Times Theater Critic

Who do you like for the Tonys? For our money, the most important award at Sunday night's Tony Awards ceremony in New York will go to the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which has been doing street theater for more than 20 years.

If the Mime Troupe is given more than a blip on the TV broadcast, it will be a sign that the show's new producer, Don Mischer, is serious about increasing national awareness of the non-Broadway theater.

Who else do you like for the Tonys? Here are some predictions:

Best Musical: "Les Miserables," in a walk. It pulled Broadway out of the doldrums this spring (see below) and everybody's grateful. "Les Miz" will also take the awards for best score (Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schoenberg); best director of a musical (Trevor Nunn and John Caird) and best scenic design (John Napier).

Best Play: "Fences," giving author August Wilson the triple crown--Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Tony. The winter favorite was Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound," but it suffers from being a comedy.

Best Actor: In a straight play, James Earl Jones in "Fences." In a musical, Colm Wilkinson in "Les Miz" or, just maybe, Robert Lindsay in "Me and My Girl." Tony voters like to spread the glory around.

Best Actress: In a straight play, Linda Lavin in "Broadway Bound," for the scene where she remembers dancing with George Raft. In a musical, Theresa Stratas in "Rags," a guilt vote because the show closed so early.

Best Director: Howard Davis, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," a beautiful, sinister show that will suffer from being one British entry too many.

Best Costumes: John Napier, "Starlight Express." Brutish ones, but that was the assignment. David Hersey's lighting will win a Tony for the same reason.

Best Reproduction (They mean revival): "All My Sons," even though it's closed.

The Tony ceremony finds Broadway feeling better about itself than it has of late. For the first time in five years, attendance and gate receipts went up this season instead of down.

Attendance increased from 6.5 million to 7 million. Receipts increased from $191 million to $207 million. Productions went up from 33 to 40.

Those are far from being all-time records, however. As Richard Hummler pointed out in Variety, almost half of Broadway's take these days is accounted for by four British musicals--"Les Miz," "Starlight Express," "Me and My Girl" and the old reliable "Cats." Broadway has become a "receiving site" rather than a "generator" of material, Hummler notes, and that's likely to continue until production costs go down.

Broadway road shows did less well this season than last. The 1986 take was $236 million. This year's was $224 million. As usual, the top road city was Los Angeles, with a gross of $34 million--$13 million less than last year.

IN QUOTES: George Abbott, 99, also due to recieve a Tony Sunday night: "Everybody can act, because everybody lies."

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