Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me, though Spring Awakening, which is recent enough that it makes me feel old that it's already being revived (same for The Color Purple), could make it, though the show is closed while the other two aren't, and Tony voters have notoriously short memories.
(Side Note: Though I'm not predicting featured actors here, I am genuinely curious if Jennifer Hudson makes it into that lineup-I doubt she wins, but I think she is bound-and-determined to make a play at least for an EGOT nomination collection, and between this and Confirmation she could soon be much closer to achieving the dream).
My Predictions: The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me
The reality is that it's almost always easier to be nominated here if you are still on Broadway, and that's true for three of the contenders right now, all of which are handsomely-produced, feature major movie star talent, and seem like strong shots at nominations: Blackbird, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
However, occasionally the Tony Awards have longer memories, so other shows could make it despite having a closure sign on the door. Hughie starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker was a gigantic bomb, Noises Off feels like it was just done, though the Times wasn't awful to it. Honestly, the best shots are probably Old Times, which has the benefit of Oscar nominee Clive Owen, and A View from the Bridge, which stars a shirtless Russell Tovey (which is, admittedly, all I'm really looking for in a play), and perhaps more of a draw for Tony voters (though this is Broadway, so not that much more of a draw), got rave reviews. Your guess is as as good as mine, but I'm going with...
My Predictions: Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Blackbird, Long Day's Journey Into Night, A View from the Bridge
Here we are back a little bit in territory I can understand, as it appears that three men are going to be sure things. Both of the Hamilton stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr. are assured nominations, as is most of the Hamilton cast, let's be honest, and the real question is which one of them takes this trophy. Joining them in the winner's circle will be perpetually unlucky Danny Burstein, who is assured a sixth loss at the Tony Awards (he and wife Rebecca Luker, another eternal bridesmaid, can console each other through song).
The final two slots are a harder prediction. Alex Brightman's position as the lead of School of Rock is an ostentatious enough part that he should be able to make it even if he's not in a spot to win, but the fifth spot could be anyone's guess. Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter are both Tony favorites, but neither stands apart in an obvious way in Shuffle Along, and I suspect they'll split the votes. That should help out either Benjamin Walker, who somehow has never been nominated for a Tony despite continual spots on Broadway (near unheard of for a man his age) in American Psycho, and Andrew Keenan-Bolger in Tuck Everlasting, who needs to start catching up with his sister soon to avoid a major sibling rivalry.
My Predictions: Alex Brightman, Danny Burstein, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Benjamin Walker
First off, let's get the Hamilton out of the way: though she's not a guarantee to win, Phillipa Soo is assured a spot in the final five. The same can be said for Jessie Mueller, coming off a recent win for Beautiful who is starting to turn into a perpetual nominee for Waitress. Finally, I think that Cynthia Erivo has gotten too many plaudits and accolades to not make it for The Color Purple.
The final two spots are a bit hazy. Laura Benanti is always a Tony contender, and she hasn't been on the boards in a while so the Broadway community might be feeling nostalgic. If they go bigger for Bright Star than I'm expecting, Carmen Cusack would be a potential surprise. Lea Salonga would be a lock (she's a Tony winner from way back), but Allegiance closed early and it's hard to tell if the Tony winners will have a long enough memory. And finally there's Audra McDonald. She's been sick for a number of performances in Shuffle Along and is only going to be in the show for a few weeks before jetting off to London. However, she's Audra McDonald, six-time Tony winner, who has never missed when she was eligible for a musical. That's a lot of star power to deny even when any mere mortal would miss under those circumstances.
My Predictions: Laura Benanti, Cynthia Erivo, Audra McDonald, Jessie Mueller, Phillipa Soo
The dramatic races are almost always a balance between movie star and stage star, as depending on the year the Tony Awards may be feeling particularly-inclined to Hollywood (lest we forget Scarlett Johansson has a Tony but no Oscar nomination) or completely abandon it (despite boffo box office and critical raves Bradley Cooper ended up empty-handed last year). As a result, when those two collide with someone like Frank Langella in The Father, you take notice as the longtime star of both the movies and Shubert Alley is a near certain contender for a nomination.
The rest of the list is harder to tell. You have Clive Owen (Old Times), Al Pacino (China Doll), and James Earl Jones (The Gin Game) all as major headliners whose plays have long ago closed, but their cache is still strong if they want the celebrity quotient to be high (it's worth noting that Pacino and Jones, in particular, have had a long Broadway career to go along with their celebrated work in the motion pictures). On the flip side you have lesser-known Mark Strong (A View from the Bridge) and Tim Pigott-Smith (King Charles III) who could make it based on solid reviews and coattails from their plays. Gabriel Byrne (Long Day's Journey Into Night), Jeff Daniels (Blackbird), and Ben Whishaw (The Crucible) all are in the unique position where their shows are still on Broadway (always helps if you're nominating a show people can actually seek out), while a nod to Jim Parsons (An Act of God) would be a way of welcoming a major television star who has been hitting the boards like mad (this is his third Broadway play since 2011). The one name you won't see, though it's probably the most famous on this list? Bruce Willis, whose work in Misery may have been a way to stretch the longtime cinema icon, but even if it'd be fun to see him at the CBS broadcast, movie star quotient will only get you so far.
My Predictions: Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella, Al Pacino, Tim Pigott-Smith, Mark Strong
Despite somehow missing out at the Drama Desk Awards, it's hard to imagine recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, who is getting absolute raves and is the frontrunner for the trophy, missing out when it comes to Eclipsed. The play is a major critical player and after Hollywood has repeatedly been chastised for denying her roles despite a recent major debut, I suspect that Broadway will self-congratulate in this situation. Alongside her will surely be Jessica Lange, whose work in Long Day's Journey into Night won her an Olivier citation sixteen years ago and has never been nominated for a Tony Award. Sentiment might make her a favorite if Nyong'o loses any sort of momentum.
Speaking of Oscar nominees, a number of other women from Hollywood will be amongst those wanting a shot at the Tony this year. Michelle Williams (Blackbird), Sophie Okonedo (The Crucible), Cicely Tyson (The Gin Game), and hell, even Keira Knightley (Therese Raquin) are all possibilities, though the first two have the advantage of still being on Broadway right now. Laurie Metcalf may not have an Oscar nomination, but she's a Tony favorite and her work in Misery was routinely cited as the best part of the play. Finally, there's Nicola Walker, who is not a household name even in New York, but could get in if praise for A View from the Bridge is particularly strong.
My Predictions: Jessica Lange, Laurie Metcalf, Lupita Nyong'o, Sophie Okonedo, Michelle Williams
And there you have it-the nominations are on Tuesday, but in the meantime go ahead and speculate in the comments!