72nd Tony Awards Predictions, Act 2: The Chosen Ones
Update June 7, 2018
As I went back and edited my “Way-Too-Early Tony Predictions” sheet from the end of April, considering all the nominations for the ceremony on Sunday have come out, my initial thought is what it always is: Award shows are stupid.
Maybe it’s because you can’t and shouldn’t really compare art. Maybe it’s because I went to college to study acting, and the Tony Awards are the one ceremony out of the four that are blatantly geared toward the casual and non-theatre-goer, and void of much of the artistic integrity and heart that most shows are built upon. And that bothers me.
Or, maybe it’s because I should be really good at predicting this particular field of awards and I’m just straight up NOT.
I guess the American Theatre Wing really loved Carousel this year. I didn’t care for it. And yet, here sits the Rodgers and Hammerstein “classic,” with 11 nominations in the bag, the most for any musical revival this year.
There was no love shown for a lot of shows this year, both deserved and undeservedly so.I mean, it may be because the season was dominated by a handful of powerhouse shows, not leaving much room for others, but I’m really disappointed that shows like Farinelli and the King weren’t shown as much respect for its Broadway counterparts this year.
I’ll get into my problems with each category as we go, but my point through all this blabbering is that I have no idea what was happening this year for the Wing to come up with THIS slew of nominees.
I’m honestly dumbfounded. Last year there were four nominees in every category, and when there was word getting around that a (gasp) fifth nominee would be added to the mix, there was a big deal made about it. Now, every category varies, ranging from four, to five, to (in some cases) SIX nominees. I’m shook.
But, this is the Tony Awards. And, like in theatre, “the show must go on,” as they say (I say, gagging).
Nominees aside, your predicted winners remain largely unchanged. And I could be wrong because I’ve been home in Boston for the last two months and the number of shows I have seen remains the same. But I also really think I saw a lot of the good ones this year, and my intuition will serve me well on the rest.
But I’ve been wrong before. I mean, look at last year. I’ve been VERY wrong before.
Considering there was never much competition aside from Escape To Margaritaville, which is scheduled to close in three weeks, this is your solidly user-friendly group of Best Musical nominees. Mean Girls and Frozen continue to be the fan favorites, but Spongebob Squarepants, and especially The Band’s Visit have ruled the news columns. Band’s Visit was the first musical of the four to open, meaning it has the tendency to lose steam among voters. But I think we get another case of the Dear Evan Hansens this year, and The Band’s Visit makes a wire-to-wire trip to the top.
Will win: The Band’s Visit
Should win: Spongebob Squarepants
Could win: Mean Girls
The Children? Wait, like, really?
Maybe I missed something with that show.
Anyway, there’s one clear winner, and the rest aren’t even close. Harry Potter may have some other battles to fight with Angels in America, but it’s had the Best Play category in the bag since the West End show went up two years ago.
Will and should win: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Could win: Farinelli and the King
Best Revival of a Musical
If Once On This Island doesn’t win, I’m gonna be rip shit on someone, because this “little-revival-that-could” DESERVES. TO. WIN. Given, no, I haven’t seen My Fair Lady yet. But I’m tired of all these Bart Sher- directed Lincoln Center productions winning Best Revival prizes. Give it to another show, for goodness sake.
Will and should win: Once On This Island
Could win: My Fair Lady
Best Revival of a Play
Lobby Hero technically does qualify as a revival since it premiered in New York Off-Broadway in 2001, but I thought it was new enough (and since Kenneth Lonergan did just win an Oscar for writing Manchester by the Sea), and that its playwright was relevant enough to garner a Best Play nomination. Not that it would win in either category as both are dominated by huge productions that are both locks to win, but I thought it was interesting. Angels in America is the front runner in the category and will probably win. Three Tall Women does make a great case, due to the success of its leading and supporting actresses in Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf. The other one I’m throwing in is Travesties, because why not? It got great reviews in London, Patrick Marber is a genius, and because the American Theatre Wing will probably try to mess with us.
