Saturday, June 3, 2017

2017 Tony Award Predictions: Best Featured Actress

We are fast approaching Broadway's biggest night, which means I will continue my annual tradition of predicting Tony winners! Using a combination of personal opinion, critical praise, and industry buzz, I will do my best to pick the people and productions who will be honored by the American Theatre Wing on June 11th. And if the person who *will* win doesn't match up with who I think *should* win, I will be sure to mention it in my analysis.

On to the Best Featured Actress races!

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Condola Rashad (right) and Laurie Metcalf in A Doll's House, Part 2.

Nominees: Johanna Day, Sweat; Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll's House, Part 2; Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes; Condola Rashad, A Doll's House, Part 2; Michelle Wilson, Sweat

Two different productions have produced multiple nominees in this category, which if you subscribe to the idea of vote splitting means that The Little Foxes' Cynthia Nixon should be the winner by default. And while that is a possibility, it seems unlikely to me, as Nixon has far buzz than her costar Laura Linney. They may not be competing in the same category, but thanks to the production's repertory conceit they are playing the same roles, and the consensus seems to be that Linney is better at both of them.

A Doll's House, Part 2 gives us the higher profile names, as both Jayne Houdyshell and Condola Rashad are well established in the New York theatre scene. Houdyshell just won this award last year, and while winning back to back Tonys is not unheard of (just ask Judith Light), I would be surprised to see the veteran actress take the trophy home again this year. Her costar seems a far more likely winner, having been nominated for three of her four Broadway outings without winning. Tony voters clearly like Rashad, and the fact that she's in the most nominated play of the season certainly doesn't hurt her chances. It is entirely possible Sweat's Johanna Day or Michelle Wilson pull off an upset, but this feels like Rashad's year to me.

Will Win: Condola Rashad, A Doll's House, Part 2
Should Win: Abstain

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Stephanie J Block in Falsettos.

Nominees: Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!; Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos; Jenn Colella, Come From Away; Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen; Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

What a category! This is probably the most competitive of the musical acting races, as the nominees here gave what may be scene for scene the best performances of the season. The only scenario I simply can't envision is Mary Beth Peil winning for Anastasia, a musical that didn't really set critics or Tony voters on fire. And while it's not impossible that a swell of love for Hello, Dolly! brings Kate Baldwin to the winner's podium, it is improbably, as the awkwardly written role doesn't do the delightful soprano any favors (no matter how lovely her rendition of "Ribbons Down My Back" might be).

This is really a three way race between Stephanie J. Block, Jenn Colella, and Rachel Bay Jones, an embarrassment of riches that we are lucky to have. Block was by far the best thing about Falsettos, a fascinating portrait of a regular woman struggling to hold on to her sanity after her entire life is upended when she learns her husband is gay. A beloved member of the Broadway community who has yet to win the coveted Tony Away, Falsettos is Block's best work to date, as evidenced by the thunderous applause which greeted her big solo every evening.

Rachel Bay Jones also plays a mother struggling to keep her head above water in Dear Evan Hansen, and her layered portrayal acknowledges Heidi Hansen's flaws while also celebrating her bravery and humanity. Jones' performance of the Act II ballad "So Big/So Small" is simply devastating thanks to her emotional honesty and vulnerability, and by the end of the song you want her to be your mother as well. It's a very difficult act to compete with, which is why I think she will ultimately win over Block and the winsome, inspiring Jenn Colella, who's powerhouse performance of "Me and the Sky" in Come From Away is one of the most thrilling musical moments of the season.

Will Win: Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Should Win: Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos (but make not mistake, Jones is phenomenal and more than earns this award)

Check back over the next week for the rest of my Tony predictions, including the Lead Actor/Actress races and the all important Best Musical category. Until then, share your own thoughts in the comments, and catch up with the rest of my 2017 Tony coverage below:

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


  1. I think Anastasia shouldn't have cut Rasputin

    1. I'll know more when I see the show next month, but it sounds like about the only thing Anastasia shares with the movie is some songs and a very basic outline; the rest has been completely reenvisioned.

  2. I think it's mainly Cynthia Nixon vs. Johanna Day for Featured Actress In A Play. And I do think Rachel Bay Jones is a lock for Featured Actress In A Musical.

    1. The only thing standing in Rachel Bay Jones' way is the fact that a couple of her competitors are beloved members of the Broadway community who a lot of people would see love to win their first Tony Award.