Monday, April 25, 2016

2016 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part I (Production)

And just like that, Tony season is almost upon us! It's hard to believe that in just a few short days, Patina Miller and Andrew Rannells will wake up at an ungodly hour and announce the names of those competing for Broadway's highest honor. And just like every year, I plan on predicting, discussing, and dissecting every minute of what has evolved into one of the most exciting theatre seasons in years.

The number of positively reviewed productions this year is quite astounding. Very few shows have been outright panned by the critics, making a lot of this year's Tony races unpredictable in the most exciting way possible. Even with Hamilton looking to dominate the new musical awards, there's still plenty of worthwhile competition for the other Best Musical slots, not to mention the acting and play categories. All of this makes predicting the nominees a challenge, but that's never stopped me before!

As always, I will do my best to predict the nominees in the Big 12 Tony categories (my term for the 4 production and 8 acting awards). Thanks to the updated Tony rules, all of these categories have a variable number of slots available, which makes things extra tricky. Given past history, I will assume the Tony committee will err towards a smaller number of nominations, but I will always pick a Wildcard nominee that I think will either force a category expansion or replace one of my official picks.

We'll find out who actually gets nominated on May 3rd, but in the meantime here are my best guesses as to which productions will find themselves competing for Best Musical, Play, and Revival.

UPDATED: Shuffle Along has officially been ruled a new musical, so I have updated my predictions accordingly.

Best Musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda in a little show no one's ever heard of called Hamilton.

Hamilton's place in this category is assured; pretending otherwise is ludicrous, especially after its recent Pulitzer Prize win. The real question is what other shows will make the cut, with some varied and exciting options presenting themselves.

Both On Your Feet and School of Rock managed to snag surprisingly encouraging reviews when they opened this fall, and either production could well be among next week's Best Musical nominees. I personally feel School of Rock is the more respected of the two shows, and a welcome return to form for theatrical titan Andrew Lloyd Webber, but On Your Feet's Outer Critic's Circle nomination (and School of Rock's absence) leave both shows neck and neck.

As for the spring shows, Waitress and American Psycho are the top two contenders, and I expect both to be among this year's nominees. Waitress is virtually assured a slot, thanks to its almost universally positive notices. I also can't see the Tony committee failing to nominate the first Broadway musical with an entirely female creative team in a season where diversity both on and off stage has been such a hot button topic. American Psycho was a more divisive show, but those who enjoyed it seemed to really enjoy it, and thanks to the Tony's weighted nomination system being a few people's top choice counts for more than being many people's third or fourth choice.

And then there's Shuffle Along. The producers of this star-studded musical are pushing to have it compete in the Revival category, presumably to avoid direct competition with Hamilton. This seems like a dubious argument to me, as director George C. Wolfe has written an entirely new libretto that turns the show into a backstage musical about the genesis of its 1921 namesake. In the past, heavily rewritten revivals have at least kept the same plot and characters as the originals, so I expect the nominations committee to deem these changes enough to make Shuffle Along a new musical, putting it in contention for Best Musical. (This is exactly what happened.)

Nominees: American Psycho, Hamilton, Shuffle Along, Waitress
Wildcard: School of Rock

Best Play
The Broadway cast of Stephen Karam's The Humans.

Quite honestly, this is a much less interesting and competitive category than Best Musical. Given the strength of its reviews and the fact that it was named a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, I think The Humans is the frontrunner not just for the nomination but for the win. I will also be very surprised if Danai Gurira's much praised Eclipsed fails to score a Best Play nomination. And although the show has been closed for several months at this point, King Charles III made such a strong impression on critics this past fall it seems all-but-guaranteed a nomination.

Which leaves the fourth nomination slot up for grabs, with several viable options available. The Father recently scored Drama League and Outer Critics' nominations for Best Play, and seems to be the most likely contender. That said, Roundabout Theatre Company's adaptation of Therese Raquin had enough supporters that it cannot be ruled out of the competition, and the well reviewed An Act of God is technically part of this season despite opening last May. The fact that it is about to begin a return engagement starring Sean Hayes will remind people that it exists, giving the satiric play a chance at a wildcard spot in this year's race.

Nominees: Eclipsed, The Father, The Humans, King Charles III
Wildcard: Therese Raquin

Best Musical Revival


Two time Tony-nominee Gavin Creel and Tony-winner Jane Krakowski in Roundabout's sterling She Loves Me revival.

Let me preface this by saying that it has been an absolutely *stellar* year for musical revivals. As far as I'm concerned, every production eligible in this category is worthy of at least a Tony nomination, and I'm not sure I've ever felt that way about any category before. Unfortunately, not every show can be nominated, which means at least one deserving production will be overlooked when the Tony committee announces their 3-4 nominees.

Let's start with sure things. John Doyle's minimalist staging of The Color Purple won across the board raves, and in the eyes of many critics redeemed the show from its less well-received premiere (which I personally loved). It is a shoe-in for a nomination, and at this point is probably the frontrunner to win. She Loves Me is also a practically perfect production of a less well-known musical, and I will be shocked/furious if Roundabout's effortlessly charming revival does not receive at least a nomination.

