Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 Tony Awards Predictions: Direction and Choreography

With the Tony Awards less than 2 weeks away, it's time to really dig in and start making predictions about the people and productions who will receive Broadway's highest honor on June 11th. As always, I will be using a combination of personal opinion, critical acclaim, and industry buzz to determine who I think is most likely to win each of the major races. As these are predictions about who will win rather than who I think should win, sometimes my personal favorite will be the underdog. If so, I'll be sure to point that out in my analysis.

On with the predictions!

Best Direction of a Play

Tony nominees Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in The Little Foxes.

Nominees: Sam Gold, A Doll's House: Part 2; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney; Bartlett Sher, Oslo; Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes; Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage in this category, as I have shamefully not seen any of the nominated productions. That said, all of these nominees are very well regarded, which makes for a race that could go any number of ways. Personally, I think Bartlett Sher is the least likely winner, as Oslo seems to lack the momentum that some of the other big plays have. I think Rebecca Taichman may run into a similar obstacle with Indecent, a play many people greatly admire but that doesn't seem to be anyone's favorite, a major problem when Tony votes are often emotional as much as they are analytical.

A Doll's House: Part 2 is the most nominated new play of the season, which puts director Sam Gold in a very strong position. However, he is also the most recent Tony winner of the bunch, having just won in 2015 for Fun Home. I suspect most Tony voters would prefer to spread the love, and the fact Gold also helmed the highly divisive, stripped down, modern dress revival of The Glass Menagerie this spring doesn't help matters.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson has made a name for himself as one of the top interpreters of August Wilson's work, a cannon that has enjoyed renewed admiration thanks to the Oscar-nominated film version of Fences and the highly lauded Broadway premiere of Jitney, which Santiago-Hudson is nominated for. Helming the one production not currently running is generally a Tony handicap, but this might be a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Then again, Santiago-Hudson is just as likely to be undone by Daniel Sullivan's work on the buzzy revival of The Little Foxes, the fifth Broadway production of Lillian Helman's drama which turned out far better than anyone expected it to. There's also the fact that Sullivan is one of the most respected directors in the industry, but has curiously only won the Tony once, all the way back in 2001 for Proof. Sullivan seems overdue for a second Tony win, and I think The Little Foxes is the show that will bring it to him.

Will win: Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
Should win: Abstain

Best Direction of a Musical

Tony nominees Mike Faist and Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen.

Nominees: Christopher Ashley, Come From Away; Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812; Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen; Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day; Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

I *have* seen all the nominees for Best Direction of a Musical, and with the exception of Matthew Warchus' overly busy, unfocused take on Groundhog Day I can easily make a case for any one of them. I have long admired Michael Greif's steady directorial hand in contemporary musicals, but despite helming some of the most influential shows of the past 20 years (including Rent and Next to Normal), Greif remains Tony-less. He really feels overdue for a win, and with Dear Evan Hansen he has once again taken a show that tackles big concepts and made it feel intensely personal.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, no one can argue four-time winner Jerry Zaks is overdue for a Tony, which I suspect will cause Tony voters to lean towards one of the other contenders. But one must also consider that Zaks has given us what may well be a perfect production Hello, Dolly!; it certainly feels like a definitive rendition of the old war horse, one that honors the iconic original production while also injecting new life into a show that was in very real danger of feeling dated. And with over 20 years between now and his last Tony win (for the 1992 Guys and Dolls revival), Zaks could prove to be a dark horse contender.

But ultimately, I think Tony voters will go with Rachel Chavkin's exhilarating, immersive staging of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, a show many doubted would survive the move from an intimate site-specific Off-Broadway production into a more traditional Broadway house. I'm not entirely sure the move was successful, but one can't deny that Chavkin is largely responsible for the most memorable aspects of the transfer, utilizing the cavernous Imperial Theatre to great effect. I personally am more impressed with Christopher Ashley's subtly brilliant work on Come From Away, but it probably isn't showy enough to beat out Chavkin.

Will Win: Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
Should Win: Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Choreography

Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, and the cast of the Bandstand.

Nominees: Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand; Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day; Kelly Devine, Come From Away; Denis Jones, Holiday Inn; Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

This is something of an odd category, as only two of the five nominated productions are what I would consider dance shows. The rest are more movement based, which is by no means a knock against them but does make it harder for me (and Tony voters) to justify giving them what is clearly a dance award.

