Tony Awards Preview: 10 Questions About Tonight's Telecast

Predictions about award sweeps, upsets and Neil Patrick Harris' jokes while hosting the Tonys tonight

1. How big a sweep will The Book of Mormon pull off?

With 14 nominations, the buddy musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, has the potential to equal The Producers, which established a record in 2001 with 12 wins. But it has competition in acting categories and for best score (see # 4), which might cut into its sweep potential.


2. How many Spider-Man jokes will host Neil Patrick Harris make?

The likely answer is lots. While last year’s host, Sean Hayes, got there first by donning the red and blue Lycra suit at the ceremony, Harris has hinted that the much-chronicled troubles of the $70 million superhero musical (which finally has its official opening set for Tuesday) make it a prime gag target for his writing team.


3. Will War Horse trample the naysayers or will there be a surprise win for best play?

Tony pundits have long been predicting a backlash against Brit domination in this category, and insiders have harped that War Horse is a more impressive production than a play. Which could open the door to fellow English import Jerusalem, or to the season’s two American contenders, Good People and The Motherf**ker With the Hat. Either way, this is a strong category with four deserving candidates.


4. Will Tony voters give one last shout-out to the legendary composing team of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb?

Shows that closed in the fall have often been forgotten by the time Tony nominations roll around, but not The Scottsboro Boys. This dark musical about an ugly episode of real-life racial injustice, told in the provocative format of a minstrel show, was a commercial casualty, failing to find an audience despite strong reviews. It yielded an unexpected 12 nominations and is tipped to take best score, representing a fitting honor for the team who helped define the American musical with shows like Cabaret and Chicago.


5. Will Daniel Radcliffe’s performance on the show make the Tony nominating committee regret passing him over for a nod?

Along with Chris Rock and Robin Williams, Radcliffe is one of a handful of star names cold-shouldered in nominations, who are proving themselves good sports by showing up as presenters at the ceremony. Radcliffe will also team with co-star John Larroquette to perform a number from the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Hoards of Harry Potter fans and Broadway insiders felt Radcliffe’s shut-out was a crime.


6. Will Mark Rylance get to give another mystifying acceptance speech?

When the British actor won in 2008 for his Broadway debut in Boeing-Boeing, he accepted by reciting an obscure poem that left audience members scratching their heads. If he wins again this year for his epic turn as social pariah and modern-day dragon-slayer Johnny “Rooster” Byron in Jerusalem, Rylance has hinted that he has a few other unorthodox options up his sleeve.


7. Will producer Scott Rudin boost his total number of Tony wins to eight or nine?

After his strong presence at the Oscars this year with The Social Network and True Grit, Rudin stands to up his Tony quota by one or possibly two awards tonight. A best musical prize for The Book of Mormon is all but in the bag, but he’s also in the running with play nominees The Motherf**ker With the Hat and Jerusalem. Rudin has been a producer on six best-play Tony winners since 2000, as well as on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Passion, in 1994.


8. Will Priscilla Queen of the Desert costume nominee Lizzy Gardiner top her unforgettable Oscar outfit?

With her design partner Tim Chappel, Gardiner won the 1995 Academy Award for costumes on the Australian drag road movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, grabbing fashion headlines with her chain-mail dress made entirely of American Express Gold cards. The two are favorites to echo that win at the Tonys for their extravagant costuming of the stage incarnation. What will Gardiner wear in a recession? Unemployment slips?


9. Will Larry Kramer inject some political fire into the proceedings?

Political speeches are the nightmare of every awards show producer, and unlike the Oscars and Emmys, the Tonys have always been fairly flexible about imposing the orchestra play-off. (Nobody relishes trying to get theater folks to stop talking.) But with AIDS still a worldwide reality 30 years on, and healthcare and gay marriage remaining hot-button issues, Kramer has earned the right to a few outspoken words should his passionate cri de coeur, The Normal Heart, win for best play revival.


10. Will Joe Mantello have cause to reconsider his day job?

One of New York’s most in-demand theater directors, who could stay busy, if he chose to, just counting royalties from his productions around the globe of Wicked, Mantello returned to his former career as an actor this season. Performing on a Broadway stage for the first time since 1994 in Angels in America, he plays Kramer’s alter ego in The Normal Heart, earning him a lead actor nomination. But that category is the toughest and most suspenseful of the evening, with formidable performances from Rylance, Brian Bedford, Bobby Cannavale and Al Pacino all in the running.