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The 69th Tony Awards, recognizing the best achievements on Broadway during the 2014-15 season, will take place at Radio City Music Hall on June 7. Every Monday — Broadway’s off-day — before the big night, THR‘s awards analyst Scott Feinberg will offer his latest projections for all of the major categories. These rankings and the commentary that accompany them are based on his viewings of all of the contenders throughout the season; consultations with numerous knowledgeable members of the theater community, including and especially THR‘s theater critic David Rooney; and close study of past Tony races.
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1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
2. Hand to God
3. Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two
Talk about a varied group! While puppets, period pieces and Pulitzers are great, the clear frontrunner is Curious Incident, a truly original, immersive, multimedia look inside an (apparently) Autistic boy’s mind. Based on Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, its West End incarnation won the corresponding Olivier Award, and the Broadway version has now been nominated for best play by all three notable precursor groups — the Drama Desk, the Drama League and the Outer Critics Circle — which none of the other best play Tony nominees can claim.
1. Fun Home
2. An American in Paris
3. Something Rotten!
4. The Visit
This one’s a barnburner. There something for everyone, including a solemn drama from a team of Broadway luminaries (Visit), a splashy comedy from the master of family fun (Rotten) and a beautiful ballet of the sort rarely seen on the Great White Way (Paris). But my sense is that things are breaking in favor of Fun Home, an Off-Broadway import — and community favorite — that offers a moving trip into an artist’s memory. (Each of the four nominees received all of the best musical nominations for which they were eligible from the precursor groups.)
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
2. The Elephant Man
3. You Can’t Take It with You
4. This Is Our Youth
Stephen Daldry’s tremendously-reviewed revival of David Hare’s kitchen sink drama, which was first performed on Broadway in 1996, landed more noms than the original, and is packing them in at the Golden. One can’t write off the competition — Bradley Cooper made Elephant Man (the category’s only nominee that was also nominated by all three precursor groups) a must-see, This Is Our Youth was very well-received and You Can’t Take It with You‘s Scott Ellis, like Daldry, landed one of the five slots for best direction of a play — but those shows all closed months ago, while Skylight lives on, which is usually an advantage.
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
1. The King and I
2. On the Twentieth Century
3. On the Town
Each of these nominees was directed by and stars revered vets, has been critically acclaimed and commercially successful and was nominated by all three precursor groups. However, based on the fact that the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic landed as many total noms as the two Comden and Green classics put together (nine, versus Twentieth‘s five and Town‘s four) and centers around the most consequential story, I give it a slight edge.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
1. Alex Sharp (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
2. Bradley Cooper (The Elephant Man)
3. Steven Boyer (Hand to God)
4. Ben Miles (Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2)
5. Bill Nighy (Skylight)
Each of these gents did/does something incredible every show: Cooper physically deformed himself, Boyer split his personality into two, Miles is on stage for 5.5 hours twice a week and Nighy revisited and revised a character he’s played twice before in recent years. But Sharp’s trump card is that he’s part of a landmark play and has an irresistible personal backstory: he graduated from Juilliard last year without an agent or manager, landed the part of a lifetime and rose to the occasion. He, like Cooper — who’s now reprising his show on the West End — and Miles, has also landed a nom from each of the precursor groups, and he just won the Outer Critics Circle award.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
1. Helen Mirren (The Audience)
2. Carey Mulligan (Skylight)
3. Ruth Wilson (Constellations)
4. Geneva Carr (Hand to God)
5. Elisabeth Moss (The Heidi Chronicles)
Carr’s a little-known newcomer and Moss’ show tanked at the box office, so — through no fault of their own — this is shaping up to be a battle of the Brits: Wilson, whose two-hander closed months ago, and Mirren and Mulligan, who came with their shows from London and are still beating the boards here. While voters may be tempted to invite a rising star up to the podium, the likelier scenario, based on history, is that they will instead coronate an older, revered, Tony-less veteran revisiting the role of her lifetime.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