Honestly, Andy Blankenbuehler probably deserves this award the most, as his shows are always kinetic masterpieces that are propelled by dance as much as anything else. But he just won for Hamilton, and without work that in inarguably better than everyone else's I have trouble imagining voters bestowing this award on him twice in a row. The only other show that is a clear dance show is Holiday Inn, which closed so long ago I feel like most people have forgotten about it (although Denis Jones' high energy work on "Shakin' the Blues Away" is the most memorable dance sequence of the season).

For me, Sam Pinkleton's work on Great Comet is trying way too hard, and the least successful segment of the show is also the one that most heavily features Pinkleton's work, the unnecessarily long "Balaga" number. Similarly, Peter Darling and Ellen Kane's work on Groundhog Day feels forced rather than growing naturally out of the narrative. I'm not sure anyone expects the tap number that appears late in Act II, and it isn't good enough to make you forget that it doesn't really belong. Which almost makes Kelly Devine's work on Come From Away the winner by default, as her choreography at least seamlessly blends with the staging and storytelling rather than being awkwardly inserted into it.

Will Win: Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Should Win: Andy Blankebeuhler, Bandstand

Be sure to check back soon for my predictions on the first of this year's acting categories. In the meantime, share your own thoughts in the comments, and don't forget to check out my previous 2017 Tony coverage.

Nominations React
Best Book and Score

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 Tony Award Predictions: Book and Score

In just a few short weeks, the American Theatre Wing will hand out the 71st Annual Tony Awards, celebrating the best of Broadway this past season. As is tradition, I will once again use my unique combination of personal opinion, critical analysis, and industry buzz to try and predict the winners of this year's awards!

2017 is going to be a lot trickier to predict than 2016, since we aren't able to vote Hamilton down the line. While nothing has been the game changing, record setting blockbuster that Hamilton was (and continues to be), there are multiple excellent productions vying for Broadway's top prize this year, and no clear front runner among them. Many of the big races could go a multitude of ways, particularly among the new musicals, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Also remember that I am predicting who I think will win, not necessarily who I think deserves to win; if I personally disagree with the way things seem to be going, I will be sure to point it out in my analysis.

So let's start this year's Tony predictions off with two of the tightest races of the night, Best Book and Best Score!

Best Book of a Musical

The company of Come From Away.

Nominees: Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away; Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen; Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day; Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

This year's Tony nominees showed a clear consensus among the nominating committee regarding the strongest new musicals; the nominated shows for this, Best Score, and the coveted Best Musical trophy are identical. Even more interesting/exciting is the fact that an argument could be made for any of these shows in any of the categories (well, except for Groundhog Day). I honestly don't know which way the Tony voters will swing.

Since Great Comet received the most total nominations this year, it should always be considered in contention for a win. However, I think Best Book is a long shot for the little Off-Broadway musical that could, as Dave Malloy's through composed work lacks any traditional book scenes. This is *not* meant in any way to disparage the structural bones Malloy has hung his mesmerizingly eclectic score on, but I don't know if enough people grasp how a musical without dialogue still has a book for him to win. 

Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen are neck and neck here, and both are incredibly deserving. Conventional wisdom would have Tony voters rewarding Steven Levenson's more easily noticed work on Evan Hansen, which has both depth and cultural relevancy while expertly balancing comedy and pathos. But the way married writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein seamlessly weave in and out of song and dialogue in Come From Away is truly a marvel, and their years of workshopping have resulted in a show where I honestly wouldn't change one word. They could easily score an upset over Levenson, and the more I think about it, the more I think they will.

Will and Should Win: Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away

Best Score

Lucas Steele and Denee Benton in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Nominees: Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away; Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen; Tim Minchin, Groundhog Day; Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Once again, I think we can rule out Groundhog Day (this will be a recurring theme in my predictions). In this case, Tim Minchin's music seems to actively work against the storytelling, with roughly half the musical numbers eliciting a response of "Why is there a song here?" His overly verbose compositions are also difficult to decipher in the theatre, and in general this is one nomination I don't feel is deserved (I would have picked War Paint's Scott Frankel and Michael Korie instead). And while I won't completely rule out Come From Away's Irene Sankoff and David Hein, especially if the show ends up having a strong night, I think a win for score is a long shot for the Canadian duo. Their folk-influenced songs are lovely, but not as memorable as the remaining two nominees. 

