Column: Tonys predictions: Can anything stop ‘Hamilton’ from making history?
The suspense over the Tony Awards is usually about which show will win for best musical, the prize with the most lucrative consequences. But this year we all know that “Hamilton,” nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tonys, has that award in the bag.
The question generating excitement among Broadway observers is whether “Hamilton” can equal or surpass “The Producers’” record of 12 Tony wins for a musical. There is a path to 13, but it will require an upset win in the lead actress in a musical category and a sweep of the design awards — something that could happen if Tony voters consciously cast their ballots in favor of history.
Twelve, while still a stretch, is more feasible. It’s hard to see “Hamilton” not winning for best musical, book, original score, lead actor in a musical, featured actor and featured actress in a musical, direction and orchestration. That’s eight straight off the bat, with lead actor in a musical the only one of these contests with even a smidgen of uncertainty.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” is competing in this category against his thrilling costar Leslie Odom Jr., leaving the outside possibility of a split between them. If this happens, dark horse Danny Burstein, the affecting Tevye of Bartlett Sher’s revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” could find himself hoisting a statuette — unlikely but something no Broadway connoisseur would mind. How about a three-way tie?
Here’s an opinionated look at how some of the other key races might play out.
“Eclipsed” by Danai Gurira
“The Father” by Florian Zeller
“The Humans” by Stephen Karam
“King Charles III” by Mike Bartlett
In an election year when the status quo has the masses raising pitchforks, “The Humans,” Karam’s family drama about the disappearance of the American dream, has channeled the discontented zeitgeist to a clear and deserved victory.
Best revival of a play
Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”
Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Ivo van Hove’s production of “A View From the Bridge” (which is coming to the Ahmanson Theatre next season) featured the year’s boldest direction, but “The Crucible,” also directed by van Hove, is the better play. I’d be happy to see either win, but I fear Jonathan Kent’s uneven staging of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” may luck out simply because the van Hove productions are so audacious, “Blackbird” is so intensely unsettling and “Noises Off” is, well, so gosh-darn funny.
Best revival of a musical
“The Color Purple”
“Fiddler on the Roof”
“She Loves Me”
This may be the most competitive category of all. These are all splendid productions and there’s a special place in my heart for Los Angeles-based Deaf West Theatre’s innovative staging of “Spring Awakening.” But John Doyle’s revelatory revival of “The Color Purple” did something I didn’t think possible: It made me fall in love with a musical I found saccharine and generically commercial in its original Broadway production.
Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play
Gabriel Byrne, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Jeff Daniels, “Blackbird”
Frank Langella, “The Father”
Tim Pigott-Smith, “King Charles III”
Mark Strong, “A View From the Bridge”
The award should go to either Daniels or Strong, but Langella has a few advantages: Not only is he portraying a character with dementia (award committees can never resist a harrowing medical condition), but “A View From the Bridge” has closed and “Blackbird” can be off-putting for delicate sensibilities.
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play
Jessica Lange, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Laurie Metcalf, “Misery”
Lupita Nyong’o, “Eclipsed”
Sophie Okonedo, “The Crucible”
Michelle Williams, “Blackbird”
Jessica Lange, one of the supplest film actresses of her generation, is the heavy favorite to win her first Tony. But my choice would be Michelle Williams, whose unnerving portrayal of a young woman confronting the man who sexually abused her when she was a girl was the most daring feat of acting I’ve seen on Broadway in ages.
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical
Laura Benanti, “She Loves Me”
Carmen Cusack, “Bright Star”
Cynthia Erivo, “The Color Purple”
Jessie Mueller, “Waitress”
Phillipa Soo, “Hamilton”
An embarrassment of riches, but the performance of the year is by Cynthia Erivo, the British actress making an astonishing Broadway debut.
Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play
Reed Birney, “The Humans”
Bill Camp, “The Crucible”
David Furr, “Noises Off”
Richard Goulding, “King Charles III”
Michael Shannon, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Birney, an off-Broadway veteran who adds nuance and grit to whatever role he’s in, richly deserves this win on the basis of both this performance and a career of superlative ensemble work.
Best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play
Pascale Armand, “Eclipsed”
Megan Hilty, “Noises Off”
Jayne Houdyshell, “The Humans”
Andrea Martin, “Noises Off”
Saycon Sengbloh, “Eclipsed”
Houdyshell, another acting great of modest profile, makes her company shine all the brighter for her fine-grained realism infused with sneaky humor and subtle pathos. She should and likely will win.
Best direction of a play
Rupert Goold, “King Charles III”
Jonathan Kent, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Joe Mantello, “The Humans”
Liesl Tommy, “Eclipsed”
Ivo van Hove, “A View From the Bridge”
My vote would be for van Hove, though I’d be happy to see Mantello’s ensemble excellence rewarded. If Kent wins, as some pundits predict he might, I may demand a recount.
Andy Blankenbuehler, “Hamilton”
Savion Glover, “Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed”
Hofesh Shechter, “Fiddler on the Roof”
Randy Skinner, “Dames at Sea”
Sergio Trujillo, “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan”
Watch this category. If it goes to Savion Glover, who would be my pick, “Hamilton” will have a hard time equaling the Tony record. But Blankenbuehler’s dynamic choreography will likely edge out the competition in a year that rightfully belongs to “Hamilton.”
‘The 70th Annual Tony Awards’
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Rating: Not rated
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