Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 Tony Nominee Predictions: Part I

Although Mother Nature can't quite decide what season it is, the calendar and abundance of Broadway openings these past few weeks have made it abundantly clear it is in fact late April. Which also means that the Tony  Awards are right around the corner, and as we do every year at Broadway, Etc., it's time to start predicting the nominees!

As always, these predictions represent my best attempt at synthesizing critical consensus, audience response, personal opinion, and past Tony trends to determine which shows are most likely to be singled out on May 2nd. This has proven to be a particularly engaging season with many strong contenders but few clear frontrunners; a strong case can be made for many of the productions and performances that have graced the Broadway boards this season. To acknowledge this competitiveness and the sometimes unpredictable Tony nominators, I will be choosing a Wildcard pick in addition to my official predictions for each of the races discussed. The Wildcard represents the person or production I think is most likely to unseat one of the presumed nominees, or prompt a category expansion where Tony rules allow for it.

So without further ado, here are my first round of picks!

Best Musical

The cast of Dear Evan Hansen.

In a welcome change of pace from last year, there is no preordained winner among this season's new musicals. I absolutely adore Hamilton, but its presence last year made for a very predictable ceremony. This year there are a whopping 13 possible contenders for Best Musical, proving that the Great White Way remains a healthy breeding ground for new works.

I think there are 2 virtual locks for nominations: Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away. Both shows received across the board raves and have many passionate fans, and it would be shocking to see either excluded from contention. At one point, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 also appeared to be a lock for a nomination, but industry excitement for the genre-busting show has cooled considerably since its fall premiere. I still think a nomination is *likely* for Great Comet, but it is no longer guaranteed thanks to the strength of the spring musicals.

Specifically, I think both War Paint and Groundhog Day stand a strong chance of being nominated. Both shows come from respected creative teams and feature some of the buzziest performances of the season. I personally adored War Paint, and despite criticism of its structure being two predictable - the show continually cross cuts between the lives of main characters Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden - I have trouble imagining it being left off the list Tony Tuesday. Groundhog Day just won the Olivier Award for Best Musical, bolstering the awards prospects of Tim Minchin's follow-up to the beloved Matilda, although success in London no longer automatically translate to success with Tony voters the way it once did. However, Anastasia has done incredibly well with both the Drama Desk and Outer Critic's Circle nods and will give one of these shows a run for their money.

Nominees: Come From Away; Dear Evan Hansen; Groundhog Day; Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812; War Paint
Wildcard: Anastasia

Best Play

The company of Sweat.
This category is more robust than usual, and in a heartening trend most of the major contenders are new American plays (in the past, British imports have dominated this category). Between its strong reviews, current relevance, and recent Pulitzer Prize win, I have to imagine Lynne Nottage's Sweat is all but guaranteed a nomination. I also can't imagine Tony voters passing up the chance to nominate the Broadway debut of fellow Pulitzer-winning playwright and industry stalwart Paula Vogel for her provocative Indecent. And the fact based political thriller Oslo seems practically designed to court Tony voters, which coupled with great reviews makes it a virtual lock as well.

That leaves 1-2 slots open depending on how close the vote tallies are; category expansions are caused by mathematically close races as opposed to a conscious decision by Tony nominators. I actually think the premature closing of Joshua Harmon's Significant Other may help its chances. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Tony voters might realize they liked the well-realized contemporary drama more than critical notices would lead you to believe. There is also some good early buzz on A Doll's House: Part 2, though one could argue that the latter is opening too late in the season to really establish itself in the minds of voters. Then again Heisenberg, its most likely competition, has the exact opposite problem, as the two-hander opened and closed ages ago. I'm also not ready to completely rule out a surprise showing by dark horse candidate The Play That Goes Wrong, as it would be very out of character for the typically anglophile Tony voters to only nominate American plays.

Nominees: Indecent, Oslo, Significant Other, Sweat
Wildcard: Heisenberg

Best Musical Revival

Bette Midler leads the cast of Hello, Dolly!
Unlike last year's stellar crop of musical revivals, this season's contenders are a lot less artistically interesting. Not only are the revivals primarily of 80s and 90s megamusicals, which have their guilty pleasures but are hardly the pinnacle of the musical form, but both Cats and Miss Saigon remain so married to their spectacle-oriented original concepts that it can sometimes feel like Broadway is caught in a time warp. Alternatively, Sunset Boulevard has ditched the lavish physical production but retained Tony-winning star Glenn Close, again keeping the ties to the original Broadway mounting front and center.

All of that said, it must also be acknowledged that Close is absolutely sensational, both justifying Sunset's return and ensuring its inclusion among this year's Best Musical Revival nominees. The show will surely be joined by Lincoln Center's much lauded (although not by me) fall mounting of William Finn's Falsettos. And while Bette Midler's mere presence was enough to make Hello, Dolly a smash hit before the first preview, let's not forget that both the production and its star received across the board raves, making its nomination all but assured. And since the producers of the Jake Gyllenhall-led Sunday in the Park with George removed their revival from Tony consideration, that leaves one open slot which will almost certainly go to Miss Saigon, which at least pretends to be more than a direct remounting of the original.

Nominees: Falsettos; Hello, Dolly!; Miss Saigon; Sunset Boulevard
Wildcard: Cats

Best Play Revival

The cast of the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Jitney.
In most seasons, the fall produces the brunt of play revivals, presumably because that's when the movie stars needed to guarantee financing/ticket sales are usually free. But in a surprising change of pace, it looks like the majority of nominees in this category will come from the second half of the season. Manhattan Theatre Club is looking likely to be double nominated this year thanks to its critically acclaimed productions of August Wilson's Jitney and Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes; I challenge anyone to find a negative word written about either show. The Kevin Kline led Present Laughter also seems well positioned for a nomination, as does the Allison Janney fronted Six Degrees of Separation. That's technically a full category right there, although the much-lauded Front Page from the fall seems destined to make the cut as well. The only show that seems at all likely to disrupt this quintet is Roundabout's starry mounting of The Price, which could take the place of the oft-revived Present Laughter if enough Tony nominators have tired of seeing Noel Coward's comedy trotted out every decade or so.

Nominees: The Front Page, Jitney, The Little Foxes, Present Laughter, Six Degrees of Separation
Wildcard: The Price

Agree with my predictions? Think I'm wildly off base? Let me know in the comments, and check back Sunday for my predictions for the major acting races!


  1. I'm really excited to see Kevin Spacey host the ceremony.