Dear Evan Hansen and Great Comet represent two very different compositional philosophies, so the ultimate winner is largely up to Tony voters' sensibilities. For all the pop leanings of Dear Evan Hansen's contemporary score, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have ultimately written recognizable, hummable showtunes. These are narrative driven songs of the highest quality, ones that strike a fine balance between melodic invention and accessibility, and their haunting "For Forever" is probably my favorite new song of the season. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Dave Malloy's incredibly adventurous fusion of such disparate genres as Russian folk music, electronica, and even opera into the dizzying symphony of Great Comet's auditory landscape. It isn't for everyone and rubs certain audience members the wrong way, but others (myself among them) find its unconventional nature to be its strongest asset.

We don't have the other theatre awards to give us any indication of how people are leaning, as the shows had their Off-Broadway premieres in different seasons and so have never been nominated against one another. I think Tony voters will ultimately go with Pasek and Paul, two incredibly talented up and comers who are still riding high on their Oscar win for La La Land. And I will be thrilled for them. But in my heart of heart, if forced to vote, I personally would choose Great Comet, and wouldn't be at all surprised or angry if Malloy wins instead.

Will Win: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Should Win: Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Please continue to check back throughout the next two weeks for more Tony predictions, and share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Small Show with a Big Heart

Review: Come From Away

Tony-nominee Jenn Colella (left) and the cast of Come From Away.

There are essentially two routes Broadway shows can go these days to justify their ever-growing price tags: elaborate spectacle that puts the money onstage, or theatrical craft so elevated its clearly the result of years of skill sharpening. Come From Away, the deeply moving and gloriously uplifting new musical now playing Broadway, thankfully opts for the latter, arriving in New York as a highly polished gem of a musical with the added bonus of not being based on any preexisting source material.

Written by Broadway newcomers Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away is inspired by the amazing true story of Gander, Newfoundland, which saw 38 planes and their accompanying 7000 passengers diverted to the small Canadian town when US airspace closed after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. And while this ensemble driven show doesn't shy away from the horrific aftereffects of that fateful day, it is also overflowing with inspiring stories of human kindness and mankind's capacity for love. The residents of Gander welcomed 7000 strangers into their homes without a moment's hesitation, feeding and clothing their multicultural visitors for 5 days until the planes were cleared to fly again. Yes, you will probably shed a few tears of sadness, but you will shed just as many at the sheer beauty of the simple human kindness on display.

What Sankoff and Hein manage to do so successfully is juxtapose moments of darkness with ones of hope. A particularly moving passage halfway through the intermissionless show illustrates how the many different faiths of the travelers allow them to cope with their grief, just after a Muslim traveler has been harassed during his midday prayers. The scenes seamlessly transition from spoken dialogue to the folk-influenced score and back again, balancing the specificity of the individual characters' journeys with the narrative's overarching themes. Sankoff and Hein have spent years honing the show prior to its New York debut, resulting in a work with nary a word out of place and a single story beat that feels forced or rushed. This is a musical that earns the emotions it elicits rather than manipulating them out of you.

The town of Gander is brought to life by an amazing ensemble of twelve actors, each playing multiple characters with little to distinguish them except changes in accent and some relatively minor costume pieces. So great is the entire cast's skill that not once during the show do you wonder who is playing who, even when they adopt a new persona onstage in front of your eyes. (Dialect coach Joel Goldes deserves special mention for guiding the cast to spot on Newfoundlander and multinational accents.)

While the entire cast is outstanding, Jenn Colella is particularly memorable as Beverley, the first female American Airlines captain and our window into the airlines' perspective on the entire ordeal (her rendition of "Me and the Sky" is a genuinely inspiring girl power anthem and one of the production's highlights). Sharon Wheatley and Lee MacDougall are adorable as a Texas divorcee and English businessman who find love amidst their awful circumstances, and Q. Smith is quietly heartbreaking as a mother waiting to hear from her first responder son. Although they are sometimes only given a line or two of dialogue to establish a character, each actor makes sure you know and care about everyone in the tale, to the point where you are genuinely curious about their fates after the final curtain.

Director Christopher Ashley is the assured captain of this streamlined ship, deftly guiding cast and audience through the show's many emotional highs and lows. With little more than some tables and chairs, Ashley takes us from a plane's cramped interior to a small town recreational center to the crowded confines of the airport's customs office. His directorial approach to the show is minimalist but far from simplistic, as the staging never fails to hold visual and emotional interest (greatly aided by Howell Binkley's outstanding lighting design). There is a kinetic energy that flows throughout the piece even when the characters are standing still, which makes the evening fly by.

