Monday, January 26, 2015

Extremely Early 2015 Tony Predictions: Part I

Given my unabashed enthusiasm for predicting the Tony Awards, last year I decided to take a midseason look at the likely nominees for the Big 12 categories (re: production and acting), and those posts ended up being some of the most popular in the blog's history. So I'm at it again this year, taking stock of all the shows that have already opened to see who has made a big enough impression to be remembered when the Tony Award nominations are announced on April 28th. As the Tonys historically favor spring shows, only the people and productions who have made incredibly strong critical and/or commercial showings can really be considered contenders at this point. So which productions do I think have done just that? Find out below!

WARNING: Occasional snark and lots of speculation to follow.

Best Musical

Tony Danza and Rob McClure in the year's best new musical thus far, Jason Robert Brown's fun-filled Honeymoon in Vegas.

There are currently only three shows eligible in this category, and the chances of Holler If Ya Hear Me scoring a Best Musical nod after its disastrously short run in early June are almost non-existent. It is tempting to say the two other new musicals, The Last Ship and Honeymoon in Vegas, will both make the Tonys' shortlist, but by only selecting four Best Musical contenders last year the nominations committee proved that just because they can nominate five shows doesn't mean they will. With a host of high profile new musicals slated for the spring, I suspect that we will only see one nominee from this fall's batch of shows. After all, I have to imagine Pulitzer Prize finalist Fun Home will get a Best Musical nod, and with anticipated shows like Finding Neverland, Something Rotten, and Doctor Zhivago on the horizon things look particularly grim for the already shuttered Last Ship. In addition to scoring stronger reviews, Honeymoon at least has a chance at running into the spring (although its box office will need to improve quickly), which makes it the closest to a sure thing we have right now. And for the record, I do expect to see five Best Musical nominees this year; I just expect the majority of them to come from the seven productions slated to open in the spring.

Best Play

One of many eye-popping images from the spectacular London import The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

This is already a strongly competitive category, with Disgraced, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Constellations all scoring across the board raves. Unless the spring slate of new plays is particularly weak, at least one of these shows will likely be omitted despite a probable five Best Play nominees. Curious Incident is in the best position, having earned a mention on many Best of 2014 lists (including my own) thanks to its eye-popping staging and engrossing portrayal of an autistic teen's struggle to clear his good name. I would consider the show a virtual lock for a nomination and a strong contender to actually win. One would think Pulitzer Prize winner Disgraced would also make the cut, but interest in the show has cooled considerably and it will close long before Tony nominations are announced; the committee may decide the show has already received the recognition it deserves. Constellations will probably prove too heady and weird for its own good, although it still has a shot if one or more spring shows disappoint.

Best Musical Revival

NY City Ballet principal dancer Megan Fairchild (left) makes an impressive Broadway debut next to longtime scene stealer Jackie Hoffman (right) in the stellar revival of On the Town.

The obvious frontrunner here is John Rando's knockout revival of the Bernstein-Comden-Green tuner On the Town. I expect this show to do quite well come Tony time, and although it faces steep competition from Lincoln Center's sure-to-be lavish The King and I, this little show that could might just win it all on Tony Sunday. Meanwhile, Side Show's fortunes are harder to predict. Those familiar with the property, either from its original Broadway run or that production's cast recording, were over the moon about this reconceived revival, but the uninitiated seemed to not quite understand what all the fuss was about. Compounding Side Show's woes is the fact it has already shuttered, placing it out of sight and out of mind for many voters. For this dark musical to have any shot at a nomination, at least one of the spring revivals - On the Twentieth Century, Gigi, or the aforementioned King and I - will have to bomb, as there aren't enough shows to force an expansion of the category (and we may only get three nominees, just like last year).

Best Play Revival

Bradley Cooper (left) has been packing them in for his critically acclaimed run in The Elephant Man.

There are just enough play revivals scheduled for this season that the Tony committee could select five nominees if they were so inclined. Even if they don't, the majority of Best Revival of a Play nominees will come from the fall season, as there are only two more scheduled for the spring. The one sure thing is critical and box office smash The Elephant Man, which proves that Bradley Cooper can sell tickets and win accolades whether he's onscreen or onstage. Not quite as certain but still very likely is a nod for the excellently rendered You Can't Take It With You, which managed to overcome industry skepticism and make critics view this well-worn comedy afresh.

Given the lack of any other breakout hits, the rest of the nominations could go any number of ways. Both Love Letters and This is Our Youth received surprisingly strong reviews but only middling box office, and will have been closed for months by the time Tony voters cast their ballots. I wouldn't rule either show completely out, although I would favor Youth over Letters, as the latter was essentially a glorified reading and some voters will surely scoff at that. There's an outside chance Broadway's love of Glenn Close and John Lithgow leads to A Delicate Balance getting nominated, or that the huge box office of It's Only a Play gets it recognized, but I wouldn't count on either. I actually think It's Only a Play has hurt its chances by extending without its strongest asset (Nathan Lane), as two months of pulling in half the grosses it did this fall is going to take a lot of the sheen off this middling McNally revival.

Of course, all of this is subject to change based on the strength of the spring slate of productions, especially the Best Musical and Play categories. Check back soon to see which actors and actresses I think are sitting pretty when it comes to awards prospects, and feel free to let me know who you're rooting for in the comments.

For more 2015 Tony coverage, check out my thoughts on the latest Tony rule changes here.


  1. I'm still rooting for Side Show. I couldn't see it due to how far from New York I live, but it was the production I was most excited about, and I would have seen it if I had the chance.

    1. I really enjoyed "Side Show" and would love for it to get nominated. However, I do think "On the Town" was the more artistically successful production and it is definitely in a better position for the Tony Awards, in which politics and extenuating circumstances play as much a role as actual artistic quality.