71st Tony Award Predictions
An update on my life: I now live in the center of it all- New York. I am in the thick of it with the hustle and bustle, living my life New York minute by New York minute. And so far, I love it. I even work in the theatre district (everyone come see 1984), and so far I’m not tired of seeing the flashing lights of Times Square. But being in the theatre district, I have no excuse for not seeing more shows. And since the Tony Awards are on Sunday, I should share my predictions for the event.
The landscape has changed slightly since we last convened on this topic. What was once a two horse race is now very much a three horse race, with Come From Away, the underdog, feel-good/hopeful musical of the year, certainly in the middle of the Best Musical conversation. I can only guess that Dear Evan Hansen has begun to lose a little bit of its steam. Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 has pretty much stood pat.
But, see what I said about Come From Away? Huh? People love that stuff.
The Best Play landscape has changed as well. I love categories like this: we have the indie darlings: Indecent and Sweat, the Pulitzer Prize winner (I see you hiding up there on 54th street); the fan favorite: A Doll’s House, Part 2, which saw all four cast members nominated for Tony Awards; and then there’s the dark, dramatic looming shadow- Oslo. This monster of a piece has been hanging out at Lincoln Center, and garnering some serious praise. This is a category reminiscent of both 2012 and 2015. 2012 saw Clybourne Park, the Pulitzer Prize winner, beat out indie darling Other Desert Cities, fan favorite Peter and the Starcatcher, and the dark drama Venus in Fur. 2015 saw fan favorite The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime beat out Pulitzer Prize-winner Disgraced, indie darling Wolf Hall, and dark dramedy Hand to God. A Doll’s House, Part 2 seems to have the momentum for now. Will it hold on until Sunday night?
Once again, this is such a refreshing year for Broadway Theater, as last year was overloaded with Hamilton and not much else. Sunday night will be a night of joy, and ultimately (puns), lots of drama.
Also, Come From Away is the story America needs right now and should win Best Musical.
Without further ado:
- Come From Away
- Dear Evan Hansen
- Groundhog Day
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
First, a quick run down of all of the shows nominated, and why each could (and couldn’t) win Best Musical:
Come From Away
What it has going for it: Subject matter, ensemble energy
Come From Away is the musical for America, 2017. A story about a small Canadian town taking in well over 7,000 passengers around the world after the September 11th attacks which left American and Canadian airspace closed, the musical gets everything right, from its score to its tone, thanks to the fantastic ensemble that fuels the show. Using nothing but 12 actors, some chairs, and some tables, the show is able to establish all kinds of moods, ranging from elation to desperation, while tearing at the heartstrings of everyone in the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre all the while.
What is has against it: Competition, lack of star power
Come From Away also has to face two juggernauts: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, and Dear Evan Hansen, both of which have gained dedicated followings of their own, and for different reasons. The second reason, lack of star power, doesn’t have too much to do why Come From Away won’t win, but having to fight Josh Groban and Ben Platt (with Pasek and Paul in his corner- remember the year they had with La La Land) is no easy feat.
Dear Evan Hansen
What is has going for it: Its core group, emotional impact
The core of Dear Evan Hansen is its bread and butter: direction by Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal, American Idiot, etc.), music by Pasek and Paul (who were all the rage at the Oscars because La La Land), and a cast including Ben Platt, Rachel Bay Jones, Mike Faist, and Laura Dreyfuss- all powerhouses in their own rights. Another part of its core is how well it’s been able to connect with audiences- in particular, every high school theatre lover and social outcast. Dear Evan Hansen was the favorite to win early this spring. But that also might be what could bring it down.
What it has against it: Loss of momentum
It could be just my Facebook bubble, but it seems like I’m seeing a lot more people seeing Come From Away, and Great Comet. And while Dear Evan Hansen has had all the momentum, remember La La Land? And how it lost all the momentum until Moonlight won Best Picture in controversial fashion? I could also be wrong, but perhaps the fact that Dear Evan Hansen has resonated with most social outcast teens is alienating it from the much older Tony voters? But then again, I could be wrong.
