Tony Math: The Only Question Is How Many Trophies 'Hamilton' Will Take Home

Courtesy of Joan Marcus
'Hamilton'

With 16 nominations, can the hit musical match or beat the record 12 wins racked up by 'The Producers' in 2001?

It is a historic year for musicals — well, for at least for one musical.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has taken Broadway by storm, securing a record 16 nominations and tying another record set by Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (1989) by collecting seven acting nods. But can it approach the gold standard of Tony dominance, the 12 wins racked up by The Producers in 2001? 

The math suggests that’s going to be a long shot. Let’s say that Hamilton sweeps its 10 easiest categories. Even then, tying the Mel Brooks comedy still requires Hamilton to win at least two of the three categories of lead actress, costume design and scenic design. My math says that has only a 13 percent chance of happening. Not impossible, but there’s a reason records are hard to break. Then again, it’s not like Hamilton lacks for experience on the record-breaking front. 

Having announced my mathematical predictions for the 10 play categories at the 70th Tony Awards, what follows are my formula’s results for the 14 musical categories. As before, my statistical model weights historical data from the list of categories each show was nominated in, other theater awards and a weighted average of critic predictions. My own personal predictions do not factor into these numbers. 

Best MusicalPerhaps the only surprise here is that Hamilton’s percentage isn’t even higher. That’s due to the fact that previous years have been less predictable, so the math isn’t going to be too confident in any winner. But in terms of boosting its probability, Miranda’s awards juggernaut did everything right. Critical adoration? Check. Pre-Tony honors? Check. Plenty of nominations? A whopping 16 in total. A victory by any of its competitors would arguably be the biggest upset in Tonys history — don’t count on it.

Best Revival of a MusicalOf the four awards handed out to best play, musical, and play and musical revival, this is the closest race. Most critics and the Drama League like The Color Purple, but Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle wins for She Loves Me send Harnick and Bock’s lesser-known musical (the duo also penned Fiddler on the Roof) into first place, but just barely. A true nail-biter.

Best Direction of a MusicalAcross Tony history, 78 percent of original musicals that took home the direction award went on to claim the top prize. Look for Hamilton’s Thomas Kail to join in on the fun.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a MusicalMy gut tells me this one might be wrong, but I’m bound by the numbers. With Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. both being such strong contenders, it’s possible they split the Hamilton vote. Fiddler on the Roof’s Danny Burstein is a six-time nominee who has never won before, so that could also give Broadway’s latest Tevye a boost. Still, I’d hardly be surprised to see a Hamilton victory here — for one of its actors or the other.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Last year, this category produced the biggest upset of the night, when Kelli O’Hara (The King and I) defeated Kristin Chenoweth (On the Twentieth Century). But don’t expect a repeat: This has all the makings of an easy win for The Color Purple’s Cynthia Erivo.

Best Performance of a Featured Actor in a MusicalThis is the single tightest race of the night. Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, going up against two of his castmates, Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff, faces his stiffest challenge from Drama Desk/Outer Critics Circle champion Christopher Fitzgerald (Waitress). A mere 0.3 percent separates the two talented men.

Best Performance of a Featured Actress in a MusicalThe critical consensus is that Renee Elise Goldsberry, who plays Hamilton’s Angelica Schuyler Hamilton, will win easily. While the math agrees with the main conclusion, it disagrees on how close the race is. She Loves Me’s Jane Krakowski is on a winning streak, and she’s going to give Goldsberry a run for her money.

Best Costume Design in a MusicalShuffle Along was critically acclaimed and enters Sunday night with 10 nominations, second behind Hamilton. And yet, it risks getting shut out completely. So if voters want to acknowledge the ode to 1921 Broadway history, this is the most likely place they’ll do it.

Best Lighting Design in a MusicalIf Hamilton hadn’t been eligible a year ago (because of its pre-Broadway run) for the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle, it may very well have defeated American Psycho in this category at both of those awards galas. But even without those wins, this category hardly ever goes to a show with fewer than eight nominations — American Idiot (2010) is the lone exception.

Best Scenic Design in a MusicalIf Hamilton is going to convert a historic number of nominations into a historic number of wins, it’s categories like this one that are going to prove to be the tipping point. Unfortunately for the show’s many devotees, the math gives a slight edge to Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle victor She Loves Me.

Best Book of a MusicalHamilton didn’t just get here “by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter.” It was also just a lot better. With all due respect to the creativity of the other nominees in this category, of which there is plenty, Miranda’s book for Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the most innovative books of a musical in many years.

Best Original ScoreThe same comments from best book apply here. It would be a stunner for Hamilton to lose this category.

Best ChoreographyWhile picking Hamilton here is not a shock, this is a closer category than people realize. Shuffle Along won the Drama Desk award, and On Your Feet! took home the Outer Critics Circle honor.

Best OrchestrationThis award tends to go to a well-regarded new musical. The last musical revival to win orchestration was Sweeney Todd, back in 2006. And by this point, I don’t think I need to tell you which new musical is best regarded.

Ben Zauzmer (@BensOscarMath) uses math to predict and write about the entertainment awards for The Hollywood Reporter. He recently graduated from Harvard with a degree in applied math, and he now works as a baseball analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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