Monday, June 5, 2017

2017 Tony Award Predictions: Best Actor

The 2017 Tony Awards are less than a week away, so now it's time for my annual Tony predictions to start tackling the biggest races of the night. Although a Tony win in any category is of course a monumental achievement, it is the Lead Actor/Actress and production awards that carry the most weight with ticket buyers. As always, I will be using a combination of personal opinion, critical consensus, and industry buzz to determine the person most *likely* to win, even if they aren't necessarily the most deserving.

So without further ado, let's dive into the Best Actor races!

Best Actor in a Play

Kevin Kline and Cobie Smulders in Present Laughter.

Nominees: Denis Arndt, Heisenberg; Chris Cooper, A Doll's House, Part 2; Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation; Kevin Kline, Present Laughter; Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Of the four Lead Performer races, this is probably the least interesting. While all the men in this category are undeniably talented, none of the performances have really captured the imagination of the Broadway community. Even Kevin Kline, one of the most respected stage and film stars of his generation, hasn't set tongues wagging the way he was expected too. His leading man turn in Present Laughter was universally liked by the critics, but no one is calling it a must see like they are several other high profile star turns this season. This may be partially due to audience fatigue with his chosen vehicle, as the Noel Coward comedy is currently enjoying it's sixth Broadway mounting, hot on the heels of the 2010 production starring Victor Garber.

Still, I can't reasonably envision anyone else winning this award. Denis Arndt's performance in Heisenberg was so long ago that it feels like it belongs in a different season. Chris Cooper seems to have been elevated by the love of his female costars in A Doll's House, Part 2, as his inclusion in this category raised more than a few eyebrows on Tony Tuesday. Six Degrees of Separation hasn't connected with critics or audiences the way I would have expected, which makes Corey Hawkins' path to victory that much more of an uphill battle. There's an outside chance Oslo's Jefferson Mays scores an upset, although I'm not betting on it.

Will Win: Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Should Win: Abstain

Best Actor in a Musical

Ben Platt as the title character in Dear Evan Hansen.

Nominees: Christian Borle, Falsettos; Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812; Andy Karl, Groundhog Day; David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!; Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

No need to mince words here; this award is Ben Platt's, and has been since Dear Evan Hansen's Off-Broadway bow last spring. Platt's revelatory performance as the titular troubled teen is the stuff of theatrical legend, a searing star turn that is stunning in both it's emotional breadth and raw vulnerability. Platt has also figured out the nifty trick of singing like a dream while full-on ugly crying; his performance of "Words Fail" is Tony worthy on its own, and that is merely the culmination of a two hour acting marathon he somehow has the stamina to perform eight times a week. And on top of all that, he is also genuinely hilarious, creating a convincingly quirky character that deftly avoids the cheap laughs and occasional hamminess of his previous Broadway outing in The Book of Mormon. In short, Platt does it all over the course of Evan Hansen's runtime, and such breadth and depth will surely be rewarded by Tony voters.

It's cute that some prognosticators are pretending that Andy Karl has a chance at upsetting Platt, but I honestly think they are just trying to create drama in what is a pretty straightforward race. Karl is quite charming in Groundhog Day, but I wouldn't call it his best work, let alone the best musical performance of the year. Both Josh Groban and Christian Borle feel like they were nominated because they played roles that are supposed to be Tony-worthy rather than fully earning their nominations, and in a different season might have been left out of this race. At the same time it must be said Groban acquits himself quite well in his Broadway debut, and Borle's work in Falsettos is the least obnoxious thing he's done in a very long time. And  while David Hyde Pierce is reliably great as the well known half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly!, no amount of mutton chops and curmudgeonly Yonkers attitude will let the veteran character actor unseat Platt.

Will and Should Win: Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Check back throughout the week for my predictions of the Best Actress, Revival, Play, and Musical categories, and you can catch up on the rest of the my Tony coverage below:

Nominations React
Best Book and Score
Best Direction and Choreography
Best Featured Actor
Best Featured Actress


  1. I know a few weeks ago at the Drama League Awards, Ben Platt became the youngest person ever to win the Distinguished Performance Award.