Come From Away is a perfect example of the healing power of theatre, a cathartic and uplifting show centered around one of the darkest days in modern US history. Polished to a high sheen by a team of theatrical artisans working at the top of their game, this is must see theatre at its most pure. Do not let the 9/11 ties scare you away; you will cry, yes, but you will also laugh, cheer, and find yourself moved by humanity's ability to lift one another up when we truly need it. Given the dark and sometimes defeated political climate we find ourselves, Come From Away is just the sort of inspiring show Broadway needs right now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Hello" Bette, in a Truly Divine "Dolly"

Review: Hello, Dollly!

Bette Midler in the iconic title song from Hello, Dolly!

They just don't make them like this anymore. That old adage applies to both Hello, Dolly!, the Jerry Herman-Michael Stewart penned musical currently being revived at the Shubert Theatre, and most especially to star Bette Midler, appearing in a Broadway musical for the first time in 50 years. Midler possesses a luminous star quality the likes of which few performers can equal, and exudes it so naturally and effortlessly that she appear to glow from within. In the title role of this first class revival, Midler delivers the sort of legendary star turn that will be remembered for years to come, a must see theatrical event that has already set tongues wagging and ticket prices soaring. And Midler is worth every cent.

The plot of Hello, Dolly! finds professional matchmaker (and dance instructor, and makeup consultant, and a host of other eclectic professions) Dolly Gallagher Levi looking for a suitable wife for the well known "half a millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. Throughout the course of one extremely busy day, Dolly's meddling manages to find suitable mates for Vandergelder's niece Ermengarde, his shop attendants Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, and last but not least Dolly herself. In all honesty, the farcical plot is of secondary importance to Herman's immortal songs and Midler's performance, and falls apart upon closer inspection. But you'll be far too entertained by Midler and the rest of this sparkling production to care.

It cannot be overstated how much Midler brings to the title role, so long associated with original star and theatrical icon Carol Channing. The award-winning actress and recording artist has such mastery over the show's particular brand of comedy that she elicits belly laughs with the merest gesture or change in inflection. A spritely presence with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Midler sends an electric energy over the footlights and into the rafters, demanding your full attention lest you miss whatever piece of comic genius she has cooked up next.

Midler is so good that one of the highlights of the show involves neither dialogue nor music, but watching the Divine Miss M (as her fans have dubbed her) devour a turkey leg, some dumplings, and a boat a gravy. The specificity of intention and attention to detail sells this and every other moment of Midler's performance, which feels both tightly honed and spontaneous all at once. Just when you think you've seen every trick in her arsenal Midler produces a new one, including genuine pathos in her conversations with her dearly departed husband, Ephram. These moments provide a level of emotional stakes to the piece that is unexpected yet wholly welcome, grounding the show and Dolly before switching back to side splitting musical shenanigans.

Midler's performance would be worth the price of admission alone, making the fact that the rest of the production is such a joy feel like a bonus. Director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Warren Carlyle have polished this old warhorse of a show to a brilliant shine, embracing the piece's old fashioned charms rather than trying to dress them up with modern bells and whistles. Santo Loquasto's sets are the kind of beautifully painted, stylized backdrops that haven't been seen on Broadway in years, demonstrating that for all the technological razzle dazzle of projections the old ways of doing things remain surprisingly effective. When Midler makes her entrance in a carriage drawn by a "horse" that is clearly two dancers inside of a costume, the old fashioned stagecraft makes the moment more memorable, not less. (And the way Midler graciously acknowledges the thunderous applause which greets her while staying in character is yet another testament to her unparalleled professionalism.)

Loquasto has also designed jaw droppingly gorgeous costumes, a pastel potpourri resplendent in detail and tailored to perfection. They are so entrancing that "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" becomes a breathtaking showstopper despite the fact it is literally just a parade of costumes. His staging for songs such as this and the opening "I Put My Hand In" shows that Carlyle knows the value of precise, minimalist movement, but he's also more than capable of having the ensemble leap and twirl their way through big productions like the appropriately titled "Dancing" or "The Waiters' Galop." Zaks keeps just as tight a handle on the book scenes, giving the production such buoyancy and pep that it flies along and ends far before you want it to.

