Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part I (Production)

And just like that, it's Tony time!  After the seemingly never-ending winter endured by New York and the rest of the country, spring has sprung and with it comes a veritable deluge of new Broadway openings.  With Tony nominations just around the corner, it's time for my annual guessing game of which shows and performers will be waking up to very good news on Tuesday, April 29th. 

As always, I am working on a combination of firsthand experience, educated guesses, and wild speculation.  And just to give myself a bit of a buffer, I will be picking one Wildcard nominee in each category, representing the person or production I think most likely to unseat one of my official guesses (the Tony voters love throwing in a curveball every now and again).  Today I will focus on the production categories, since they are typically the easiest to predict, before following with my prediction for Lead Actor, Lead Actress and then, for the first time ever, Featured Actor/Actress.  Now let's make some predictions!

Best Musical

Every other piece on A Gentleman's Guide inevitably uses a picture of one of Jefferson Mays' 8 characters, so I'm bucking the trend and highlighting his equally talented costars Lisa O'Hare and Bryce Pinkham.

Thanks to a much discussed rule change back in February, this year's Best Musical category could potentially be expanded to five nominees instead of the traditional four, making things that much trickier to predict.  Even though the committee does not have to pick five nominees, I can't imagine they would have gone through the trouble of changing the rules not to exercise their newfound power this season.  That said, while this year saw an unusually high number of new musicals open on Broadway, very few were critical homeruns, so which five shows will make the cut is up for debate.

As far as sure things, I'd consider Disney's Aladdin a guaranteed nominee since many critics felt it was the Mouse House's most successful productions since The Lion King.  A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder has taken to bragging that it is the "best reviewed musical of the season," a claim which is backed up by the fact that it leads both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards in total nominations; I think this delightfully clever farce will receive a well-earned nomination.  And although its status as a revue rather than a traditional book musical will hurt its chances of actually winning, the well-received After Midnight is a likely lock for a nomination as well.

After that, it's anyone's guess.  Bullets Over Broadway divided critics much more than I expected it to, and is conspicuously absent from the Drama Desk and Outer Critics lists (it did get a shout out from the Drama League, though).  Still, the show has such a wealth of talent involved and is one of the more commercial offerings of the season, so it can't be ruled out completely.  I personally thought Rocky was a bit of a train wreck, no matter how impressive the final twenty minutes are, but that show has done well in the guild nominations so far.  And the theatre community has definitely warmed to Beautiful, which has done consistently solid business since quietly opening this past January.  But Tony nominators typically like to include one "artsy" musical (think Next to Normal or Fela!), and the show most likely to fill that slot is Jason Robert Brown's gorgeous The Bridges of Madison County over the ambitious but flawed If/Then.  I'm hoping Bridges manages to KO Rocky (a great finale does not a good show make!), with Beautiful taking the final slot by being the least offensive option among the remaining shows.

After Midnight
The Bridges of Madison County
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder


Best Play

Bryan Cranston and company are going All the the Tonys!

Unlike the Best Musical category, I don't think there are enough strong productions in this category to cause the Tony committee to nominate five shows.  I think we will see the traditional four nominees, with the safest bet being the Bryan Cranston-led All the Way.  Will Eno's bizarre, divisive The Realistic Joneses probably has enough admirers to net a nomination, especially given the strength of its starry cast.  Given the theatre community's respect for Terrance McNally and the fact that the play probably hits *very* close to home with a lot of Tony voters, I think Mothers and Sons has a good shot at a nomination, despite being mostly overlooked by the various guild awards.  The final slot will go to either Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina or John Patrick Shanely's Outside Mullingar.  Both authors are highly respected among the theatrical community, although Fierstein's decades of musical bookwriting may have damaged his playwriting street cred.  Then again, the entire community seems to love Fierstein not just as an artist but as a person, and his play is much fresher in voters' minds than the now shuttered Mullingar.  I'm going to stick by my guns and predict that Casa wins out in the end, although I won't be surprised if the committee does go with five nominees just to avoid having to choose.

All the Way
Casa Valentina
Mothers and Sons
The Realistic Jonses

Outside Mullingar

Best Musical Revival

You guys, there is a LOT of cross dressing happening on Broadway these days.

The flip side of the rule change regarding the number of production category nominees is the much less talked about but in some ways more interesting possibility that the committee can REDUCE the number of slots in years with a lack of eligible quality productions.  I can't prove it, but I'm guessing that change is in direct response to the fact that for the past few years, Best Revival of a Musical has been the Tony's equivalent to a participation award; everyone who's eligible typically gets nominated.  Since the committee went out of its way to rule Roundabout's revival of their Cabaret revival eligible (even though it is the exact same production with the exact same creative team that won this award in 1998), I'm guessing we will see a four-nominee category where everything that could be included is.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Miserables

The exclusion of Cabaret from this list

Best Play Revival

Of Mice and Men should get a Tony nomination, assuming star James Franco didn't call any members of the nominating committee a "little bitch."

The musicals may get all the press, but this has been an absolutely fantastic year for play revivals as well, and since the repertory productions from this fall are each being considered separately, there are 14(!) eligible shows in this category, many with fantastic reviews.  Even with 5 nominees someone is going to get snubbed, but there are a few productions I consider a lock for recognition.  Everyone and their mother went gaga over John Tiffany's The Glass Menagerie (except me, who named it one of the Worst Shows of 2013), and it is sure to be nominated.  So is the Mark Rylance-led Twelfth Night, a much more deserving show that is probably the frontrunner to win the whole thing.  Heading into the spring I would have considered the Denzel Washington-led A Raisin in the Sun a near certainty, but critics weren't as enthusiastic about it as they were about Fences a few seasons back.

Meanwhile, Roundabout got fantastic reviews for both The Winslow Boy and Machinal, although both shows have been off the boards for so long they probably aren't real contenders for recognition.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan made the famously obtuse Waiting for Godot feel fresh and accessible, and given that American esteem for the two British thespians only increases with time they could very well push that production into contention.  Of Mice and Men and The Cripple of Inishmaan are both star-driven revivals that don't have the buzz of Washington's play but are doing pretty fantastic business, and Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill has the good fortune of being a starring vehicle for Broadway's reigning queen, Audra McDonald.  Of these, I think the newness factor will work in Inishmaan's favor, while Waiting for Godot and Of Mice and Men's star power will push them over the edge to the semi-surprising exclusion of A Raisin in the Sun.  Audra McDonald's guaranteed acting nomination for Lady Day will likely be seen by the nominations committee as a way to honor that entire production.

The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
Of Mice and Men
Twelfth Night
Waiting for Godot

A Raisin in the Sun

Those are my picks for the production categories; check back tomorrow to see my predictions for Best Actress, which includes perhaps the most competitive race of the season.

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