After those two shows, things get tricky. History has shown time and again that currently running productions do better with the Tony committee, which makes a Fiddler on the Roof nomination highly likely. Yet I would say that after the above-named sure things, the most artistically successful and interesting musical revival this season was the Deaf West production of Spring Awakening. Should this category have the traditional four nominees, then those are your two final slots. Should only three shows get nominated, then I honestly don't know which one the Tony voters will favor, and it will result in some justified cries of "snub" either way. Poor Dames at Sea, while highly enjoyable, seems destined to be forgotten.

Nominees: The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, Spring Awakening
Wildcard: Dames at Sea

Best Play Revival


Saoirse Ronan and the cast of Ivo van Hove's avant garde The Crucible.

This category is particularly stuffed this year, with a whopping 11 eligible productions competing for the 4-5 available slots. Roundabout's first-rate revival of the hilarious Noises Off looks like a sure thing when it comes to getting a nomination, and although their Long Day's Journey Into Night isn't the top tier production I'd hope for, a decent Long Day's Journey is still better than most other play revivals, making it a strong contender. I suspect that avant garde director Ivo van Hove's two rapturously received Arthur Miller revivals (last fall's A View from the Bridge and the currently running The Crucible) will both get nominated, although there is a *slight* possibility that Tony voters only nominate one in favor of spreading the wealth around.

Unlike most categories, I feel like there is a strong possibility of this race expanding beyond the minimum four nominees. Picking which production gets the fifth slot is tricky however, as most of the other play revivals this season have been liked but not loved. Blackbird's difficult subject matter seemed to be off-putting to a large number of critics, even as they all admitted the show was staged and acted wonderfully. Fool for Love was very well liked when it opened last fall, but given the sheer volume of play revivals this season it will likely be overlooked. And I don't think the community's love of James Earl Jones and Cecily Tyson is quite enough to get The Gin Game nominated, as most reviewers agreed the play had not aged well despite the quality of the performances in it. Blackbird remains my official pick, but its slot could really go to anyone (or disappear all together).

Nominees: Blackbird, The Crucible, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Noises Off, A View from the Bridge
Wildcard: Fool for Love


Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to check back in a couple of days to see my Best Actor/Actress predictions!

7 comments:

  1. I think that the confusion regarding Shuffle Along will just cause everyone to not nominate it in either production category.

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    1. I highly doubt that. The committee will make their eligibility rulings in the next couple of days, and then the nominators (of which there are only 20 or so) will sit down in a room and vote on their selections. They can discuss as much as they want (although my understanding is they rarely do, unless there are ties), and at that point it will be pretty cut and dry. The only way "Shuffle Along" won't get nominated is if it is awful.

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    2. Shuffle Along has just been determined by the Tony Awards Committee to be an original musical.

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  2. I posted my predictions on Gold Derby, but due to the redesigned look of their website, you'd have to click on each individual category to see my predictions. Plus, for Tony predictions, they only allow you to predict Best Play, Best Musical, Best Revival Of A Play, Best Revival Of A Musical, Best Actor In A Play, Best Actress In A Play, Best Actor In A Musical and Best Actress In A Musical. When the actual Tony nominations come out, they then allow you to predict all the categories, including the supporting performers and the technical categories. So here's my pre-nomination predictions in the major categories:

    Best Play:
    Eclipsed
    The Father
    The Humans
    King Charles III

    Best Musical:
    Hamilton
    School Of Rock
    Shuffle Along
    Waitress

    Best Revival Of A Play:
    The Crucible
    Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Noises Off
    A View From The Bridge

    Best Revival Of A Musical:
    The Color Purple
    Fiddler On The Roof
    Spring Awakening

    Note: Gold Derby only allowed me to make 3 predictions in this category instead of 4.

    Best Actor In A Play:
    Jeff Daniels--Blackbird
    Frank Langella--The Father
    Tim Pigott-Smith--King Charles III
    Mark Strong--A View From The Bridge
    Ben Whishaw--The Crucible

    Best Actress In A Play:
    Jessica Lange--Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Laurie Metcalf--Misery
    Lupita Nyong'o--Eclipsed
    Nicola Walker--A View From The Bridge
    Michelle Williams--Blackbird

    Best Actor In A Musical:
    Alex Brightman--School Of Rock
    Danny Burstein--Fiddler On The Roof
    Zachary Levi--She Loves Me
    Lin-Manuel Miranda--Hamilton
    Leslie Odom, Jr.--Hamilton

    Best Actress In A Musical:
    Laura Benanti--She Loves Me
    Cynthia Erivo--The Color Purple
    Audra McDonald--Shuffle Along
    Jessie Mueller--Waitress
    Philippa Soo--Hamilton

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    1. We seem to be mostly on the same page. They only thing I really don't see happening is "She Loves Me" being left out of the musical revival category, even if they only nominate 3 shows. It has done very well when it comes to Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations, and I can't see the Tonys diverging so heavily from the rest of the community.

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    2. I'm sure She Loves Me will be nominated. As I said in my predictions above, the website Gold Derby (where I made my predictions) only allowed me to pick 3 shows for Best Revival Of A Musical, presumably due to the Tonys nominating only 3 for the last few years in a row.

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