And they’re off. Eligibility for this season’s Tony Awards began last spring with the opening May 25 of Paramour, Cirque du Soleil’s first made-for-Broadway venture (it closed April 16) and ending with last night’s opening of A Doll’s House, Part 2. The season included 13 new musicals, six revivals of musicals, 10 new plays and nine play revivals.
That’s 38 new shows, all of which opened last week (just kidding; it only seems as if they did). Some of them already are hits, but many – especially the non-musicals – depend on Tony nominations and, ultimately, awards if they have a chance of returning the cost of mounting them, let alone making any Hamiltons for their investors.
And here’s the thing: The competition this year will be unusually hot, especially in the major categories of new musicals and plays, and acting. It’s going to be exciting. Or ugly, depending on your point of view.
The Tony nominating committee has 42 members from across the industry, including producers, actors, creatives and some involved in related fields. They meet Monday to determine the nominees (up to five in some, four in others) in 24 competitive categories, which will be revealed Tuesday morning. The announcement will be followed by the usual huzzahs and kvetching (watch this space!), and then almost six weeks of subtle and not so subtle strong-arming when producers and publicists work feverishly to sway the 846 voters. The largest bloc is producers, along with members of the various Broadway guilds and unions and what’s left of the ever-dwindling ranks of the New York Drama Critics Circle (I’ve been a member since 1991, so yes, I vote).
The winners will be announced June 11, in a ceremony hosted by Kevin Spacey and telecast live by CBS, beginning at 8 PM. Here’s my take on how things are likely to play out come Tuesday morning:
• Best Musical: Three shows are shoo-ins for nominations: Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. That leaves two slots open; my guess is that they’ll be filled by Groundhog Day and Anastasia, both of which face a profitable future on tour. But there will be animated advocates for War Paint, Bandstand and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the last two of which will also make a lot of money on the road). A Bronx Tale, which has been a box-office success in the season that saw the closing of Jersey Boys, will probably be snubbed, along with Amélie, Paramour, Holiday Inn and In Transit.
• Best Revival of a Musical: Hello, Dolly! of course. Falsettos, which had an abbreviated but well-received run, is certain to secure a slot. That leaves Sunset Boulevard, Miss Saigon and Cats. Sunset will get a slot as tribute to Glenn Close, who got great reviews but isn’t eligible because she already won playing Norma Desmond in the original production. Miss Saigon, reconceived, will get a nod. Cats will get a pass, because it’s terrible and one nod’s enough for Lord Lloyd Webber. (Note that Sunday in the Park With George, while one of the 38 shows that opened this season, was withdrawn by the producers from Tony consideration.)
• Best Play: It’s been a comparatively amazing season for new plays on Broadway, in terms of quality, if not attendance, which skews more and more toward the big musicals and leaves even the best-reviewed dramas hunting for patrons. The likely contenders are Sweat, which just won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; A Doll’s House, Part 2, which opened to rave notices; Indecent, ditto (plus author Paula Vogel, just won an Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement), and Oslo, which moved intact from off-Broadway to Broadway (i.e., upstairs to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center). That leaves a fifth spot open for a wildly disparate group that includes The Present, which marked Cate Blanchett’s Broadway debut; two dopey comedies (Oh, Hello on Broadway and The Play That Goes Wrong); Simon McBurney’s technical dazzler The Encounter; Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt’s non-technical dazzler, Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg; and Joshua Harmon’s good, but closed, Significant Other. I also hope that the nominators consider Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva’s extraordinary music for Indecent as a nominee for best score (rare but not unheard of for a play).
• Best Revival of a Play: Another fierce contest. Certain to come away happy: Six Degrees of Separation, The Little Foxes, Present Laughter and Jitney. I would add Sam Gold’s extraordinary take on The Glass Menagerie, which divided critics and audiences. The Price could easily be a spoiler, as could The Front Page, a huge success that may not loom as large in the rear-view mirror of nominators (though who would pass up the chance to have Nathan Lane and Kevin Spacey share stage time at the Tonys?). Likely to be passed over: The Cherry Orchard with Diane Lane, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, with Liev Schreiber and Janet McTeer.
• Nova for Everyone: Ben Platt and Andy Karl are sure to garner nominations, for Dear Even Hansen and Groundhog Day, respectively. The ensemble in the revival of Jitney, staged by August Wilson specialist Ruben Santiago-Hudson, was flawless. Look for these stars to be recognized Tuesday: Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce (Hello, Dolly!). Laurie Metcalf (A Doll’s House, Part 2). Cate Blanchett (The Present). Kevin Kline (Present Laughter). Mark Ruffalo and Danny DeVito (The Price). Josh Groban (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812). Allison Janney and Corey Hawkins (Six Degrees of Separation). Sally Field (The Glass Menagerie). Laura Linney (The Little Foxes). Mary-Louise Parker (Heisenberg). Christine Ebersole (War Paint).
There will be stars of lesser magnitude, among both the nominees and the heartbroken. Tune in Tuesday morning for the latest.