The 2017 Broadway Tony Awards: Predictions and Preferences

Some Broadway plays and musicals succeed or fail regardless of Tony Award consideration, but the fate of many more depends heavily on nominations, not even considering wins. Ticket sales for “Oslo” and “Groundhog Day,” for example, perked up the very day after their Best Play and Best Musical nominations were announced. Conversely, the musical “Amalie” announced its premature closing (on May 21) soon after receiving none.

While all shows are not Tony-dependent (hello “Hello, Dolly!”), others, including “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” with its dozen nominations, need the boost. Some 850 voters will determine the fates among those anointed by 43 nominators. The 850 include press reps, producers, road-show bookers and other theater insiders. (For reasons known only to the sponsoring American Theatre Wing, most critics were disenfranchised several years ago. Go figure.) CBS-TV will broadcast the Award ceremony at 8PM on Sunday, June 11.

Following are predictions and preferences in 14 major categories:

BEST (new) PLAY:  ”Indecent,” Oslo” and “Sweat” all transferred from off- to on-Broadway. The fourth nominated play, Lucas Hnath’s brilliant “A Doll’s House, Part 2” opened cold on B’way in April. Built on the foundation of the Ibsen classic, it is a nigh-perfect play. Driven by Laurie Metcalf’s extraordinary performance, it’s a likely winner, with the impressive “Oslo” nipping at its heels. (Yes, I’m hedging, with more of same to come.)

Jayne Houdyshell, left, and Laurie Metcalf in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (And Nora’s door, far left.)

BEST (new) MUSICAL: A strong field this season, with both “Come From Away” and “Groundhog Day” worthy contenders, but I predict the emotionally resonant “Dear Evan Hansen” the winner. My choice would be “The Great Comet,” a quasi-operatic take on a segment of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” (Sounds like heavy-going, but it is a totally accessible mash-up of Music, Romance and Humor.)

Ben Platt in a scene from “Dear Evan Hansen”

BEST PLAY REVIVAL: Four strong nominees: “The Little Foxes,” “Present Laughter,” “Six Degrees of Separation” and the will-and-should win “Jitney,” the last of August Wilson’s august ten-play output to reach Broadway.

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL:  “Hello, Dolly!”

LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: This comes down to two nominees: Kevin Kline in “Present Laughter” and Jefferson Mays in “Oslo.” As fine as Mays’s performance is, it is in the service of a large acting ensemble. Kline dominates his play; he will/should win.

Kevin Kline and Kate Burton in “Present Laughter”

LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Another dueling pair: Laura Linney* in “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” vs. Laurie Metcalf in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Both are very special performances, with Metcalf’s among the finest in memory.

[*Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate in the roles of Regina and her put-upon sister-in-law Birdie. Tony nominees must have performed their roles on opening night; thus Linney for Regina, with Nixon nominated in the Featured Actress in Play category for Birdie. I saw both versions and regard Nixon’s Birdie as the best of the four castings. There’s also a tandem in “A Doll’s House, Part2,” with both of that play’s featured women also nominated along with the leading-role’s Metcalf, who is deserving and could win. But I’m predicting a “Little Foxes” Linney-Nixon sweep, partly for the roles-swapping novelty.]

Laura Linney, left, and Cynthia Nixon in their nominated roles

LEADING ACTOR MUSICAL: As terrific as Andy Karl is in “Groundhog Day,” Ben Platt, who crushes the “Dear Evan Hansen” title character’s emotional catharsis eight times a week, will win.

LEADING ACTRESS MUSICAL: To quote NY Times critic Ben Brantley, Bette Midler is “Beyoncé for the old folks.” Betting against her in this category would be like betting against “Hamilton” last year.

Hello, Bette Midler!

DIRECTOR PLAY: There’s tough competition here among the directors of “Oslo,” “The Little Foxes,” “A Doll’s House, Part 2” and the lone female Rebecca Taichman, who could cop this Tony for “Indecent.” My will-win and should-win, however, is Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the emergent go-to interpreter of August Wilson, for “Jitney”.

Yours truly with “Jitney” director Ruben Santiago-Hudson

DIRECTOR MUSICAL: If there’s someone more adept than Rachel Chavkin at directing a massive, complex production without short-changing subtleties of relationships or plot, he/she has yet to prove it. Ms. Chavkin should win for “The Great Comet.” (Can’t count out Jerry Zaks for “Hello, Dolly!”)

Josh Groban and the cast of “Natasha, Pierre & The great Comet of 1812”

FEATURED ACTOR PLAY: This comes down to Danny DeVito, in his Broadway debut (at 72), who mined the comic nuances in “Arthur Miller’s The Price,” versus Broadway veteran Richard Thomas, whose dramatic turn in “The Little Foxes” is  superb. Either could/should win; DeVito will.

Mark Ruffalo, left, and Danny DeVito in “The Price”

FEATURED ACTOR MUSICAL: Not a particularly strong field, but Gavin Creel stands out as Cornelius Hackl in “Hello Dolly!,” demonstrating (along with his cast-mates) that the venerable Jerry Herman musical is not just a one-woman show.

FEATURED ACTRESS MUSICAL:  My odds-on favorite in the Tony Award pool is Jenn Colella for “Come From Away,” as the real-life first female American Airlines Captain (in 1986), whose flight was one of those diverted to Newfoundland on September 11, 2001.

Jenn Colella and the cast of “Come From Away”

As one of a marvelous dozen-actor ensemble, Colella’s show-stopping number “Me and the Sky” could even propel “Come From Away” to the Best Musical Tony Award. (Ending with another hedged bet. You were warned up top.)

Enjoy the show on June 11!

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