What it has going for it: the Andy Karl narrative, West End Success
Andy Karl has become something of a folk hero- the dude tore his ACL mid-show, and managed to finish it, cane in hand and all. The guy has put the entire team on his back and carried them to the Promised Land. His story has thrust Groundhog Day into the spotlight, and may very well be the reason why it could win Best Musical. On top of that, the show also won last year’s Olivier Award for Best New Musical- something it very well deserved.
What it has against it: Competition
All in all, the competition may just be too stiff for Groundhog Day, which, as a musical based on a film, is competing against three original musicals. The odds are stacked against them in that respect.
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
What it has going for it: Innovation
70 pages of Tolstoy’s War and Peace has been adapted into an electro-pop-opera, staring the incomparable Josh Groban. The Imperial Theatre has been turned into a 360-degree Russian supper club. Everything about this show is bonkers. I don’t think the marketing team (and reviewers) were lying when they said that Great Comet is “the most innovative new musical since Hamilton.” Could this innovation lead it to a Best Musical prize? Of the four, Great Comet is far and away the most creative show from a conceptual standpoint.
What it has against it: Plot
The lines “This is all in your program, you are at the opera/gonna have to study up a little bit if you want to keep with the plot/’cuz it’s a complicated Russian novel, everyone’s got nine different names/so look it up in your program, we’d appreciate it, thanks a lot” are literally IN the first song of the show. They are flat out telling us that the show is going to be overly complex. But, the show is overly complex, and a character relationship web is really only helpful for after the show while listening to the recording a few times. But it is Tolstoy, so anything is possible. Maybe the plot’s not that complicated, but it did take some further research for me to finally be on board with this show.
This is about as wide open as it gets, folks. All four shows have given us reasons why they should be the best musical of the 2016-17 Broadway season. Will it be the stunning Great Comet, a production that epitomizes the word “elaborate”? Does Andy Karl’s “the show must go on” story have enough to propel Groundhog Day to the top of the mountain? Could it be the visceral Dear Evan Hansen, who apparently hasn’t stopped the world from crying since it premiered? Or will it be Come From Away, a musical with a message- the story America needs right now? In a city dominated last year by Hamilton, it’s so refreshing to have a nice wholesome race for best musical. Great Comet has just about everything going for it, but I believe Come From Away (which has made a bunch of headway in the last few months) can pull off one of the greater upsets in Tony history.
Will win: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Should win: Come From Away
Could win: Dear Evan Hansen
In Andrew’s perfect world: Say it with me now: WELCOME TO THE ROCK.
- A Doll’s House, Part 2
Another wide-open field, as all four nominees have given us reason why they should be the best play for this season. It’s almost as if all of these shows have flown under the radar for much of this year. A Doll’s House, Part 2 and Oslo both earned the two most nominations for plays (8 and 7, respectively), but both Indecent and Sweat have stirred pre-Tony wins of their own, with Indecent director Rebecca Taischman winning an Outer Critics Circle Award, and Sweat taking home this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Will win: Oslo
Should win: A Doll’s House, Part 2
Could win: Sweat or Indecent
In Andrew’s perfect world: A Doll’s House, Part 2
Best Revival of a Musical
- Hello, Dolly!
- Miss Saigon
There were a fair amount of successful revivals to add to this season’s already-impressive list of original musicals. Of the three nominated, two are still playing (Hello, Dolly! and Miss Saigon), but one has continued to keep momentum as a serious contender for the Best Revival of a Musical award. With an all-star cast including Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie J. Block, Brandon Uranowitz, Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe, James Lapine’s revival of William Finn’s Falsettos has nabbed best revival nominations from many major awards committees prior to the Tony Awards. Will they be any match for the equally-stacked, Bette Midler-led Hello, Dolly!? Or will an underdog take it home- the revamped Miss Saigon, fresh of a West End run?