And while Midler's performance is the headlining attraction, her costars are all first rate. David Hyde Pierce, decked out in mutton chops and an authentic Yonkers accent, is delightful as the cantankerous Vandergelder, particularly during his Act II opener "Penny In My Pocket." As Cornelius and Barnaby respectively, Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch are a riot, clowning around in high fashion during their small town clerks' big city adventures (rarely has the word "pudding" been so hilarious). Kate Baldwin sings like a dream and mugs with the best of them as hatshop owner and object of Cornelius' affections Irene Malloy, and newcomer Beanie Feldstein is equally winsome as her assistant Minnie Fay. So deep is this production's roster of talent that they landed Tony-nominee Jennifer Simard for a side splitting single scene turn as Ernestina, Vandergelder's crass date to the fanciest restaurant in town.

Simply put, this is as good a production of Hello, Dolly! as you are ever likely to see, an unadulterated delight from start to finish. Everything about this loving tribute to Broadway's Golden Age is done at the highest possible level, a pure joy that will have you exiting the theatre humming the tunes and dancing on air. Midler's performance is one for the history books, joining the ranks of all time great star turns thanks to her talent, tireless work, and megawatt star quality. When she descends that grand staircase to the opening chords of the title song in Dolly's signature red dress and resplendent feathered headpiece, it is as if time stops, and you don't just agree but inarguably know that Midler, like Dolly, is truly back where she belongs.

A Musical In Need of a Do-Over

Review: Groundhog Day

Barrett Doss and Andy Karl in Groundhog Day at the August Wilson Theare.
The plot of Groundhog Day revolves around a weatherman forced to live the same day over and over again until he finally gets it right, breaking the loop and allowing him to move on. The creative team behind this new Broadway musical, many of whom were also involved in 2013's wildly inventive Matilda, seem to have encountered a similar conundrum in their writing. The show doesn't really start to click until well into its second act, and once it finds its narrative voice the musical promptly ends. And while it feels somewhat wrong to criticize a show built around the concept of repetition for being, well, repetitive, one has to imagine that some of the invention and creative spark of the last 20 minutes could have been brought into the proceeding 2 hours.

The show opens with the cantankerous Phil Connors (Andy Karl in full leading man mode) being forced to take an assignment covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Shipped off to a small town he detests with a fairly green associate producer named Rita (Barrett Doss offering the right combination of sass and sympathy), Phil finds himself snowed in by an unexpected blizzard. The big city forecaster can't wait for the day to be over and be on his way, but to his horror when he awakens the next morning it is still February 2nd. No matter what Phil does or doesn't do during the day, every morning the loop resets, leaving him to ponder the unpleasant possibility that he may relive this day forever.

The high concept setup allows Groundhog Day to tackle some surprisingly dark material. Stuck reliving the same day on repeat, Phil goes through every imaginable reaction to the news, from horror to hedonism to depression and more. Yet rather than fully embracing its darker instincts or satirizing them with biting comedy, the show seems stuck in the same kind of limbo as its main character, unable to satisfactorily reach either tonal destination despite multiple valiant attempts. Danny Rubin's book is structured like a warped romantic comedy, but both the romantic and comedic aspects are only present is short bursts during an otherwise dull affair. (Rubin also wrote the screenplay for the beloved Bill Murray film on which the musical is based.)

Tim Minchin's score is equally confused, unable to settle on what it wants to be. The verbose songs are arranged and harmonized in such a way that the lyrics are often difficult to understand; the first three songs in particular are sung multiple times throughout the evening and I'm still not sure I caught all the words. Yet the songs also aren't melodically interesting enough to hold your attention without comprehending the words, so every time a musical number appears it seems to interrupt the narrative rather than enhance it. Minchin also devotes several numbers to minor characters we neither know nor care about, the most egregious example being the Act II opener "Playing Nancy." If Nancy were providing some commentary on the show's overarching narrative or themes it might prove to be a nice change of pace, but the song is entirely about her journey even though she has little to do or say either before or after.

Further compounding the show's narrative woes is Matthew Warchus' hyperactive direction, which rarely allows the actors time to stand still and focus on the emotion of their scenes. Although to be fair, standing still on Rob Howell's overly elaborate set is clearly a safety hazard, with so many set pieces moving in and out on the five(!) turntables that staying in place too long is a sure way to get injured. All of this technical wizardry might be impressively complex, but like many a British megamusical before it Groundhog Day ultimately becomes about the set rather than the story or characters.

