With the Tony Awards only days away, there are only two more acting races for me to predict. They’re both very competitive categories, but if guessing Tony winners were always easy, then the actual ceremony wouldn’t be any fun! Keep reading to find out who I think is most likely to win the Best Actor trophies, and who actually deserves them.
Best Actor in a Play
|The Nance gives two-time Tony-winner Nathan Lane a chance to flex his comedic and dramatic acting muscles, and could end up providing the stage vet with his first non-musical Tony.|
Nominees: Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy; Nathan Lane, The Nance; Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Tom Sturridge, Orphans
A highly competitive category with plenty of deserving contenders, the only person I can’t picture winning here is Tom Sturridge. Orphans met with lukewarm critical reception and closed in a flash, so the fact that this Broadway neophyte even got nominated is a huge honor. I’m tempted to place David Hyde Pierce towards the bottom of the pack as well, but he wasn’t even on my radar the year he actually won for Curtains, so I’m wary of underestimating him. The theatre community is also mighty high on Vanya and Sonia at the moment, which certainly works in the always-exquisite Pierce’s favor.
Personally, I think Tracy Letts’ electrifying performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the most deserving of recognition. Letts completely reinvented one of the great roles of theatrical cannon, turning the typically meek George into a frightening firebrand who dominated this superbly realized revival. He was simultaneously charming and monstrous, and if Woolf had opened in the spring rather than the fall he would be the clear frontrunner.
But the Tonys have a habit of rewarding Hollywood stars that prove adept at stage work, and it’s hard to find a bigger name on Broadway than two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. The A-lister has earned plenty of praise for his work in the late Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, and the fact that he has turned a play about 1980s newspaper reporters into a genuine box office smash is certain to get voters’ attention. Yet Nathan Lane received some of the best reviews of his career for The Nance, with many deeming it his strongest stage work since he swept the 2001 awards season for his work in The Producers (a performance which remains one of the great theatrical accomplishments of the new millennium). Lane is beloved by the industry and surely counts many Tony voters among his friends, and my gut is telling me he may just pull off an upset against Hanks.
Should Win: Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Will Win: Nathan Lane, The Nance
Best Actor in a Musical
Nominees: Bertie Carvel, Matilda; Santino Fortana, Cinderella; Rob McClure, Chaplin; Billy Porter, Kinky Boots; Stark Sands, Kinky Boots
The Tony voters and I have repeatedly disagreed about this category in recent years. Two seasons ago I was gunning hard for Andrew Rannells’ star-making turn in The Book of Mormon to win (the prize went to the admittedly amazing Norbert Leo Butz), and I maintain that Danny Burnstein was *robbed* when the voters overlooked his sensational work in Follies last season. This year they didn’t even nominate what I thought was one of the most unexpectedly excellent performances of the season – Anthony Warlow’s superbly realized Daddy Warbucks in the much-maligned revival of Annie – and somehow let the merely passable Prince of Santino Fortana into the mix instead, so which way the votes will sing this year is anyone’s guess.
All that said, I do think Fortana is the least likely winner, as he isn’t even the second or third best thing about the current Cinderella “revisal.” I would also be shocked to see Stark Sands win, because while perfectly charming the young performer is greatly overshadowed by his also-nominated costar Billy Porter. Rob McClure is an extreme dark horse in the race, but it must be said that his performance as the title character in Chaplin was exceptional and honestly better than the questionable material deserved. I don’t think it’s McClure’s year, but I also don’t think this is the last time he will be attending the Tonys as a nominee.
Like many of this year’s musical races, this category comes down to Kinky Boots vs. Matilda, and specifically the buzzed about drag performances at the center of those two shows. Bertie Carvel’s turn as the villainous headmistress Miss Trunchbull in Matilda has all the classic earmarks of Tony bait (British thespian reprising an Olivier-winning role in one of the must-see shows of the spring), elevating the kid-friendly show into something greater. But it is impossible not to like Billy Porter’s sassy drag queen (is there any other kind?) in Kinky Boots, a campy role that grows beyond its initial archetype over the course of the show’s runtime. There is a lot of love for Porter among the Broadway community, and he is certainly the anchor of the glitzy new musical. He has also won most every other award of the season, making him the clear – and deserving – frontrunner here.
Will & Should Win: Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
That’s it for this year’s acting awards; all that’s left to predict are the four production categories. Look for those articles to be posted later in the week; until then, you can feed your Tony hunger by checking out all my previous posts below:
Best Featured Actor
Best Featured Actress
Best Book and Score
Best Direction and Choreography
Tony Nomination React
Tony Roundtable Podcast