Sunday, June 9, 2013

2013 Tony Predictions: Best Play and Musical

It’s finally here!  Broadway’s big night is upon us, and I’ve saved the two biggest categories for last.  The Best Play and Best Musical awards not only represent the highest possible achievement in American theatre, but they also guarantee a new work a place in the history books forever more.  Winning either of these awards not only increases the Broadway mounting’s chances of turning a profit, but greatly increases the amount of money a show can make from subsequent tours and regional mountings. 


Of course, such a prestigious award always comes with its fair share of controversy.  There are some that feel the Tony Awards have a habit of honoring commercial viability over artistic excellence, and there are plenty of fantastic, enduring works of theatre that went home empty handed on Tony night (Ragtime and West Side Story come to mind).  But the awards still mean something, and more often than not the shows honored are excellent artistic achievements even if they aren’t necessarily the *most* deserving.  So which shows will be the big winners tonight?  Read on to find out.

Best Play

Only Christopher Durang would find a way to connect Chekhov and Snow White.  That's gotta be worth some kind of award right there.

Nominees:  The Assembled Parties; Lucky Guy; The Testament of Mary; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

An interesting and eclectic assortment of shows, this year’s Best Play race isn’t as chock-full of the high-minded (and oftentimes stuffy) dramas that Tony voters usually fawn over.  The biggest surprise in this category is probably the inclusion of the Fiona Shaw-led The Testament of Mary, a show that posted its closing notice the same day as the announcement.  I can’t imagine it winning, but as they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

Heading into the awards season, I thought The Assembled Parties would be a much stronger contender than it’s turned out to be.  Mounted by highly respected Manhattan Theatre Club, the show was roundly praised by critics for its nuanced writing and all-around excellent performances.  But with only three Tony nominations to its name, the show is definitely this year’s dark horse; it *could* win, but the chances of that actually happening are miniscule.

This is really a two-way race between Lucky Guy and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  The final work written by the beloved Nora Ephron before her death, Lucky Guy is one of the biggest commercial successes of the season, and features bona fide movie star Tom Hanks in his Broadway debut.  But for all of the kind words written about Lucky Guy, I get the sense that most people know it is not a great play, and are cutting it some slack due to their nostalgia for its departed author.  Meanwhile, Vanya and Sonia has been racking up the wins in this season’s other awards races, and despite a prolific career playwright Christopher Durang has never actually won a Tony.  I think this is the year that changes, and it will mark the first time an outright comedy has won the Best Play trophy since Lost in Yonkers won back in 1991.

Should Win:  The Assembled Parties
Will Win:  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Best Musical

Kinky Boots leads this year's Tony nominations and is one of the frontrunners for the big award, because really, how can you go wrong with drag queens?
Nominees:  Bring It On: The Musical; A Christmas Story; Kinky Boots; Matilda the Musical

I was as surprised as anyone to see Bring It On and A Christmas Story nominated in this category, but it represents the rare instance where my surprise stems from the fact that the nomination committee and I completely agree.  The four nominated shows this year are the season’s four best new musicals, and I applaud the committee for nominating two shows that could have easily been dismissed due to their limited-run nature (a rarity for new musicals).  However, it must also be said that both shows fall into the category of “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” because this is clearly a race between Kinky Boots and Matilda.

Matilda is the quintessential British import; after an acclaimed run in the London, the production has transferred to New York to similarly rapturous reviews, and seems as concerned with impressing the audience through its sheer theatricality as it is with telling a compelling story.  Meanwhile Kinky Boots is a wholly American creation (albeit one based on a British film) whose primary concern is entertaining the audience through song and dance.  The show avoids being complete fluff by having a message about acceptance of yourself and others, although it is a point made by many, many shows before it and hardly registers due to all the glitz and glamor.

These shows are so neck and neck that even industry veterans aren’t sure which way things will go, but my heart is telling me that Kinky Boots will emerge victorious.  The show is extremely easy to like, and while it breaks little new ground the tuner is extremely well-crafted on all fronts.  The emphasis on more accessible nominees in all the categories this year tells me that the Tony voters are in the mood for something a bit more fun, and I honestly think the theatrical community as a whole has overdosed on British theatre in the past few seasons.  I personally found Kinky Boots to be the most compelling and successful of this year’s new musicals, and think its win will be well deserved.  But I also don’t rule out Matilda, and it will be extremely interesting to see how things turn out this evening.

Will & Should Win:  Kinky Boots

And that’s a wrap!  We’ve reached the end of another Tony season, and I have again written exhaustively about my thoughts on all things Broadway.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage, and I thank everyone who has been so supportive of my little hobby.  As you wait for the big show later tonight, feel free to look back on all of my other predictions and Tony-related coverage below.

Best Revival
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Featured Actor
Best Featured Actress
Best Book and Score
Best Direction and Choreography
2013 Tony Nomination React
2013 Tony Roundtable Podcast

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