Will & should win: Hello, Dolly!
Could win: Falsettos
Best Revival of a Play
- The Little Foxes
- Present Laughter
- Six Degrees of Separation
Four completely different plays are all nominated for Best Revival of a Play. August Wilson’s Jitney is the last of his plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle to make an appearance on Broadway, and has received much critical acclaim, with many praising the direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson. There’s also The Little Foxes, starring Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, both of whom have been nominated for Tonys in the Leading and Featured Actress in a Play categories (respectively). A new revival of Six Degrees of Separation features stunning performances by Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, and Corey Hawkins. Finally, Kevin Kline has helmed the cast of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter to massive success. Overall, Jitney seems the most timely, as it holds true to August Wilson’s message that not only black lives matter, but that black life matters, a mantra that is extremely relevant to the world that we populate right now.
Will & should win: Jitney
Could win: Present Laughter
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
- Christian Borle, Falsettos
- Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
- Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
- David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
- Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
The conversation for Andy Karl began when he tore his ACL mid-preview of Groundhog Day, and powered through the rest of the show. Even though the show had received critical acclaim in London, Karl reminded us all that, in the age of technology and medicine and theatrical magic, sometimes things happen, and the show must go on. Strangely enough, Josh Groban made his Broadway debut this year as the dear, bewildered, and awkward Pierre Bezukhov in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. He kills it in this performance, not only playing multiple instruments, but also demonstrating both the power and grace of his character in Dave Malloy’s innovative musical. David Hyde Pierce, as you may remember, would have been my alternate for this category, and he’s managed to sneak his way in behind a fantastic turn as Horace Van der Gelder in Hello, Dolly! Christian Borle turns in another stellar in the Falsettos revival, as he guns for his third Tony Award. But, let’s be honest, the story has always been about Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, as both his performance, and a recent New York Times article, have given the theatre world a reason to cry about this socially awkward, hauntingly subtle performer.
Will win: Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Should win: Christian Borle, Falsettos OR Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
Could win: Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
- Deneé Benton, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
- Christine Ebersole, War Paint
- Patti Lupone, War Paint
- Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
- Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon
So I debated even writing out a description for this category. We have three legends and two first timers. Deneé Benton’s performance as Natasha in The Great Comet is fluttery, yet grounded, emotional, and strong. Eva Noblezada is, far and away, the best performer in Miss Saigon. Christine Ebersole has her two Tony wins. Patti Lupone is Patti Lupone, who has her two Tony wins. But we all know who’s taking this one: it’s Bette Midler. DUH.
Will & should win: Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Could win: Deneé Benton, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
- Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
- Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
- Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
- Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
- Jefferson Mays, Oslo
Of the five men nominated in this category, Jefferson Mays has flown under the radar for much of this season, as has the entire production of Oslo. I don’t really consider Chris Cooper to be a leading actor in A Doll’s House, Part 2 (a show can have one leading lady and that’s IT, you know). As of this moment, Mays’ only competition appears to be Kline, but I don’t think anything will stop Mr. Mays from taking home his second Tony in this category on Sunday.
Will win: Jefferson Mays, Oslo
Should win: Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Could win: Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
- Cate Blanchett, The Present
- Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
- Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
- Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
- Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Laurie Metcalf was not on my initial predictions list for this category. But after much consideration, she’s here now, and, according to much of the buzz surrounding A Doll’s House, Part 2, there’s a lot of implication that she could finally win the big one. She’s in a field with superstars, however, and for her to come out of this one isn’t going to be easy. While Cate Blanchett and Sally Field are both nominated, I think there’s some degree of Tony committee politics involved here (see the Best Featured Actor in a Play category), as to which celebrity the committee wants to hang out with at the ceremony. Metcalf’s real competition lies with Laura Linney, and even more so with Jennifer Ehle, as Oslo continues to gain ground on A Doll’s House, Part 2 in the best play race.
