EXCLUSIVE: Six weeks of exhausting campaigning through Earth’s most earnest, swag-free awards season finally come to a close on Sunday with the Tony Awards, broadcast live by CBS from Radio City Music Hall beginning at 8 PM. Harvey Weinstein will be in the audience and for the second year in a row, the ceremony will include a plug for Finding Neverland, though this time with actors who are actually in his show. A few more things we can count on: Kristin Chenoweth will be doing double duty as nominee and co-host with Alan Cumming, as Les Moonves anxiously watches the to see if their combined star-power extends beyond Times Square and the Good Wife fan base.
Lifetime Achievement winner Tommy Tune will be recognized for his astonishing body of work as hoofer, choreographer, director and nine-time Tony winner. Shows besides Finding Neverland — shows with actual Tony nominations — will also get to strut their stuff. American winners will thank God and family; British winners will praise their colleagues, and everyone will thank their agents. Michael Riedel will be packing for his stint as a guest judge on the British version of The Voice (well, he was supposed to, but apparently that’s been delayed. Sorry, Michael, you’ll have to work along with the rest of us). Everything else? Pretty much up for grabs. But here are my predictions for who will go home happy when all’s said and done.
BEST PLAY: The prize goes to Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. It’s not only the prestige show of the season, but this National Theatre of Great Britain is a big, juicy, full-blooded drama with humor and humanity. The other British import, Wolf Hall Parts One & Two, was done in by the PBS broadcast. Pulitzer winner Disgraced had an unsuccessful Broadway transfer. The other contender, Robert Askins’ Hand To God, has a devoted (and growing) cult following but won’t follow the lead of previous Goliath slayers like Avenue Q. Curious Incident is just too good.
BEST REVIVAL (PLAY): The smart money has been saying David Hare’s Skylight, which brought Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan to Broadway this season, will win. But Bradley Cooper won over audiences in one of the season’s biggest hits, The Elephant Man, and it’s repeating that success right now in London. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the surprise winner, even besting the much-loved revival of You Can’t Take It With You. Just don’t count Skylight out.
BEST DIRECTION (PLAY): Marianne Elliott will win for devising the ingenious dramatic presentation of The Curious Incident, despite very strong competition.
BEST MUSICAL: I loved Fun Home and Something Rotten! but it won’t matter. Neither will the fact that The Visit was the last collaboration between John Kander and the late Fred Ebb (they haven’t exactly gone wanting for prizes). An American In Paris will win because everyone goes home not only humming the Gershwin Bros.’ score, but the most sumptuous physical production on Broadway.
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL, BEST SCORE OF A MUSICAL: This is where Fun Home gets the consolation prizes for losing the big one. Lisa Kron’s adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, and her lyrics set to Jeanine Tesori’s marvelous music, will win the day, despite a dark-horse groundswell from advocates of Sting’s lovely pop score for the slighty less-than-terrific The Last Ship.
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott will win for An American In Paris because you can’t go wrong with George Gershwin. Which will be too bad only because John Clancy’s work on Tesori’s Fun Home score is brilliant.
BEST REVIVAL (MUSICAL): You may be tired of hearing me say how happy it it makes me having two Comden and Green musicals running simultaneously on Broadway, but I am. Nevertheless, neither will take the Tony away from Lincoln Center Theater’s ravishing production of The King And I, which will win.
BEST DIRECTION (MUSICAL): Bartlett Sher has proven himself a master of the American musical, and he’ll win for The King And I.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Christopher Wheeldon is a shoo-in for An American In Paris, whether I agree or not (I don’t, btw).
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR (PLAY): This year’s acting categories are all strong and hotly contested, starting right here. Alex Sharp wins not only because of the overall love being shown Curious Incident, but because it’s a flat-out wonderful display of physical agility and economical elocution in a role that could easily have been sunk by overacting, which will be the main reason Bill Nighy loses — if he loses.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS (PLAY): Helen Mirren seems unbeatable as Queen Elizabeth in The Audience. Who am I to deny her?
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR (MUSICAL): Another win for Fun Home as Michael Cerveris takes it away from the equally deserving Brian d’Arcy James, having a whale of a time in Something Rotten! But Cerveris makes a closeted, imperfect father complicatedly sympathetic in a performance of tremendous depth and complexity.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS (MUSICAL): Though there’s not a slouch in the running, this is essentially a showdown between two beloved divas, Kristin Chenoweth, in On The Twentieth Century, and Kelli O’Hara, in The King And I. Kelli wins, because she’s dazzling, in a better production, and she’s never won before.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE (PLAY): Here’s where Wolf Hall gets its Tony: Nathaniel Parker’s King Henry VIII has been the most memorable performance in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ambitious visit.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE (PLAY): In a rare display by the Tony voters of longterm memory, they will give it to Annaleigh Ashford, who brought a winning comic energy to the revival of You Can’t Take It With You.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE (MUSICAL): I think this is a toss-up between Andy Karl, as the muscle-headed boy toy in On The Twentieth Century (he gets the sympathy vote for carrying last season’s big flop Rocky), and Brad Oscar, who is hilarious as the soothsayer in Something Rotten! Brad will win.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE (MUSICAL): Another toss-up, this one between Ruthie Ann Miles, who breaks hearts with “Something Wonderful” in The King And I, and Judy Kuhn, who breaks hearts with “Days And Days” in Fun Home. The Tony will go to Miles.
BEST SCENIC DESIGN (PLAY): Bunny Christie and Finn Ross will win for the visually exciting Curious Incident.
BEST SCENIC DESIGN (MUSICAL): Bob Crowley and 59 Productions will win for their astonishing collaboration on An American In Paris, another awesome contribution by the incomparable Crowley. But I must say, the competition from Michael Yeargan’s elegant, beautiful work on The King And I is more than Tony worthy as well.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN (PLAY): Crowley on a roll; he wins not only for dressing Mirren in period-perfect elegance over the decades of Elizabeth’s reign, but for enhancing the individual personalities of a succession of Prime Ministers, in The Audience.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN (MUSICAL): This should be the consolation prize for Something Rotten! Gregg Barnes will win for making Shakespeare look like a rock star and groundlings, rustics, rude mechanicals and all manner of 16th-century London fauna look winsomely real. On the other hand, Catherine Zuber’s gorgeous clothes for The King And I are equally deserving.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN (PLAY): Paule Constable wins for her demandingly variegated work on Curious Incident.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN (MUSICAL): Natasha Katz wins, because she’s integral to the team that make An American In Paris such a visual knockout.
OK, folks, that’s how I see it. I’ll be live-blogging the telecast on Sunday evening, so gather your Milk Duds and malteds and watch along, and let’s see how we all do. Good luck, everyone.