Thursday, May 14, 2015

2015 Tony Predictions: Book and Score

Now that the dust from the nominations announcement has settled and we know exactly who will be competing for this year's Tony Awards, it's time to play the industry's favorite game: Guess the Winners. You can't get more than two theatre people in the same room at this time of year without at least some discussion of who's going to win Broadway's highest honor, and Broadway Etc is here to help cut through the noise and give you one educated theatregoer's best predictions.

The secret to correctly predicting Tony winners is the ability to distinguish between personal feelings of who should win and focus on who has the momentum and buzz to actually win, which are by no means the same thing. I've previously discussed what I consider some of the most egregious Tony oversights, and there's bound to be at least one surprise winner come June 7th, especially with so many deserving nominees in several extremely close races. As always, I will start with predicting the behind the scenes awards like writing and direction before seguing into the more high profile performance categories and eventually the closely watched production races. And should I sense that the likely winner doesn't align with my preferred choice, I will be sure to point that out.

Warning: Occasional snark and plenty of speculation to follow.

Best Book of a Musical

Sydney Lucas, Beth Malone, and Emily Skeggs (all Tony nominees this season) in Fun Home.

Nominees: Craig Lucas, An American in Paris; Lisa Kron, Fun Home; Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, Something Rotten!; Terrance McNally, The Visit

The interesting thing about the new musical races is they distinguish between a show's writing and the actual production, whereas the Best Play award doubles as both a production and writing honor. Tony voters have often used this distinction as a way to recognize more artistically daring shows while still naming a crowd pleaser Best Musical (see: Ragtime vs. The Lion King, Urinetown vs. Thoroughly Modern Millie). There has been much debate over whether the critically acclaimed Fun Home can overcome the perceived handicap of its subject matter (weighty issues like homosexuality and suicide) to become a popular hit, which at this point is likely the universally praised show's biggest obstacle on the road to Tony glory.

Which is where the Best Book award comes in, as it is very difficult to argue there is better writing among this year's musicals than Lisa Kron's nuanced take on a young woman coming to terms with her own identity. There are certainly charms to Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell's work on Something Rotten!, but the show ultimately succumbs to structural issues in the second act that keep it from being a serious awards contender. The surreal musical The Visit has failed to gain much momentum despite the theatrical heavyweights behind it, and while Craig Lucas has an outside chance of winning for his work on the increasingly popular An American in Paris I think voters will ultimately choose to honor Kron. (The fact that Kron's work helped make Fun Home a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize certainly doesn't hurt her chances).

Will & Should Win: Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Best Original Score

Young Alison experiences a rare moment of bonding with her elusive father in Fun Home, one of the most nominated shows of the season.

Nominees: Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home; Sting, The Last Ship; Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten!; John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Visit

It is a rare artist who reaches Jeanine Tesori's level of industry notoriety without receiving a Tony Award. There is likely a feeling among voters that she is overdue for Broadway's highest honor, and it looks like this may be the year the adventurous, boundary pushing composer finally takes home the big prize. Her expertly written Fun Home score covers an enormous range of emotions and musical styles in the course of the show's single act, without ever feeling disjointed or pieced together. While the universally admired Kander and Ebb have written a very good score for their final collaboration The Visit, it seems unlikely to result in another career Tony Award for the esteemed pair. And while there's no denying the cleverness of the Kirkpatrick brothers' lyrics for the irreverent Something Rotten!, with the exception of the extremely catchy opening number not many of the songs in that score really stick with you past the final curtain. In fact, I'd argue Tesori's biggest competition comes from Grammy-winning Broadway newcomer Sting, whose score for The Last Ship is a similarly nuanced and ethereal piece of composing. But Tesori's score has more breadth, and her show a more important milestone in the development of the musical artform, which means she and lyricist Lisa Kron will likely be the ones making the trip to the podium on Tony Sunday

Will & Should Win: Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, Fun Home

That's all for today, but stay tuned for many more Tony predictions in the weeks to come. Next up, I discuss the nominees for Best Direction and Choreography, and in the meantime you can catch up on my previous coverage of this year's show below.

2015 Tony Nominee React

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