This is it. Without question the two most coveted awards in any given Broadway season are the Tonys for Best Play and Best Musical. Why? In addition to the validation they provide, no other awards have such a measurable and immediate effect on a show's financial fortunes and future life. Winning Best Musical a couple years back turned A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder from a struggling show into a bonafide hit, one which has since turned a profit and is currently touring the country. A win in either of the below categories also greatly increases interest in any potential tours and regional productions, which is where a lot of the shows make the majority of their money.
Both races have pretty clear front runners at this point, but I will still use my patented combination of personal opinion and industry buzz to do my best to predict the winners. And since the Tonys are not infallible (in no way is The Music Man a better show than West Side Story, which it beat in the Best Musical race of 1958), if I disagree with the likely winner I will be sure to say so in the comments.
Warning: Occasional snark and plenty of speculation to follow.
|The ensemble of The Humans, one of the rare Broadway plays to open without a major star to help drive ticket sales.|
Nominees: Eclipsed, The Father, The Humans, King Charles III
Fun fact about this year's Tony-nominated playwrights: all are making their Broadway debuts, and all are under 40 years old. Whoever wins will be starting their Broadway career on quite a high, which is certain to make for some extra emotional soundbites throughout the night.
The general consensus is that Stephen Karam's The Humans will be the big winner here, a sentiment that's difficult to argue against. Karam's work has been acclaimed since his first Off-Broadway play as part of Roundabout Underground, a program specifically designed to groom up and coming playwrights, and although relatively young Karam is already quite respected among the New York theatrical community. The Humans was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year, increasing its profile and chances at the big award.
But I wouldn't completely rule out Eclipsed, an expertly crafted show that arrived just as the topic of diversity in entertainment reached a fever pitch. Written, directed, and starring women of color, the harrowing Liberian Civil War drama is a shining example of what can happen when people of different backgrounds are allowed to create theatre. I personally don't think it will manage to overtake The Humans, but it certainly has a better chance than The Father (which has primarily been lauded for Frank Langella's performance) or the long-closed King Charles III.
Will & Should Win: The Humans
|Hamilton, a little show no one has heard of, looks poised to become this year's Tony-winning Best Musical|
Let's be honest, there's really nothing to discuss here. Hamilton has had this award in the bag since it announced plans for a Broadway transfers last spring. And ignoring all the hype surrounding the cultural juggernaut, I must say the show earns this and every other award it has won by virtue of being one of the smartest, tightest pieces of musical theatre writing of the past 20 years. The show's much discussed rap and hip hop score isn't just good in the context of Broadway; it stands with some of the best of the music industry, as evidence by the huge number of musical celebrities that have seen and enjoyed the production and the cast album's unprecedented rise to the top of the Billboard rap charts. And given the huge amount of material the show has to cover (the complete life of one of our country's Founding Fathers), the narrative's ability to remain crystal clear while still providing endless texture and enough depth to reward repeated viewings is all the more impressive.
I think the biggest question is how the Best Musical nominations (and accompanying telecast performances) affect the other shows in this category. School of Rock and Waitress don't appear to need much help, with both having sold extremely well since opening. Shuffle Along is certainly an ambitious piece of musical theatre, and the fact that it has been selling so well and achieved such critical acclaim makes it appear the history based musical has a long life ahead of it. The show that could use a boost the most is the struggling Bright Star, which has been very forthcoming about the financial investments its high profile writers have made to keep the show afloat through the Tony broadcast. Hopefully a solid musical performance during the ceremony will boost the show's ticket sales enough to keep it open through the summer.
Will & Should Win: Hamilton
And that concludes my predictions for the 2016 Tony Awards! Tonight we'll find out how well or poorly I did, and check back early next week for my thoughts on the results and this Broadway season in general. Until then, feel free to agree or disagree with my predictions in the comments, and check out the links below for the rest of my Tony coverage.