Will & should win: Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Could win: Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
- Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
- Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
- Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
- Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
- Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos
This is a category stacked with Tony circuit heavyweights. Brandon Uranowitz, Gavin Creel, and Andrew Rannells are all reputable names, but Lucas Steele and Mike Faist are no slouches either in their respective roles in Great Comet and Dear Evan Hansen. If I had my way, Lucas Steele would be the winner in this category, but something tells me that Andrew Rannells’ time at the podium is nearing, as his endearing turn as Whizzer further embroils the Best Revival feud between Falsettos and Hello, Dolly!
Will win: Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Should win: Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Could win: Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
In Andrew’s perfect world: Joel Hatch from Come From Away is nominated for this award. Who the hell is Mike Faist?
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
- Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
- Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
- Jenn Colella, Come From Away
- Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
- Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia
WOW I really want Jenn Colella to win this one. She deserves it. Come From Away deserves it. However, I think Stephanie J. Block has been held away from the winner’s circle for too long. She has given us many, many, many incredible roles, but not been recognized enough for her work. While it could be the boost that Come From Away needs, I think Ms. Block takes home that long-overdue Tony Award.
Will win: Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Should win: Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Could win: Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
- Michael Aronov, Oslo
- Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price
- Nathan Lane, The Front Page
- Richard Thomas, The Little Foxes
- John Douglas Thompson, Jitney
OKAY. Danny DeVito. Nathan Lane. I mean, truly, it could be more packed with A-listers (I mean, John Goodman and Mark Ruffalo could also be nominated). But, which celebrity would you; if you were a Tony voter, want to hang with more? Sure, Nathan Lane has certainly been around the block many times, and Danny DeVito is in the midst of another renaissance as an actor. Don’t count out people like Michael Aronov and John Douglas Thompson, but something tells me Danny DeVito will bring it home on Sunday.
Will win: Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price
Should win: Michael Aronov, Oslo
Could win: John Douglas Thompson, Jitney
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
- Johanna Day, Sweat
- Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
- Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
- Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
- Michelle Wilson, Sweat
This one is tough. We’re looking at two nominees from the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Sweat, and two of the actresses rounding out the cast of A Doll’s House, Part 2. As a fifth wheel, Cynthia Nixon’s performance in The Little Foxes (and don’t forget, she switches roles nightly with Laura Linney) rounds out the category. A win for Johanna Day or Michelle Wilson might implicate further success for Sweat later in the evening, and likewise for Doll’s House if Jayne Houdyshell or Condola Rashad were to win. If I had my way, Condola Rashad would be the winner. As a role that I didn’t think merited a Tony nomination when I saw the play, Rashad’s performance as Emmy is critically important to the message of the play, and has changed my mind in the complete opposite direction. However, I think the fact that Nixon plays two roles (even though she’s only nominated for one) will be the deciding factor in this race.
Will win: Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Should win: Johanna Day, Sweat OR Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Could win: Literally any of them. This one is close.
In Andrew’s perfect world: Condola Rashad.
Best Direction of a Musical
- Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
- Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
- Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
- Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
- Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 truly is as innovative as everyone claims it to be. From the set design to the music design to the casting; it’s all brilliant. Dear Evan Hansen is as moving as everyone claims it to be. Come From Away is a wonderfully, creatively told story of acceptance, love, hope, and tolerance in the face of tragedy. Groundhog Day is wonderfully funny, and Hello, Dolly! brings back all the nostalgia of the original show. With five brilliant directors as the helms, any of these people could win the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical. Does Michael Greif finally break through and win the big one?
