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My annual mathematical Tony predictions are meant to focus attention on the shows that received nominations, but almost as notable this year is what’s missing. A number of shows either missed the cutoff or never opened at all, due to the sudden shutdown of Broadway as the pandemic began.
That includes musical revivals of West Side Story, Company, and Caroline, or Change. As a result, not a single musical revival is up for Tonys this year. Add in The Lightning Thief getting completely shut out, and we’re down to just three shows eligible for any of the musical categories covered in this article: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
Friday’s article, with mathematical Tony predictions in the play categories, saw nominations from 12 different shows. Today’s article on musical categories features just three. (A reminder on my mathematical model: it blends which categories a show is nominated in, the show’s performance at previous theater awards, and aggregated critic predictions.)
The few precursor awards aren’t very help here: none of these shows won the Drama Desk or the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, and all of them won the Outer Critics Circle, which chose to hand out multiple honors per category in light of the pandemic. The lone award to actually weigh in was the Drama League, which chose Moulin Rouge ahead of its two competitors.
Leading Actress in a Musical
Aaron Tveit (Moulin Rouge) is the sole nominee for Leading Actor in a Musical, so that’s not a particularly interesting race for prediction purposes. Moving on to Leading Actress in a Musical, the model likes Adrienne Warren’s portrayal of Tina Turner above Elizabeth Stanley in Jagged Little Pill and Karen Olivo as Tveit’s co-star in Moulin Rouge.
Featured Actor in a Musical
Danny Burstein is sitting on an unfortunate Tonys record: at 0/6, he is the most nominated actor in Tonys history without a win. Fortunately, it looks like his time may have come. Rather than going 0/7, Moulin Rouge presents his chance to finally get that long-deserved trophy.
Featured Actress in a Musical
There’s a 91% chance that someone from Jagged Little Pill will win Featured Actress in a Musical. Among them, Lauren Patten is the clear frontrunner at 71%. But it’s worth noting that the last time a show got three nominations in this category, it was Fun Home, which lost all three to Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I). You have to go back 18 years to find the last three-nominee show in this category to walk away with the win: Nine won the Tony for Jane Krakowski.
Direction of a Musical
Best Direction of a Musical is one of the night’s best races, with less than seven percentage points separating the top two. Alex Timbers brought Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge from stage to screen, while Diane Paulus converted Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill from a rock album into live theater.
Costume Design of a Musical
When Catherine Zuber won this category in 2018 for My Fair Lady, it made her the single most honored costume designer in Tonys history, with seven wins. Why not add to the record? Her dazzling work reviving La Belle Epoque for the Broadway stage has a four-in-five shot to give her win number eight.
Lighting Design of a Musical
Justin Townsend dominates this list, with nominations for lighting both Moulin Rouge and Jagged Little Pill, doubling up Bruno Poet’s nod for Tina. Math provides only percentages, not guarantees: After all, the last person with multiple nominees in this category (Kenneth Posner in 2013) had three of the four nominations to himself yet didn’t win the category. But this is as close to a guarantee as the data can make, with Townsend’s 95.7% chance making him the single most likely winner in any category.
Scenic Design of a Musical
Scenic Design marks our fourth straight category to have Moulin Rouge out in front. Designer Derek McLane is on his fourth nomination in this category and seems likely to get his first win, though he did get a win 12 years ago in the Play category for 33 Variations. This would make McLane the first scenic designer (play or musical) to win a category in which he was the only solo nominee, as a pair of designers handled each of Jagged Little Pill and Tina.
Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski holds the record for the most nominations in Tony’s newest category: sound design. Moulin Rouge marks his 8th nomination; no one else has more than 5. And yet, he’s still searching for his first win. Statistics gives him an 85% chance to finally emerge a champion.
Diablo Cody already made history with this nomination for Jagged Little Pill as the first person to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (for Juno) and also be nominated for a Tony for Best Book of a Musical. And the Outer Critics Circle winner has a good chance of making that record even more impressive. If things go her way Sunday night, she might need to slide that Oscar over a little on the shelf to make room for a Tony.
It’s no easy to task to do choreography for a film adaptation when that film itself is so renowned for its choreography. But that’s just what Sonya Tayeh was up against, and she earned rave reviews for her work on the stage version of Moulin Rouge. It led to a Drama Desk honor and near-unanimous predictions in her favor among theater watchers, and it has a 78% chance of leading her to her first Tony.
Best Orchestrations is becoming one of those sneaky under-the-radar categories that can help predict the evening’s final race. The last four winners here (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Band’s Visit, Hadestown) all went on to win Best Musical. So pay attention when this one comes on: The winner between Moulin Rouge and Jagged Little Pill could portend whose night this will be. And if the winner is Tina, an underdog throughout most of these predictions, then we’re in for a wildly unpredictable night.
This is an interesting category. The old record for most plays (as opposed to musicals) nominated for Best Original Score in a single year was two. This year, we have five. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to The Lightning Thief, the only musical that was eligible for this race. In the absence of any musicals, two of the top play contenders (Slave Play and The Inheritance) are strong contenders, but the slight frontrunner is Christopher Nightingale for A Christmas Carol.
I always provide caveats on the unpredictability of the Tony Awards, but never more so than this year. The numbers can help point towards favorites, but in a year when up was down and left was right, there’s only one surefire way to know the winners of this year’s Tonys: sit back relax, and enjoy the show.
Ben Zauzmer (@BensOscarMath) uses data to write about awards shows for The Hollywood Reporter, including his mathematical Tony predictions which went 22 for 26 last time. He is the Director of Baseball Analytics for the New York Mets.
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