1. Brian d‘Arcy James (Something Rotten!)
2. Michael Cerveris (Fun Home)
3. Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris)
4. Tony Yazbeck (On the Town)
5. Ken Watanabe (The King and I)
No category is harder to pick. Watanabe’s a rookie for whom a nom alone is a victory. Unfortunately, the relative similarity of the roles played by Fairchild, in his Broadway debut, and Yazbeck, who’s been hoofing it here since he was a kid — namely, athletic dancers who are the standouts from their respective casts’ principal trios — will probably result in them canceling out each other. (Fairchild did, however, win the Outer Critics Circle award.) Cerveris could ride his show’s coattails to a second win, but his role isn’t particularly demonstrative. Instead, I suspect voters will throw this to popular d’Arcy James, who came up short with his two prior noms, but makes sense here for impressively originating a role and as a way of acknowledging his show, which might not prevail elsewhere.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
1. Kelli O’Hara (The King and I)
2. Kristin Chenoweth (On the Twentieth Century)
3. Chita Rivera (The Visit)
4. Beth Malone (Fun Home)
5. Leanne Cope (An American in Paris)
Cope is a lovely newcomer who dances beautifully but could have benefited from a bit more dialogue, and Malone is an effective but understated narrator. This category tends to go to someone who sweeps you off your feet, which is why I think it will go to one of the other three. A certain segment of voters are going to rally behind Rivera, a legend who may not get many more at-bats. Another segment will back Chenoweth, who may never have been better-suited for a role than this one. (She just won the Outer Critics Circle award for it.) But I anticipate that the largest segment will get behind O’Hara, mostly because her work this season is wonderful, as always, but also because the other two ladies already have Tonys on their shelves (two and one, respectively), while she has none to show — yet — for an astounding six noms over the last 11 years.
BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
1. Nathaniel Parker (Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2)
2. Alessandro Nivola (The Elephant Man)
3. Richard McCabe (The Audience)
4. K. Todd Freeman (Airline Highway)
5. Matthew Beard (Skylight)
6. Micah Stock (It’s Only a Play)
This is one of the few categories in which every nominee could conceivably win. In close races in the featured categories, the person with the most time on stage usually wins, and in this case, by my unscientific calculations, that’s Parker, who already won an Olivier Award this year for the same part. Nivola also was a co-lead and also was very good, but his part was less showy and his show, unlike Parker’s, is now shuttered. The others essentially had a few brief moments to shine and did so, but they were less integral to the success of their respective shows, so they are longer shots.
BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
1. Patricia Clarkson (The Elephant Man)
2. Julie White (Airline Highway)
3. Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It with You)
4. Lydia Leonard (Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2)
5. Sarah Stiles (Hand to God)
One way around the aforementioned “rule” about stage time is delivering a killer scene. Clarkson, a veteran actors’ actor, did that every night when her wounded character tried to show a little kindness to Cooper’s, and even though her show is long gone, people haven’t forgotten her work in it. 2007 winner White also is great in a bigger part, but her show has proven more divisive. Ashford has her fans, but it’s hard to see her winning for a fluffy part in a long-gone show. And the other two are new kids on the block.
BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
1. Andy Karl (On the Twentieth Century)
2. Christian Borle (Something Rotten!)
3. Max von Essen (An American in Paris)
4. Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris)
5. Brad Oscar (Something Rotten!)
With Paris and Rotten both represented by pairs of nominees, vote-splitting among costars is likely and would help to pave the way for Karl, who also has several other things going for him: he’s well-known, well-liked and still Tony-less (he first hit Broadway in the 1990s); he’s nominated for the second year in a row (some wish he would have won last year for Rocky); he’s doing something totally different this year than he did last year (he turns out to be very adept at physical comedy and has several laugh-out-loud interactions with Chenoweth); and Kevin Kline, who originated the part 37 years ago, took home this prize for his performance.
