I'll do my best to predict not only who will wind up on the Tony ballot but how many slots each category will have, based on a combination of first hand experience, industry buzz, and past Tony voting trends. And because the nominations committee can always be counted on for a shocker or two, I will also nominate one wildcard performance in each acting category, indicating the person I think have the best chance of unseating one of my official nominees (or forcing a category expansion if I haven't predicted a maximum seven performers). We'll start with the men, including perhaps the most competitive race of the entire season.
Best Actor in a Play
|Alex Sharp's phenomenal Broadway debut in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the stuff legends are made of.|
If any category is going to make it to seven nominees it will be this one, given both the sheer number and quality of the eligible performances. The three gentlemen I'd consider locks are Bradley Cooper, Alexander Sharp, and Steven Boyer. Cooper turned The Elephant Man into arguably *the* hottest ticket of the season thanks to his critically acclaimed performance as the disfigured title character, and he did it all without the aid of makeup or prostheses . Recent Julliard grad Sharp is making one of the most jaw dropping Broadway debuts in years as the autistic teen at the center of the fantastic Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a production sure to do well at this year's ceremony), and until very recently I would have considered him the man to beat. But then Steven Boyer came along with his mind boggling performance in Hand to God, turning a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone into the uncontested star of that production while simultaneously inhabiting the opposite end of the emotional spectrum as the unwilling teen host of Tyrone's antics.
Not a lock but still strong possibilities are Hollywood stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Perennial Broadway favorite Jackman gave what many considered his finest stage performance in Jez Butterworth's The River, although the play itself proved off-putting to many members of the theatrical community. Gyllenhaal made his long anticipated Broadway debut in Manhattan Theatre Club's surprise hit Constellations, a two-hander that gave the Oscar-nominated actor plenty of time to shine. Another screen actor who drew rave reviews this season is Skylight's Bill Nighy, who will almost certainly be among this year's nominees. And Ben Miles' turn as political schemer Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed Wolf Hall double bill certainly puts him in the mix as well.
Should all of the above gentlemen be nominated, that already puts us at the maximum seven nominees without even discussing several other worthy contenders. Nathan Lane is a consummate professional and one of our finest character actors, although past years have shown the committee is not above benching the two-time Tony-winner should his chosen vehicle not be deemed up to snuff (and It's Only a Play was unfortunately not up to snuff, no matter how good Lane may have been). Larry David may also find himself in contention for essentially playing himself in Fish in the Dark, as an acting nomination would be a way to acknowledge David for writing and staring in one of the spring's biggest hits even though the production itself is unlikely to crack the Best Play race (see: Holland Taylor's nomination for her solo show Ann back in 2013).
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Constellations
Hugh Jackman, The River
Ben Miles, Wolf Hall Parts I & II
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alexander Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Larry David, Fish in the Dark
Bonus prediction: any wildcard will take Jackman's spot, thanks to The River's mixed critical reception
Best Actor in a Musical
|Michael Cerveris is the complex, conflicted father in the new musical Fun Home, which examines cartoonist Alison Bechdel's complex relationship with her now deceased father.|
This category is more up in the air than Best Actor in a Play, and depending on how frugal the committee feels may actually remain at the traditional five nominees. There aren't any performers I would consider sure things, although some actors are definitely in better positions than others. The role of Gabey in On the Town fits Tony Yazbeck like a glove, and I expect his work in that sparkling revival to net the longtime Broadway hoofer his first Tony Award nomination. I would also be very surprised if Michael Cerveris didn't make the cut for his work as the deeply conflicted Bechdel patriarch in the high-minded Fun Home, a show whose premise and pedigree simply scream "Tony Award." And as one of the hardest working, most beloved character men around, Brian d'Arcy James will almost certainly be recognized for his hilarious leading turn in Something Rotten!
After those three men, things become much uncertain. Rob McClure did exceptional work in the gone too soon Honeymoon in Vegas, but that show's troubled Broadway run and poor showing in the other industry awards calls his competitiveness into question. I personally loved Ken Watanabe's King of Siam in Lincoln Center's jaw-dropping The King and I, and he would not be the first heavily accented actor director Bartlett Sher guided to Tony glory (that would be South Pacific's Paulo Szot). Watanabe also has the benefit of starring in one of the most buzzed about productions of the spring and has a legitimate shot at awards consideration, although he has the disadvantage of competing against the memory of Yul Brynner's iconic work both onstage and in the film version.
I have a good feeling about Robert Fairchild, whose performance in the well-reviewed An American in Paris also has the benefit of exceeding admittedly modest expectations for the dancer turned leading man. But Fairchild does face stiff competition from several other performers, chief among them Finding Neverland's Matthew Morrison. I've never been a huge fan of Morrison - I would have preferred Jeremy Jordan reprise his performance from the Boston tryout - but his work in one of the spring's biggest musicals was well received and therefore puts him in contention. Then again, Neverland received some of the harshest reviews of the season, and although Tony voters have gotten better about judging each element of a show on its individual merits that dislike could hold Morrison back. And by virtue of being Roger Rees, The Visit's leading man is also someone who deserves at least a mention.
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Brian d'Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Matthew Morrison, Finding Neverland
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town
Rob McClure, Honeymoon in Vegas
That's all I have to say (which is admittedly quite a lot) about this year's leading actors. Check back tomorrow for an equally in depth analysis of the Best Actress races, and keep an eye on this blog throughout the weekend for even more Tony predictions! In the meantime, you can catch up on my previous coverage of this year's races below:
Tony Rule Change
2015 Best Production Predictions