Thursday, January 26, 2017

Extremely Early 2017 Tony Predictions: Part I

January and February are traditionally slow months for Broadway, both in terms of show openings and ticket sales. They are also times of changeover, as older shows close up shop to make way for the incoming crop of spring production. A whopping 23 shows will open between now and April 27th, the cutoff for Tony Award eligibility, which means only the most well received fall productions even have a chance of cutting through the spring buzz to secure nomination slots in May. And as I do every year at this time, it's time to discuss which shows are in the best position to do just that!

This fall produced a lot of work critics deemed good but not great, which leaves plenty of room for things to change depending on the strength of the spring shows. With few critical or commercial hits among the fall shows, all these predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, with many vulnerable to missing out on nominations should the spring prove especially fruitful artistically.

Best Musical

Ben Platt and the cast of Dear Evan Hansen.

While it seems a tad early to make this prediction, my gut tells me we have already seen the 2017 Tony winner for Best Musical. Both Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 opened to excellent reviews and robust box office, putting them in excellent position to be remembered with nominations. The boundary pushing productions are also the kind of inventive work the Tony committee has increasingly favored in the past few years, making it even more difficult to imagine either show being shut out of the highest profile awards race.

If the spring shows prove to be unexpectedly weak (unlikely, but possible), then there's a possibility for Holiday Inn or A Bronx Tale to sneak into contention. A Bronx Tale is the more likely of the two to break out, as Holiday Inn seems to have been too slight for most critics and will be long closed by the time nominations are handed out. And while I found aspects to appreciate in both In Transit and Paramour, neither is really Best Musical material, making their nominations extremely unlikely.

Best Play

Mary-Louis Parker and Denis Arndt in Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway production of Heisenberg.

Currently, the only shows that quality for this category are The Encounter; Heisenberg; Oh, Hello on Broadway; and The Present. With a robust slate of new plays coming this spring, including Broadway transfers of the incredibly well received Sweat, Oslo, and Indecent, I expect only one fall play to make it into Tony consideration. I'm split on whether to call things for The Encounter or Heisenberg, but I lean toward the latter due to it being the most "play-like" (although the increasingly progressive Tony voters could well opt for the experimental but well received The Encounter instead). Should the spring shows disappoint there's even an outside chance the partly scripted, partly improvised Oh, Hello makes the cut, although as this is both a playwriting and production award the improvised segments could hurt the comedy's chances.

Best Musical Revival

Lincoln Center's much heralded revival of William Finn and James Lapine's Falsettos.

This fall only saw two musical revivals, the much anticipated Falsettos and the are-they-really-bringing-that-back Cats. Personally, I don't understand how the awkwardly constructed Falsettos is so beloved by the theatrical community, and I say that as a gay man. Based on my personal observations, one's enjoyment of this revival was directly tied to one's familiarity with the show beforehand; if you already knew Falsettos, the revival was practically perfect, whereas if you were unfamiliar with the show the flaws in the writing were more apparent (I fall into the second category). That said, I cannot imagine a scenario in which Falsettos doesn't get nominated for Best Revival, even if there are a lot of spring shows to fend off on the way to actually winning this category. The chances of Cats fending off Hello, Dolly; Sunset Boulevard; Miss Saigon; and Sunday in the Park with George for a nomination seem laughable.

Best Play Revival

The cast of the Broadway premiere of August Wilson's Jitney.

There are currently for productions eligible in this category: The Cherry Orchard, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Front Page, and Jitney. With a similar number of play revivals opening in the spring, I'm fairly confident in predicting a 50/50 spread between fall and spring nominees, which would allow for two of the above plays to make the cut. The Cherry Orchard was met with some of the harshest reviews of the season, while Les Liaisons sparked at best muted admiration, which leaves The Front Page and Jitney as the presumptive nominees. The very well reviewed Jitney is probably the most competitive, as most reviews for The Front Page agreed the play was starting to show its age despite tremendous work from an all-star cast (the routine complaints about a slow first act will also hold the show back).

And those are my current predictions; let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments! And check back soon for early assessments of the Leading Actor/Actress races.


  1. By June, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul could already be halfway towards EGOT.

  2. What did you admire about Paramour? I'm curious because you haven't written a review of it.

    1. I did not review Paramour as I was given comp tickets by a friend, and those working on a show can get in trouble if comp tickets are used by reviewers (press tickets are a totally separate thing).

      I personally admired the more traditionally Cirque elements; there is an amazing aerial number with twins, and a fantastic trio with three contortionists. I also felt the leads were all very talented. That said, I think the reviews were fair when it comes to the show's structural weaknesses and tonal disparities.

  3. Have you seen Come From Away?

    1. I have not. I know one friend who has seen it who had extremely positive things to say about it, so I'm definitely curious.