Having tackled some of the creative behind the scenes categories, it is now time to turn the focus of our annual Tony Predictions to the acting categories. So let's get started with the Featured Actor categories, breaking down both who will win and who actually deserves to win. Read on for more!
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Nominees: Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Michael Cera, Lobby Hero; Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero; Nathan Lane, Angels in America; David Morse, The Iceman Cometh
Having not seen any of the nominated performances (I do have tickets to see both Angels in American and Cursed Child later this summer), I'm flying blind when it comes to predicting this category. David Morse feels like a long shot as the Broadway community doesn't seem especially passionate about The Iceman Cometh, but with that said his role of Larry Slade gives him plenty of material to work with in what is essentially a co-lead. More stagetime means more chances to have Tony-worthy moments, so the possibility of a surprise win for Morse is certainly there. Lobby Hero costars Michael Cera and Brian Tyree Henry may well cancel each other out, and the fact that Lobby Hero is now closed while the other productions are still running is another hurdle either actor will have to overcome. (Historically, being in a closed show severely handicaps a performer's chances of winning.)
Like many of this season's play categories, the race will likely to boil down to Harry Potter vs. Angels in America. Anthony Boyle won the Olivier for his role in Cursed Child's London premiere, while Nathan Lane was surprisingly not even nominated for playing force of nature Ray Cohn in Angels at London's National Theatre. That would appear to give Boyle the edge, but the American response to Angels has also outpaced the British reception, partially evidenced by Angels beating Cursed Child in total nominations. Lane's star wattage is also stronger on this side of the Atlantic, with the beloved character having been a fixture of the New York theatrical community for decades. Despite multiple nominations Lane hasn't won a Tony since The Producers all the way back in 2001, so it feels like he's overdue for another, especially since he has never been recognized for one of his many lauded dramatic roles. I think Lane will win the day, but don't count Boyle out just yet.
Will Win: Nathan Lane, Angels in America
Should Win: Abstain
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Nominees: Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady; Alexander Gemignani, Carousel; Grey Henson, Mean Girls; Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants; Ari'el Stachel, The Band's Visit
This is a competitive category that could go any number of ways, and might be an early indication of whether Tony voters have played it safe or gotten adventurous with their winners. Norbert Leo Butz is the elder statesman of the group, having won twice for his leading performances in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Catch Me If You Can. He gives a fantastically layered, utterly transfixing performance in My Fair Lady, but is it enough to justify awarding him another trophy over the rest of the category, most of whom are first time nominees? If Butz's name is called on Tony Sunday, expect an evening of choices that rewards the established Broadway elite rather than the new kids on the block.
Ari'el Stachel sits in an interesting space between Butz and the other nominees. He's nominated for his Broadway debut, so a win for him would appear to signal the Tony voters are interested in rewarding new blood. But The Band's Visit is the widely presumed frontrunner for Best Musical, so picking the one representative from that show would be a fairly safe choice. Personally, while I don't think Stachel is bad by any stretch of the imagination, I'm also hard pressed to tell you exactly what his character does in the show. Being unmemorable in a field of flashy performances is a handicap I'm not sure Stachel can overcome (and should Band's Visit be the runaway favorite for the big awards, Tony voters might want to spread the love).
The other nominees are more exciting choices, unexpected but not undeserving. While Alexander Gemignani is the longest shot of the group, he does extraordinary things with Enoch Snow in Carousel, a role which would easily fade into the background in the hands of a lesser performer. But I can't see him triumphing over SpongeBob's Gavin Lee and Mean Girls' Grey Henson, both supremely charismatic performers gifted with bona fide showstoppers. Lee's comic stylings have been polished to a high shine, and watching him tap dance his way through "I'm Not a Loser" is the most joyous part of a show overflowing with unbridled fun. Henson is rougher around the edges, but there's no denying the infectious glee he brings to Mean Girls' "too gay to function" Damian, a clear crowd favorite (so much so the writers added a second big number for Hensen between the DC tryout and Broadway).
Honestly, Butz probably *deserves* this award the most. The cynic in me thinks Tony voters will ultimately choose Stachel for having the most dramatic performance, but recent winners in this category show a refreshing willingness to acknowledge how difficult a comedic performance can be. For that reason, I'm going out on a limb and predicting Gavin Lee will tap his way to victory, proving once and for all that he is NOT a loser.
Will Win: Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants
Should Win: Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady
Should Have Been Nominated: Alex Newell for his gender bending, rough raising Asaka in Once on this Island
Tony Nominations React
Best Book and Score
Best Direction and Choreography