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MAY
5
8 MOS

FEINBERG FORECAST: First Post-Nominations Look at the Tony Awards Landscape

THR's awards analyst on surging shows "Beautiful" and "Hedwig," discouraging stats for original score nominees and possible splits for best musical and book.

Best Original Score
"If/Then"

The following projections and commentary are based on THR awards analyst Scott Feinberg's viewings of contenders, which will continue through the coming weeks; his consultations with THR theater critic David Rooney; and careful readings of other Broadway commentators, plus Tony history books, rule books and much more. You can expect new and updated forecasts each Monday through the Tonys!

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BEST PLAY
Nominees
1. All the Way (3/6-, THR review)
2. Act One (4/17-, THR review)
3. Casa Valentina (4/23-, THR review)
4. Mothers and Sons (10/17-, THR review)
5. Outside Mullingar (1/23-3/16, THR review)

Bryan Cranston's star power and widely heralded performance have made Robert Schenkkan's All the Way one of the few must-see shows of the season, a description to which none of the other best play nominees can lay claim. However, it, like Mothers and Sons, the latest play from this category's two-time winner Terrence McNally, landed just two noms -- for the show and its star -- whereas James Lapine's Act One pulled in five and Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina four. Meanwhile, 2005 winner John Patrick Shanley's Irish romance Mullingar, the category's only nominee to have already closed, brings up the rear with its sole nomination.

BEST MUSICAL
Nominees
1. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (1/12-, THR review)
2. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (11/17-, THR review)
3. Aladdin (3/20-, THR review)
4. After Midnight (11/3-, THR review)

Gentleman's led the field with 10 total noms, but Beautiful, which landed seven, is two months fresher and seems to be hitting its stride at just the right time -- it set a new one-week record at the 96-year-old Stephen Sondheim Theatre (formerly Henry Miller's Theatre) with $1,036,646 in receipts -- with some suggesting that it has the goods to enjoy a long and immensely profitable run like another bio-musical, Jersey Boys, which won this award eight years ago. Jazz revue After Midnight also garnered seven noms. And Aladdin was recognized with five, leaving open the possibility that it will follow in the footsteps of another Disney adaptation, 1998's best musical winner The Lion King.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Nominees
1. Twelfth Night (11/10-2/16, THR review)
2. The Glass Menagerie (9/26-2/23, THR review)
3. A Raisin in the Sun (4/3-, THR review)

4. The Cripple of Inishmaan (4/20-, THR review)

The two plays that have closed, Glass and Twelfth, both garnered seven noms, whereas Inishmaan received six and Raisin five. Notably, the stars of Glass and Twelfth were nominated, whereas those of Inishmaan and Raisin -- Hollywood's own Daniel Radcliffe and Denzel Washington, respectively -- were not, which is never a good sign. And yet the latter two are doing big business at the moment -- in particular Raisin, which is consistently generating more than a million bucks each week -- which may be hard for voters to ignore. Fun fact: earlier revivals of Twelfth (1999) and Raisin (2004) were also nominated in this category; both, however, lost.

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (4/22-, THR review)
2. Violet (4/20-, THR review)
3. Les Miserables (3/23-, THR review)

The Les Miz revival, coming little more than a year after the film version bolstered the brand, is out-grossing every other show on Broadway that opened in 2014 and trailing only The Lion King, Wicked, Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots in total receipts. But Hedwig and Violet aren't doing badly either. Hedwig just set a new record for highest one-week box-office take at the 107-year-old Belasco Theatre -- $993,497, besting the repertory production Twelfth Night/Richard III's $944,755 showing from February. Hedwig and Violet benefit from the popularity of their stars, Neil Patrick Harris (beloved three-time host of the Tonys) and Sutton Foster (she's only 39 but already has two Tony wins), and the fact that they haven't been mounted on Broadway countless times -- or, in fact, ever -- before. (They are only considered revivals because of a special rule that deems all frequently-produced plays as such.)