Will and should win: Angels in America
Could win: Three Tall Women or Travesties
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Apparently, when a category is shortened to feature only four nominees, that means the competition is light. That doesn’t change my pick to win the category, as the talk surrounding Ethan Slater as the titular sponge has been in full force since the show was in Chicago. These are four great roles, but I think Slater’s job as Spongebob is the most difficult, as he attempts not only physical and vocal feats of absurdity, but also succeed at the most difficult task: transferring one of the most recognizable cartoon characters of the 21st century to the stage in a non-caricaturistic way. This is not to discredit Tony Shalhoub, or Henry Hadden-Paton, or Joshua Henry (I actually quite liked Mr. Henry’s performance in Carousel), it's just that Slater's role is more demanding, and the fact that he far exceeds those expectations makes him my favorite to win.
Will and should win: Ethan Slater, Spongebob Squarepants
Could win: Joshua Henry, Carousel
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
The first thing I was surprised at was that there were six nominees in the category. The second thing was that there are six women nominated in this category and not one of them was a Disney princess- not that you are under any obligation to nominate a Disney princess, I’m just saying. There’s something for everyone in this group, from classic Broadway characters in Lauren Ambrose’s Eliza Doolittle, to some veteran winners in Jessie Mueller and LaChanze (Donna Summer? Really?), to a veteran nominee in Katrina Lenk, to a long-time-first-time nominee in Taylor Louderman, to Hailey Kilgore, the greenhorn who may very well win herself a Tony. Katrina Lenk has had lots of head way for much of the year, but who knows? This is live theatre. Anything could happen.
Will win: Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit
Should win: Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island
Could win: Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
This category is stacked and I’m not mad about it. Originally I had thought Nathan Lane would be included in this mix, but his eligibility falling to the Featured Actor in a Play category has opened the door for Tom Hollander for his performance in Travesties. Along with Andrew Garfield and Tom Hollard are Denzel Washington and Mark Rylance, two former Tony winners who both turn in upper-echelon performances this season in Farinelli and the King and The Iceman Cometh. Flying somewhat under the radar is Jamie Parker, who plays everyone’s favorite Boy Who Lived in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’m not sure he’ll win over Andrew Garfield’s glorious (and perhaps, dare I say, over the top?) portrayal of Prior Walter, but I think Parker does more than enough to carry and make good on a play that is essentially just bad fan fiction with mind-numbing special effects.
Will win: Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Should win: Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Could win: Anyone. And I'm not mad about it.
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Uma Thurman was so bad in The Parisian Woman that they literally removed a nomination slot from the category. And so, we’re left with four, which, while the roles are all stellar, means that the competition is limited. Glenda Jackson is a two-time Oscar winner seeking her first Tony Award in her long and illustrious career, and she’s already won both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance in the Pulitzer-winning play Three Tall Women. She’s my pick.
Will and should win: Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women
Could win: Condola Rashad, Saint Joan
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
This category is pretty grey. And I mean that in the way that there is no cut-and-dry winner, at least in my eyes. But I could also be color blind. Two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz sticks out the most on this list, but maybe The Band’s Visit could bolster its chances to win Best Musical if Ari’el Satchel steals a win here. Gavin Lee and Alexander Gemignani are both stellar with potential show-stealing performances. As for Gary Hensen… Mean Girls is definitely first on my list when I get back to the city.
Will and should win: Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady
Could win: Ari'el Satchel, The Band's Visit
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
I saw Carousel and was not impressed with Renee Fleming. I have been told to stay away from Donna Summer. Lindsay Mendez was great! But I like Ashley Park in this one. Diana Rigg might be a close second, just because she’s a former Tony winner herself. Make that ONE for Gretchen Wieners! You go, Gretchen Wieners!
Will and should win: Ashley Park, Mean Girls
Could win: Lindsay Mendez or Diana Rigg
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Like I said before, having Nathan Lane placed in the Featured Actor in a Play category certainly shakes things up. My former frontrunner, Anthony Boyle, no longer seems like a lock for the category (although, he would win if it were up to me). Nathan Lane seems like a safe choice for this award, just because he’s a two-time Tony winner. Yes, his portrayal of Roy Cohn in Angels in America is weighty and scary. But there’s an equal amount of depth (and maybe even more so) in Anthony Boyle’s performance as Scorpius Malfoy in Cursed Child. Both characters are shrouded in mystery, integral to their respective plays, and more than deserving of this award. We’ll see who wins the dogfight on Sunday.
Will win: Nathan Lane, Angels in America
Should win: Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Could win: Michael Cera, Lobby Hero
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
This is another loaded category. I would say Denise Gough’s performance is the most impactful to her respective show, though I really do appreciate Noma Dumezweni and Laurie Metcalf. While there was no initial ruling on Three Tall Women made by the eligibility committee, the consideration of Glenda Jackson as leading and Laurie Metcalf as featured may have cleared the way for Ms. Gough and her performance as Harper Pitt in Angels in America.
Will and should win: Denise Gough, Angels in America
Could win: Noma Dumezweni or Laurie Metcalf
Best Book of a Musical
Four musicals. Four based on existing source material. Since The Band’s Visit is probably the most serious of the four books, not to mention I’m sure not too many people knew it was based on a film, I like Itamar Moses for The Band’s Visit to win this category. I do appreciate a good episode of Spongebob though (however preachy that book may be), if I’m being fully honest.
Will and should win: Itamar Moses, The Band's Visit
Could win: Kyle Jarrow, Spongebob Squarepants
Best Original Score
This has to be a record for most people nominated (other than producers) for a single award. Let me just rattle off the people nominated who wrote the score for Spongbob Squarepants:
Jonathan Coulton, David Bowie & Brian Eno, the Plain White T’s, T.I., Panic at the Disco, Alex Ebert, Cyndie Lauper, Yolanda Adams, The Flaming Lips, Sara Bareilles, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, They Might Be Giants, Andy Paley, Tom Kenny, Derek Drymon, Mark Harrison, Stephen Hillenburg & Blaise Smith (those last six all having a hand in creating the show Spongebob Squarepants).
Just out of curiosity, are all those people invited to the Tony Awards? And if Spongebob were to win, are they all invited up on stage? Things to think about.
Or David Yazbek could win for The Band’s Visit and my thinking would be all for naught. Oh well. They’ll show it on TV if all those famous people end up winning.
Will and should win: The composers of Spongebob Squarepants
Could win: David Yazbek, The Band's Visit
I really liked what AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin did with the orchestrations for Once On This Island: stripping down what used to be a full-fleshed pit with horns and other instruments, they replaced a lot of the extra flushes of sound with a cappella voices; a nice touch for a show that is about the essence of storytelling. You’ve also got The Band’s Visit, where much of the music is played live by the band on stage. And then there’s Spongebob, who’s got Tom Kitt in his back pocket, as well as Carousel, which has EGOT-winner Jonathan Tunick on its orchestrations.
Will and should win: Once On This Island- AnnMarie Milazzo & Michael Starobin
Could win: The Band's Visit- Jamshied Sharifi
Best Direction of a Musical
The direction categories for the musicals and plays are my favorite because there’s so much to choose from, and the medium of live theatre breaks down that wall that the camera and screen of the film provide, making the differences in directional style much more varied and easier to recognize. There’s so much to love about both Spongebob and Once On This Island, each one with its own easter eggs from depending on where you look. I think Spongebob is a show built on concept, design, and execution. The show, despite being literally plucked from a cartoon, keeps all that fun energy around it, but feels so real at the same time. Once On This Island deserves some kind of recognition for its tropical atmosphere, use of lights, set, and found-props to create a magical story, but I feel like it may meet its match in Spongebob.
Will and should win: Tina Landau, Spongebob Squarepants
Could win: Michael Arden or David Cromer
Best Direction of a Play
Harry Potter and Angels in America are the two to watch. You knew they would be. Both epics make cases to win as well. Marianne Elliott’s brilliant Angels, much like the play, start rooted firmly in reality, but expand and blossom into a full-on heavenly acid trip, complete with neon lights, falling snow, and naked men. Harry Potter does the pretty much same in far less time (almost a full three hours shorter than its counterpart). As I’ve said before, Cursed Child reads more like bad fan fiction, but the effects are mind blowing (MIND. BLOWING.), and the acting is good enough to make even the most groan-inducing lines jump off the page and come off as serious enough. If, for some reason, the votes cancel out, Three Tall Women, directed by Joe Mantello, could swipe the prize.
Will and should win: John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Could win: Marianne Elliott, Angels in America
This award probably won’t be shown on TV (much like the other technical awards, because even though every theatre kid is taught that shows are nothing without the crew, the Tony Awards think crew is irrelevant and a travesty to show the winners on television- rant over), but you’ll probably get a taste of the choreography during the nominee performances. All you need to know is that Justin Peck’s choreography for Carousel is extensive and immaculate. My Fair Lady might be the only other show that has a prayer.
Will and should win: Justin Peck, Carousel
Could win: Christopher Gattelli, My Fair Lady
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Spongebob’s has a kinetic sculpture surrounding the proscenium, and the entire show explodes from the ground up with an explosion of colorful ferocity and joy.
Once On This Island is a literal beach, complete with sand, water, and a tractor trailer truck. Also, if livestock matters, there’s a live goat in the show.
Choose your weapon.
Will and should win: Spongebob Squarepants- David Zinn
Could win: Once On This Island- Dane Laffrey
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Again (and probably from here on out), we have the fight between Angels in America and Harry Potter. Angels’ set design starts mundane enough, with three turntables pretty much throughout the whole of Millennium Approaches. In Perestroika, we get to see the space expand in a multitude of ways. Harry Potter is all about the magic- trapdoors, hidden slides, etc. Paired with some amazing lights and sounds, the set works wonders. My dark horse to win the category is Farinelli and the King. A simple set that brings about shades of Shakespeare’s Globe and sixteenth-century plays, it’s warm and intimate, much like the heart of the music weaving its way through the plot.
Andrew's early winner: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II- Christine Jones
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Spongebob has the most outrageous costumes of the five, so I’m going with that one. I’m still shook at Gavin Creel’s Squidward costume.
Will and should win: Spongebob Squarepants- David Zinn
Could win: Once On This Island or Mean Girls
Best Costume Design of a Play
I’m pretty sure Angels in America is here mostly because of the Angel herself. There are fantastic character disguises throughout the show, but that Angel costume is something else. Harry Potter will probably win, but my heart says Angels should.
Will win: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Katrina Lindsay
Should win: Angels in America- Nicky Gillibrand
Could win: Farinelli and the King- Jonathan Fensom
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
There’s lots of fun things happening here. I mean, the best lighting this season comes from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but if I were to pick a musical, I’d say Spongebob continues its roll through the technical categories.
Will and should win: Spongebob Squarepants- Kevin Adams
Could win: Once On This Island- Jules Fisher
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Harry Potter. Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Harry Potter. Not even close. Not even remotely close.
Will and should win: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Neil Austin
Could win: LOL.
I mean Angels in America.
Best Sound Design of a Musical
The Sound Design Tony Awards are back!!! Not that they’ll be shown on TV, but it’s good that sound designers are back to being deservedly recognized for their contributions to Broadway shows. I’m going with Spongebob here. Can’t go wrong with live foley artists doing all the work.
Will and should win: Spongebob Squarepants- Mike Dobson and Walter Trarbach
Could win: Once On This Island- Peter Hylenski
Best Sound Design of a Play
This is the one nomination that the previously-ineligible 1984 got this year; a well-deserved one for sound design. I’m not sure it has any chance of winning behind Harry Potter and Angels in America, but good for Tom Gibbons. The Party congratulates you on your success, comrade.
Will and should win: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Gareth Fry
Could win: Angels in America or 1984
The awards are on Sunday. Who ya got? Leave a comment down below.
The 72 Tony Awards will be held on Sunday, June 10th on CBS.