The one constant among the show's disparate elements is the sparkling class, who are effortlessly winsome and entirely believable despite reenacting the exact same scene multiple times each night. Anchoring the production is newly minted Olivier Award winner Andy Karl, whose Phil Connors transforms slowly and seamlessly from a self centered ass into a warmhearted philanthropist. Karl's utterly charming performance has an ease about it that never betrays just how hard he is working, and the only knock against it is the role doesn't allow much of the overt comedy he's proven so adept at in the past. He is perfectly commented by Barrett Doss as the spunky Rita, and their chemistry makes even some of the clunkier scenes breeze by.

But ultimately, their alluring performances cannot fully salvage a show that doesn't really justify the need for musicalizing the beloved Bill Murray movie. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never seen the Groundhog Day film, but a truly great adaptation of any source material should not rely on one's fondness of the original. It should stand on its own, entertaining newcomers while providing fans with an added layer of appreciation, something this incredibly busy stage adaptation doesn't quite manage.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 Tony Nominations React

Past Tony-winner Jane Krakowski and nominee Christopher Jackson announce the 2017 Tony Award nominees.

It's Tony Tuesday!!!! Early this morning Jane Krakowski and Christopher Jackson announced the nominees for the 71st annual Tony Awards, with Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 leading the pack with 12 nominations, followed closely by hot ticket revival Hello, Dolly! with 10. (You can see a complete list of the nominees here.)

I have lots of thoughts about this year's nominees, but first let's see how well I did with my predictions. An asterisks represents a nominee I correctly predicted, while an asterisk in parentheses is a wildcard selection that made the grade:

Best Musical
Come From Away*
Dear Evan Hansen*
Groundhog Day*
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812*

Best Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Revival of a Musical
Hello, Dolly!*
Miss Saigon*

Best Revival of a Play
The Little Foxes*
Present Laughter*
Six Degrees of Separation*

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos*
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812*
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day*
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen*

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint*
Patti LuPone, War Paint*
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!*
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon*

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg*
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter*
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present*
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie(*)
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes*
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2*

That's 28 out of 35 correct guesses, which makes for a fairly good 80% accuracy rating. However, if I'm being honest that figure is misleading as I ended up prediction one more nominee in all of the production categories, figuring the breadth of work this season would lead to the close vote totals that cause category expansions. That was not the case, showing that the Tony nominators were generally in agreement on which shows they liked best.

As for the nominees themselves, they went pretty much as expected. I was clearly wrong about enthusiasm for The Great Comet having cooled, as it leads the pack in nominations including a somewhat surprising nod for lead Denee Benton as Best Actress. It's not a choice I'm entirely behind, but I'm probably biased due to my unadulterated adoration of Phillipa Soo in the show's Off-Broadway incarnation, and there isn't an actress I think is more deserving who was left off the list (including Soo, who is poorly used in the not fully realized Amelie).

I'm pleasantly surprised to see Dear Evan Hansen's Mike Faist and Falsettos' Brandon Uranowitz among the Best Featured Actor nominees, as I though both gentlemen did great work in somewhat thankless roles. (In particular, Faist's turn on a dime modifications to his character during the charming "Sincerely Me" number is some of the best subtle musical acting of the season.) Part of me also wishes Tony voters had found space for Hello, Dolly's Gavin Creel *and* Taylor Trensch in this category, as their Cornelius and Barnaby are both fantastic and neither performance would be as successful without the other's support.

As for omissions, I'm bummed about War Paint's relatively modest showing, although I can't say I'm surprised. I loved the show, but the Drama Desk and Outer Critic's Circle nominations made it clear that a lot of the New York theatre scene was lukewarm to everything about it except its sensational leading ladies. I will take solace in the show's $1 million+ weekly box office and the feeling that it will be a show people will slowly discover and appreciate as time goes on.

I'm genuinely shocked by Allison Janney's exclusion from the Best Actress in a Play race. I have not seen the show, but in my mind she is definitely the selling point and would be my primary reason for buying a ticket, and I've heard no rumblings about her being disappointing. I also wish they had found room for Jennifer Laura Thompson from Dear Evan Hansen, who is just as good as her rightfully nominated costar Rachel Bay Jones. And while I haven't seen enough of the Best Actor in a Play nominees to argue that Gideon Glick was snubbed, I do think he did exceptional work in Significant Other.

Check back in the coming weeks for my annual Tony predictions, as well as reviews of at least 3 more nominated productions I haven't quite had time to write yet. And feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts on this year's nominees in the comments!