Call them predictions, opinions or hopes, but here are my thoughts on this year’s Tony Awards races. As usual, the roster of nominees includes a mix of consensus categories (famous last words) and the up-for-grabs. Voting closes today, so the curtain is all but drawn on the campaigning and jockeying and strategizing. Nothing left but the arguments, so add mine to the mix.
By the way, this year Tony Award administrators have pledged to crack down on voters who, in years past, might not have paid strict adherence to the rule that requires voters to see every production in a category. The administration has been keeping track of who saw what, and will disqualify fakers.
The 73rd Annual Tony Awards, hosted by James Corden from New York’s Radio City Music Hall, airs Sunday, June 9, on CBS at 8 pm ET (live)/Delayed PT.
Ain’t Too Proud
Tootsie, so much better than anyone could have imagined, might be a spoiler here, and The Prom could sneak up as a sentimental favorite, but the haunting, gorgeous Hadestown is far and away the best musical of the year. Along with Daniel Fish’s revitalization of Oklahoma!, Anaïs Mitchell’s spin on ancient Greek mythology mined collective memory for something utterly and completely contemporary. Winner: Hadestown
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
What the Constitution Means to Me
One last time: To Kill A Mockingbird should have been here, and this time I’ll name names: not Ink. The contrarian in me would love to see the brilliantly divisive Gary stage a coup, and while the remarkable Constitution deserves every accolade its accumulated, for me Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, with its large cast, intricate maneuvering and stirring otherworldliness should win if only for the gumption of an epic, mystical vision in a season of existential minimalism. Winner: The Ferryman
Kiss Me, Kate
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Sorry Kate, any other year, you might have had my vote. Winner: Oklahoma!
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
The Boys in the Band
The Waverly Gallery
All thanks to Ryan Murphy for taking Joe Mantello’s all-star staging of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band to Netflix – from those of us who saw the Broadway staging and for those who didn’t, and Annette Bening’s star turn in All My Sons was more proof than anyone needed that she’s among our finest actresses. Still, it was director Lila Neugebauer’s revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery that was among this Broadway season’s genuine revelations. The astonishing Elaine May has gotten the bulk of attention, rightly so, but Waverly wouldn’t have worked without an ensemble strong enough to stand alongside her – Lucas Hedges, Joan Allen, Michael Cera and David Cromer. Together, they nailed Lonergan’s trademark and delicate mix of tragedy and comedy. Winner: The Waverly Gallery
BEST LEADING ACTOR/MUSICAL
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Damon Daunno, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Fontana’s the closest thing to a shoo-in this season. Tootsie could so easily have been a disaster. Winner: Santino Fontana
BEST LEADING ACTRESS/MUSICAL
Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom
Beth Leavel, The Prom
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate
Wait, did I just say Fontana was the season’s shoo-in? Move over, Tootsie, Cher wants in. Block to win, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rooting for Leavel, so good as the diva with a heart in The Prom. Winner: Stephanie J. Block
BEST LEADING ACTOR/PLAY
Paddy Considine, The Ferryman
Bryan Cranston, Network
Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird
Adam Driver, Burn This
Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy
Driver was so strong in Burn This that he all but upset a fairly flimsy apple cart, while Pope struck a good balance of ego and vulnerability as the bullied singing wunderkind. If Cranston wasn’t in the race, Daniels and Considine, towering performances from each, could battle it out (and maybe still will). But Cranston, as Network‘s mad prophet of the airwaves, was so good even Peter Finch might find a way to vote. Winner: Bryan Cranson
BEST LEADING ACTRESS/PLAY
Annette Bening, All My Sons
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman
Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet
Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton
Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me
The category that does Broadway the proudest this year. I could make an argument for any one of the nominees and just about convince myself. And as wrenching as May was as the grandmother sliding into dementia in Waverly, the real heartbreaker for me is Schreck, a singular talent responsible for the brilliant Constitution. So why the heartbreak? Because in this close, close race I have to choose May, who turned in the single most affecting performance of the season. Winner: Elaine May
BEST FEATURED ACTOR/MUSICAL
André De Shields, Hadestown
Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Ain’t Too Proud was better than a jukebox musical has a right to be, and performances from the likes of Pope and Sykes are a big reason. Grotelueschen, as the bemused, supportive roomie of Tootsie‘s title character, had us forgetting Bill Murray. But voting seems to be heading to Hadestown, with André De Shields the early consensus winner, and who could argue? As our rule-explaining guide through the mythological dreamscape of Hadestown, De Shields, a beloved presence on the New York stage for decades, seemed a welcoming force as both character and actor. But for me, the stakes of Hadestown were set by Patrick Page’s basso profundo Hades, the devil praising the Wall and condemning those outside it. Winner: Patrick Page
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS/MUSICAL
Lilli Cooper, Tootsie
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Sarah Stiles, Tootsie
Ali Stroker, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Mary Testa, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
