Tony Awards: A 2015 Nominations Wish List

Paul Kolnik
Kelli O'Hara, center, in 'The King and I'

Ahead of Tuesday's announcement, THR's chief theater critic outlines his choices for best of the Broadway season across the top categories.

Early tomorrow morning, Mary-Louise Parker and Bruce Willis will announce the official nominations for the 69th Annual Tony Awards, so predictions at this late hour will soon be irrelevant. But, having followed the Broadway season with the usual mix of elation and frustration, I have my personal preferences, whether or not they ultimately turn up on the ballot.

Unlike many past editions, where a shortage of quality left some categories looking anemic, there was no lack of worthy contenders this year, particularly for best original musical and play.

In the musical race, I struggled to settle on a fifth candidate, though ended up choosing Sting's heartfelt ode to his industrial hometown, The Last Ship, over the glitzier, more upbeat Honeymoon in Vegas. Both shows were commercial failures and not altogether successful in creative terms, but the former gets points for its haunting score, and simply for being an original property not based on a movie. Those have become an increasingly rare species among Broadway musicals.

Read more 'The King and I': Theater Review

Slot no. 5 was also tough for best play, but in a split decision between Brit imports, the ambitious scope of Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two made me opt for that historical epic over the entertaining crown-and-government cavalcade of The Audience.

I was in the extreme minority among my New York critic colleagues in being underwhelmed by On the Twentieth Century, mostly because I'm not a fan of the material. But I've included it anyway in my musical revival picks since the production provides a chance to see a rarely staged musical comedy by an illustrious creative team, as well as a star vehicle for Kristin Chenoweth in a role she was born to play.

Read more 'Fun Home': Theater Review

Likewise, while I don't think The Elephant Man has aged well as a play, Scott Ellis' starry revival made what is probably the strongest case possible for the 1977 drama.

As always, just narrowing the field down to five picks in the acting categories proved the biggest challenge. That meant cold-shouldering some memorable performances, particularly in the lead actor in a play race. In a limitless field, I would have included John Lithgow in A Delicate Balance, Nathan Lane in It's Only a Play, Ben Miles in Wolf Hall, and both Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin in This is Our Youth.

Read more 'Something Rotten!': Theater Review

Lead actress in a musical was also tough. That category is likely to be the most intense faceoff on Tony night, with Chenoweth, Kelli O'Hara in The King and I and Broadway royalty Chita Rivera in The Visit all no doubt mustering passionate support in a three-way diva smackdown. But there were other performers in the field whose superb work regrettably didn't make my cut, notably Beth Malone in Fun Home, Leanne Cope in An American in Paris and Emily Padgett in Side Show, though the actress playing her conjoined twin sister did.

Some shows assembled such a wealth of onstage talent that omissions were inevitable, such as John Cariani in Something Rotten! and Conrad Ricamora in The King and I. While Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris are a hoot as bickering future in-laws in It Shoulda Been You, a show in which the cast far outshines the hoary material, those comic vets could do this kind of thing in their sleep. And despite the terrific performances of Julie White and K. Todd Freeman in Airline Highway, I couldn't put aside my disappointment with that prosaic play enough to include them among the featured actors.

Read more 'An American in Paris': Theater Review

Had Lin-Manuel Miranda's exhilarating hip-hop historical bio-musical Hamilton sneaked in this season rather than waiting to kick off the next in July, this rundown would look significantly different, with mentions for the show in the musical, direction and all four related acting categories. But that revolutionary game-changer will still have us talking with undiminished enthusiasm this time next year, as the 70th Annual Tony Awards approach.

In the meantime, here's my wish list — not predictions — for the 2015 nominations:

MUSICAL
An American in Paris
Fun Home
The Last Ship
Something Rotten!
The Visit

PLAY
Constellations
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Disgraced
Hand to God
Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two

MUSICAL REVIVAL
The King and I
On the Town
On the Twentieth Century
Side Show

PLAY REVIVAL
A Delicate Balance
The Elephant Man
Skylight
This is Our Youth
You Can't Take It With You

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris
Brian d'Arcy James, Something Rotten!
Ken Watanabe, The King and I
Tony Yazbeck, On the Town

ACTOR IN A PLAY
Steven Boyer, Hand to God
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Constellations
Bill Nighy, Skylight
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kristin Chenoweth, On the Twentieth Century
Erin Davie, Side Show
Lisa Howard, It Shoulda Been You
Kelli O'Hara, The King and I
Chita Rivera, The Visit

ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Geneva Carr, Hand to God
Lindsay Duncan, A Delicate Balance
Helen Mirren, The Audience
Carey Mulligan, Skylight
Ruth Wilson, Constellations

FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!
Josh Grisetti, It Shoulda Been You
Brad Oscar, Something Rotten!
Brandon Uranowitz, An American in Paris
Max von Essen, An American in Paris

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I
Jill Paice, An American in Paris
Ashley Park, The King and I

FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
James Earl Jones, You Can't Take It With You
Marc Kudisch, Hand to God
Alessandro Nivola, The Elephant Man
Josh Radnor, Disgraced
Micah Stock, It's Only a Play

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rose Byrne, You Can't Take It With You
Patricia Clarkson, The Elephant Man
Clare Higgins, A Delicate Balance
Karen Pittman, Disgraced
Sarah Stiles, Hand to God

DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Bill Condon, Side Show
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!
Bartlett Sher, The King and I
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Stephen Daldry, Skylight
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Scott Ellis, The Elephant Man
Michael Longhurst, Constellations
Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Hand to God

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