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Nominees
1. Bryan Cranston (All the Way)

2. Mark Rylance (Richard III)
3. Tony Shalhoub (Act One)

4. Samuel Barnett (Twelfth Night)
5. Chris O'Dowd (Of Mice and Men)

Rylance is a favorite of the community (he has already won this category twice before -- as many times as anyone in history -- and is also nominated this year for best featured actor in a play), Shalhoub is on a roll (this is the second consecutive year in which he is a nominee), Barnett arguably had as tough an acting challenge as any of the category's nominees (he portrayed a woman disguised as a man, Viola/Cesario, in Twelfth, which played in repertory with Richard III, in which he played strictly female, as Queen Elizabeth) and O'Dowd is the "It" guy of the moment (scoring a nom over his more famous co-star James Franco). But if there's one thing that we should have learned from awards shows over the past few years, it's to be very careful about betting against Cranston, an immensely well-liked and respected thesp who gives a masterful, transformative turn as LBJ in his Broadway debut.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Nominees
1. Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill)

2. LaTanya Richardson Jackson (A Raisin in the Sun)
3. Cherry Jones (The Glass Menagerie)
4. Tyne Daly (Mothers and Sons)

5. Estelle Parsons (The Velocity of Autumn)

McDonald is poised to make history (a win would be her sixth, a new record, and make her the first person to win four different acting Tonys) and she's going for it (she was interviewed and performed on The Colbert Report last week), but her show and Parsons' (which closed on Sunday) are the only ones represented in this category that didn't also receive a best play nom (and you have to go back to 1999 to find someone who won it without that corresponding nom). Of the other three, only Jackson's and Daly's plays are still open and only Jackson has never previously won -- or even been nominated for -- a Tony. Considering that, as well as the fact that Phylicia Rashad won this category's award 10 years ago for her work in the same part in Raisin's last revival, Jackson should not be underestimated.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)

2. Jefferson Mays (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder)
3. Andy Karl (Rocky)
4. Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables)

5. Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder)

Having two or more nominees from the same show in an acting category, like Gentleman's Mays and Pinkham, can cause vote-splitting that undermines the chances of both, but the bigger obstacle facing either of those, ahem, gentlemen, is the immense popularity of Harris in a show that was as embraced as any except theirs (10 noms vs. 8 noms). Karl and Karimloo are the category's hot young up-and-comers, but they may be disadvantaged by the fact that they are playing roles so closely associated with others.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)
2. Sutton Foster (Violet)
3. Mary Bridget Davies (A Night with Janis Joplin)

4. Kelli O'Hara (The Bridges of Madison County)
5. Idina Menzel (If/Then)

This category features two relative newcomers nominated for bio-musicals about famous singers (Mueller, who earned a 2012 Tony nom for her Broadway debut in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; and Davies, taking her first Broadway bow), plus three relative vets, past winners Foster and Menzel and five-time nominee O'Hara. Menzel and O'Hara won't be helped by their shows -- the former's has received decidedly mixed reviews and the latter's has just posted a closing notice -- which probably narrows the field to the other three. Davies' show, for which her vocals received raves, was really just a shooting star -- here for but a moment and now long gone -- which in all likelihood renders this a two-way race between Mueller and Foster.

BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Nominees
1. Brian J. Smith (The Glass Menagerie)
2. Reed Birney (Casa Valentina)

3. Mark Rylance (Twelfth Night)
4. Stephen Fry (Twelfth Night)
5. Paul Chahidi (Twelfth Night)

Fry made his Broadway actng debut as the loquacious steward Malvolio in Twelfth Night, while his castmates Chahidi and Rylance are up for cross-dressing performances, as is Casa's Birney. Smith, meanwhile, plays the long-awaited gentleman caller in Glass and may have the edge as much because his character is so different from the others' as because he made such a strong impression with his late arrival in the Tennessee Williams play. Of course, Smith is a relative newcomer, whereas Birney is a seasoned trooper who commands a great deal of respect in the New York stage community -- and is the only nominee whose play is still running -- which makes this one a nail-biter.

BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Nominees
1. Sophie Okonedo (A Raisin in the Sun)
2. Mare Winningham (Casa Valentina)

3. Celia Keenan-Bolger (The Glass Menagerie)
4. Sarah Greene (The Cripple of Inishmaan)
5. Anika Noni Rose (A Raisin in the Sun)

Two long-ago Oscar nominees (Okonedo, for Hotel Rwanda, and Winningham, for Georgia), two Tony-approved theater thesps (twice-nominated Keenan-Bolger and 2004 winner Noni Rose) and a total newbie (Irish import Greene) make for quite a diverse field. It looks to me like a three-way race between Okonedo's housewife putting out familial fires, Winningham's wife of a cross-dressing man and Keenan-Bolger's fragile recluse. All are relatively understated characters; Okonedo's, however, has the most meat on its bones, and is the same role for which Audra McDonald won one of her prior Tonys, for the play's last revival, in 2004.

BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin)

2. Nick Cordero (Bullets Over Broadway)
3. Joshua Henry (Violet)
4. Danny Burstein (Cabaret)
5. Jarrod Spector (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)

In what appears to be a battle between characters funny (Iglehart's irrepressible Genie, Cordero's tap-dancing thug and Spector's nerdy songwriter) and poignant (Henry's Civil Rights-era black soldier and Burstein's Jewish fruit merchant in Weimar Berlin), the edge probably goes to the most memorable character. According to most pundits, that, in this case, is almost certainly Iglehart, who is really a co-lead.

BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch)

2. Anika Larsen (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)
3. Adriane Lenox (After Midnight)

4. Linda Emond (Cabaret)
5. Lauren Worsham (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder)

When it comes to this close contest, your guess is probably as good as mine. Worsham is a newcomer who gets to show off her beautiful soprano in the most nominated show of the year. Emond is the third actress to be nominated for the part of Fraulein Schneider; both of the previous two lost. Lenox is a past winner who steals her show with two terrific songs, one emotional and the other comedic. Larsen plays the sophisticated half of a songwriting team with whom Carole King is close. And Hall goes toe-to-toe with Harris, playing the husband to his wife, who undergoes a botched sex change. I'll put my chips on Hall, more or less on a whim.

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Nominees
1. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Robert L. Freedman)

2. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Douglas McGrath)
3. Aladdin (Chad Beguelin)
4. Bullets Over Broadway (Woody Allen)

In six of the last 10 years, this prize, which honors musicals' storylines and spoken/non-sung dialogue, has gone to the same show that won best musical. But if that tempts you to go with Beautiful, consider that the most similar sort of bio-musical, Jersey Boys, won the top prize but not this one, perhaps because fictional works are thought to demand more of librettists.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
Nominees
1. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Steven Lutvak, Robert L. Freedman)

2. Aladdin (Chad Beguelin, Alan Menken)
3. The Bridges of Madison County (Jason Robert Brown)

4. If/Then (Tom Kitt, Brian Yorkey)

In six of the last 10 years, this prize, which honors the composers and lyricists of the year's best original score, has gone to the same show that won best musical; more notably, since nominees were first disclosed in 1962, it has only twice gone to shows that were not at least nominated for that prize (1974's Gigi, a revival and therefore ineligible for best musical, and 2000's Aida), so you can probably count out Bridges and If/Then, even if their nominees are all past winners of this award (Brown for 1999's Parade and Kitt and Yorkey for 2009's Next to Normal). That leaves Aladdin (Beguelin is a past nominee in this category, in which Menken had three noms before winning two years ago on his fourth, for Newsies) and Gentleman's (neither Lutvak nor Freedman have ever been nominated, this being their Broadway debut). A troubling fact for Aladdin: every prior reinterpretation of an animated film that has been nominated in this category -- Beauty and the Beast (1994), The Lion King (1998), The Little Mermaid (2008), Shrek the Musical (2009) -- has lost.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg