Politics, money and talent collide at this Sunday’s Tony Awards.
Voters for Broadway’s big night are still reeling from the snub of Aaron Sorkin’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” for Best Play. That unexpected omission, which I applaud, opens the way for Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman” to take the prize. I’d prefer the Tony go to Taylor Mac’s “Gary,” which may set a record for getting the least votes of any show nominated this season.
The Sorkin snub, however, will be felt. “Mockingbird” devotees will rally around Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger to award them the respective Tonys for Best Actor in a Play and Best Featured Actress in a Play. Adam Driver deserves the lead award for his dazzling turn in “Burn This,” and no featured actress surpassed the work of Joan Allen in “The Waverly Gallery.” In another major oversight, Allen wasn’t even nominated.
The “Mockingbird” backlash probably won’t be enough to carry director Bartlett Sher over the finish line, with Sam Mendes of “The Ferryman” the more likely winner for Best Director of a Play. I’d have chosen Joe Mantello for his back-to-back work on “The Boys in the Band” and “Hillary and Clinton,” but like Allen, he was overlooked by the nominators.
Elaine May deserves the Tony for Best Actress in a Play, and will get it for her performance from “The Waverly Gallery.”
Robin de Jesus from “The Boys in the Band” has a slight edge over previous Tony winner Bertie Carvel from “Ink” in the featured actor category. Again, I’d go with a non-nominee: Paul Schneider from “Straight White Men.” The Tony nominators preferred far showier performances.
Over on the musical side of the awards, it’s always fun to speculate on what impresses the largest voting bloc. Will those hundreds of out-of-town theater presenters go for a head-scratching title like “Hadestown” or a brand name like “Tootsie”? Those presenters know that “Hadestown” needs the Tony imprimatur to sell theater subscriptions in Cleveland and Kansas City. “Tootsie,” not so much. The heartland’s theater presenters will give Best Musical to “Hadestown.”
From there, the voters will spread the glory around, giving Best Score to Anais Mitchell (“Hadestown”), Best Book to Robert Horn (“Tootsie”), and Best Director of a Musical to Daniel Fish (“Oklahoma!”). Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) will give Fish competition, but he has the advantage of actually deserving the Tony.
“Oklahoma!” performer Ali Stroker will and should win the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Sentiment will be on the side of veteran Andre De Shields from “Hadestown” for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. However, no musical performer this season — lead or featured, male or female — topped Ephraim Sykes in “Ain’t Too Proud.”
“The Cher Show” headliner Stephanie J. Block is the clear and deserved winner for Best Actress in a Musical. Despite having more competition in the Best Actor category, Santino Fontana from “Tootsie” looks the likely winner. Alex Brightman in “Beetlejuice” might be slightly more worthy. Anyone who can be this good in a musical that’s this bad deserves the prize.
Despite objections of the purists, “Oklahoma!” should take the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical in the least competitive race this season. “All My Sons,” because it’s still running, has the edge to win Best Revival of a Play. If it were still on the boards, “The Boys in the Band” would win.