Will win: Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Should win: Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Could win: Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly! OR Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Direction of a Play
- Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
- Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
- Bartlett Sher, Oslo
- Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
- Rebecca Taichman, Indecent
This is anybody’s race. Ruben Santiago-Hudson appears to be the front-runner, but only because Jitney has gotten so much praise from critics as far as Best Revival of a Play is concerned. With the exception of Daniel Sullivan, whom I just can’t see winning this race, we have Sam Gold and Bartlett Sher, both of whom have won Tony Awards of their own for directing musicals (Gold for Fun Home in 2015, Sher for South Pacific in 2008). Furthermore, we have Rebecca Taichman, who won the Outer Critics Circle award for best director. When the races are this close, I simply consider it to be like a horse race and pick the favorite.
Will & should win: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
Could win: Bartlett Sher, Oslo OR Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Best Book of a Musical
- Steven Levinson, Dear Evan Hansen
- Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
- Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day
- Irene Sankoff & David Hein, Come From Away
The best book and score categories are the battles in the trenches between each of the four nominees for Best Musical. While Great Comet is certainly innovative in regards to just about everything, the book isn’t all that fancy. A lot of the dialogue is word for word from Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and it shows. And while Steven Levinson’s book of Dear Evan Hansen had all the momentum earlier this spring, Irene Sankoff and David Hein have come from behind and stolen a lot of that thunder. I’m picking the upset with this one.
Will and should win: Come From Away, Irene Sankoff & David Hein
Could win: Dear Evan Hansen, Steven Levinson
Best Original Score
- Come From Away, Music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hien
- Dear Evan Hansen, Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
- Groundhog Day, Music and lyrics by Tim Minchin
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Music and lyrics by Dave Malloy
On the other hand, something Great Comet does have going for it is the score, which is beautifully composed and orchestrated by Dave Malloy: combining Russian folk music and EDM, the electro-pop-opera should win this one handily. Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen may have the songs that are a bit more melodic and memorable, but Great Comet’s score is just so intricately and fantastically written. Score one for the Comet here.
Will win: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Music & lyrics by Dave Malloy
Should win: Come From Away, Music & lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Could win: Dear Evan Hansen, Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
- Bandstand, Bill Elliott & Greg Anthony Rassen
- Dear Evan Hansen, Alex Lacamoire
- Hello, Dolly!, Larry Hochman
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy
Will & should win: Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Could win: Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
- Bandstand, Andy Blankenbuehler
- Come From Away, Kelly Devine
- Groundhog Day, Peter Darling
- Holiday Inn, Denis Jones
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Sam Pinkleton
Will win: Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Should win: Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Could win: Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
- Groundhog Day, Rob Howell
- Hello, Dolly!, Santo Loquasto
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Mimi Lien
- War Paint, David Korins
Will & should win: Mimi Lien, Natasha Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. There truly is just no other competition in this category.
Best Scenic Design of a Play
- The Front Page, Douglas W. Schmidt
- Jitney, David Gallo
- Oslo, Michael Yeargan
- The Play That Goes Wrong, Nigel Hook
Will win: David Gallo, Jitney
Should win: Nigel Hook, The Play that Goes Wrong
Could win: Michael Yeargan, Oslo
Best Costume Design of a Musical
- Anastasia, Linda Cho
- Hello, Dolly!, Santo Loquasto
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Paloma Young
- War Paint, Catherine Zuber
Will win: Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Should win: Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Could win: Linda Cho, Anastasia
Best Costume Design of a Play
- A Doll’s House, Part 2, David Zinn
- Jitney, Toni-Leslie James
- The Little Foxes, Jane Greenwood
- Present Laughter, Susan Hilferty
Will win: David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Could win: Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes OR Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
- Come From Away, Howell Binkley
- Dear Evan Hansen, Japhy Weideman
- Hello, Dolly!, Natasha Katz
- Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Bradley King
Will win: Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Could win: Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen
Best Lighting Design of a Play
- A Doll’s House, Part 2, Jennifer Tipton
- Indecent, Christopher Akerlind
- Jitney, Jane Cox
- Oslo, Donald Holder
Will win: Donald Holder, Oslo
Could win: Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Am I right? How am I wrong? Who's going to win Best Musical? Leave a comment down below.
The Tony Awards are Sunday, June 11th at 8pm on CBS.