BEST ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
1. Judy Kuhn (Fun Home)
2. Sydney Lucas (Fun Home)
2. Emily Skeggs (Fun Home)
4. Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I)
5. Victoria Clark (Gigi)
Fun Home thesps received a total of five noms, and if one of them is going to win somewhere it will probably be in this category. Sure, there’s a chance that its three nominees here could cancel out each other — but it seems unlikely that Miles would win for a rather small part or that Clark would win for a show that hasn’t been especially well-received. Skeggs and Lucas each have standout moments in their terrific Broadway debuts — and a win for diminutive Lucas, who already bagged an Obie for the part and would be the second-youngest female Tony winner in history, would make for an especially cute moment. But I give the edge to popular veteran Kuhn, who gives a quiet but affecting turn, and who’s been been on Broadway for 30 years and accumulated four noms but has yet to take home the prize.
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
1. Fun Home (Lisa Kron)
2. Something Rotten! (Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell)
3. The Visit (Terrence McNally)
4. An American in Paris (Craig Lucas)
The options include Rotten! — the only of the nominees totally created out of nothing — for its sharp industry humor, The Visit for its no-frills poignancy and Paris for a seamless adaptation. But the clear favorite is Fun Home, for which Kron, a playwright-actress making her first foray into the musical genre, took a story that, on paper, sounds unadaptable, and made it not only work but soar.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
1. Fun Home (Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron)
2. Something Rotten! (Wayne Kirkpatrick, Karey Kirkpatrick)
3. The Visit (John Kander, Freb Ebb)
4. The Last Ship (Sting)
A show need not be commercially successful to win this prize — The Bridges of Madison County closed and then won last year — which means that The Last Ship, the category’s only shuttered nominee, can’t be counted out. Alternatively, voters may want to seize one last opportunity to celebrate the legendary tandem of Kander and the late Ebb. But my hunch is that this race is between the other two nominees. Voters could go with the Kirkpatrick brothers, Broadway novices who wrote a rollicking musical about brothers trying to write the first musical (the song “Welcome to the Renaissance” is a personal favorite). But I suspect they’ll instead break for Fun Home, a collaboration between Tesori, who’s been nominated in this category four other times (she has yet to win), and first-time lyricist Kron. It would be only the second time a man has not at least shared in a win in this category.
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
1. Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
2. Stephen Daldry (Skylight)
3. Scott Ellis (You Can’t Take It with You)
4. Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2)
5. Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Hand to God)
Fairly or not, von Stuelpnagel’s chances are probably hindered by the relatively small scale of his production and the perception that it is performance-driven. Herrin will surely get points for biting off a lot this season — effectively two epic shows — as might Daldry and Ellis, as the former also directed The Audience and the latter also directed The Elephant Man and On the Twentieth Century. (The latter two might also benefit from voters’ proclivity — at least in each of the last three Tonys ceremonies — to reward directors of revivals.) Still, the smart money is on Elliott, who won this prize four years ago for her one prior Broadway outing, War Horse, and who has done something equally imaginative this year.
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
1. Sam Gold (Fun Home)
2. Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris)
3. Bartlett Sher (The King and I)
4. Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!)
5. John Rando (On the Town)
There are three past winners of this category among this year’s five nominees: Rando (2002’s Urinetown), Sher (2008’s South Pacific) and Nicholaw (2011’s The Book of Mormon). But I think that this race is likely between two newer names: Wheeldon, whose directorial debut has knocked people off their feet with its ambition and beauty, and Gold, the thirtysomething wunderkind who took his phenomenally-received Off-Broadway production (which was performed on a proscenium stage) and completely revamped it for Broadway (it’s now in the round), not only not losing anything in the process, but actually making it even better. While Wheeldon, like Nicholaw, may get extra credit for also choreographing his show, I still tip this one for Gold.
1. Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris)
2. Joshua Bergasse (On the Town)
3. Christopher Gattelli (The King and I)
4. Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!)
5. Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
There are no bad options here: On the Town features high-energy dancing; King and I juggles dozens of kids and an iconic number; Something Rotten! packs a ton of performers and storylines onto the stage; and Curious Incident — the first non-musical to land a nom in this category since Dancing at Lughnasa 23 years ago — involves people and sets interacting in a totally unprecedented way. But, at the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine this prize not going to Wheeldon’s gorgeous ballet sequences, which are the talk of the town.
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