I still can’t suss out why Rebecca Naomi Jones isn’t the third Oklahoman prepping for a big night, but I suppose we shouldn’t be greedy. We have Mary Testa and Ali Stroker to represent. Stroker, the wheelchair-using actress, gives this revival a truly dynamic shift, one of the most enjoyable performances you’ll see on Broadway this season. But for me, the award goes to Amber Gray as Hadestown‘s Persephone, a hell-and-back woman of the world whose ennui is shattered by some small memory of dancing with the devil. And I’m pretty sure I’m not still smarting from the two-year-old snub of Gray’s “Charming” in The Great Comet. Winner: Amber Gray
BEST FEATURED ACTOR/PLAY
Bertie Carvel, Ink
Robin De Jesús, The Boys in the Band
Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird
Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This
Benjamin Walker, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
Bertie Carvel’s portrayal of a young Rupert Murdoch in Ink seemed Mr. Burns cartoonish to me, and Walker has done better work in lesser productions (American Psycho). So that leaves an interesting trio of gay characters, each in some way capturing an era. There was Uranowitz as the witty, self-deprecating roomie of Burn This, all ’80s sass and disappointment. And De Jesús’ Emory, just a brief moment in history and a few Manhattan neighborhoods from full-on pride. But Gideon Glick’s young, Capote-esque Dill Harris in To Kill A Mockingbird seemed actually to expand on the encompassing spirit of Harper Lee, and he expertly performed a role that has the stamp of snubbed writer Aaron Sorkin all over it. I don’t think it’s a stretch to interpret a win for Glick as a victory for both. Winner: Gideon Glick
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS/PLAY
Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman
Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ruth Wilson, King Lear
The final, chilling moments of The Ferryman belong to Flanagan, as her Aunt Maggie Far Away wails about banshees that feel as real as that bunny and baby. Nielsen and White are superb in Gary, and Wilson took some winning risks in her music hall approach to Shakespeare, but so much rests on the slender shoulders of Keenan-Bolger that if we don’t believe her Scout, we don’t believe this Mockingbird. Winner: Celia Keenan-Bolger
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Ain’t Too Proud, Dominique Morisseau
Beetlejuice, Scott Brown & Anthony King
Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom, Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin
Tootsie, Robert Horn
Laugh for laugh, Robert Horn turned in the funniest dialogue to hit a Broadway stage in recent memory. Not just clever funny, or woke funny or nostalgic funny – really, really funny. Winner: Robert Horn, Tootsie
Rupert Goold, Ink
Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Among the marvels of the production: Sher imbues this very familiar story with an urgent sense of suspense that makes those 12 “guilty” votes feel like punches in the stomach. Winner: Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom
Chavkin might be the most exciting theatrical voice in New York today, and if forced into a desert island pick situation I might have to load my iPhone with all the Hadestown it can hold, but Fish’s re-interpretation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! has the feel of a touchstone in the making before our eyes. Winner: Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy
Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate
Denis Jones, Tootsie
David Neumann, Hadestown
Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud
They make it look so easy. With more than a last glance back at Brown’s spirit-lifting work on Choir Boy and the very funny Fosse parodies of Jones’ Tootsie, choosing anyone but Trujillo, who both captured and celebrated the glorious moves of the Temptations, seems out of step. Winner: Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Be More Chill, Joe Iconis
Beetlejuice, Eddie Perfect
Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin
To Kill a Mockingbird, Adam Guettel
Tootsie, David Yazbek
A Be More Chill win would be a great Broadway story, completing the come-from-nowhere journey that Iconis’ clever, fan-supported musical took in its long, twisty road to the big stage. But Mitchell’s compelling folk-jazz-Americana can’t be denied. Winner: Hadestown
BEST SCENIC DESIGN/PLAY
Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird
Bunny Christie, Ink
Rob Howell, The Ferryman
Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Jan Versweyveld, Network
Both Ink and Network made strong use of flashy multi-media tech gadgetry, and Howell’s intricate, elaborate attention to farmhouse detail brought Ireland’s recent past alive. Loquasto’s creepy-funny pile of corpses made a statement all its own about the obscenity of human cruelty, but Buether’s entirely unexpected settings for Mockingbird – the warehouse-of-memories minimalism when small town porches seemed a more obvious choice – were integral to this Mockingbird of the mind.
BEST SCENIC DESIGN/MUSICAL
Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, Ain’t Too Proud
Peter England, King Kong
Rachel Hauck, Hadestown
Laura Jellinek, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
David Korins, Beetlejuice
Circle in the Square’s wide-open, theater-in-the-round spaces gave Jellinek all the room she’d need to settle Oklahoma! somewhere in an American past of rustic grange halls, community picnics and dark rooms reserved for the unwelcome at both.
Best Costumes/Play (Rob Howell, The Ferryman); Best Costumes/Musical (Michael Krass, Hadestown); Best Lighting/Play (Neil Austin, Ink); Best Lighting/Musical (Bradley King, Hadestown); Best Sound/Play (Eric Sleichim, Network); Best Sound/Musical (Drew Levy, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!); Best Orchestrations (Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown).
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