The Tony Awards and its most ardent followers tend to view a great Broadway season as one in which there’s a runaway hit that consumes all the media attention and takes most of the awards.
In recent years, think “The Book of Mormon,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” and, of course, last year’s blockbuster “Hamilton.”
The 2016-17 Broadway season is not that kind of season. This year won’t see any clear winners, because the competition is too strong, the pool of talent too deep.
That wonderful predicament is most obvious in the best play category — where J.T. Rogers’s “Oslo” is expected to win but Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2” should. Frankly, who can argue much about either work taking the top prize? Together with the other two nominees, Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat” and Paul Vogel’s “Indecent,” it was the best season in memory for new plays.
Best Revival of a Play
On the musical side of the Tonys, the enormous hoopla in the press for “Come From Away” could dislodge the deserved winner, “Dear Evan Hansen,” but probably won’t.
Best Musical Revival
The year’s two shoo-ins are best revival of a musical, “Hello, Dolly!,” and lead actress in a musical, Bette Midler in “Dolly.”
Best Director of a Play
The “Oslo” and “Doll’s House” contest continues with its directors, Bartlett Sher and Sam Gold, respectively. Sher will win, but Gold deserves to, not only for “Doll’s House” but for “A Glass Menagerie,” which was shamefully not nominated for best revival of a play.
Best Director of a Musical
My inside sources again insist that Michael Greif will win for directing “Dear Evan Hansen,” but going out on a limb here, I think the Tony should and will go to Rachel Chavkin for “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.” Her dazzling direction is the whole show.
Best Actress in a Play
Best Actor in a Play
Kevin Kline in “Present Laughter” will win for best actor in a play. For me, the best performance by a male actor came from the non-nominated Richard Roxburgh for his powerful portrayal of a narcissist opposite Cate Blanchett in “The Present.” Roxburgh had the added challenge of appearing to be great in a not very good play.
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Nathan Lane had something of the same problem, not that “The Front Page” isn’t worth staging. The recent revival was simply embalmed, except for Lane’s performance, which was nominated and should win. This bona fide star appears on Broadway almost every season, and the Tony nominators and voters tend to prefer less frequent exposure. My friends in the biz assure me that Danny DeVito will win for his Broadway debut in “The Price,” but I’m thinking it could be another Tom Hanks-like upset, but in the category of best featured actor in a play.
Best Featured Actress in a Play
On the distaff side, Cynthia Nixon in “Foxes” should and will win for best featured actress in a play.
Best Actress in a Musical
Bette Midler is a shoo-in to win for “Hello, Dolly!” but I’d prefer to see a tie win for Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in “War Paint.” Call me old-fashioned, but I like a musical comedy performer to be able to sing her role at least adequately.
Best Actor in a Musical
Andy Karl should and might win for his tough lead actor performance in “Groundhog Day,” but the Tony Award will likely honor Ben Platt’s teary turn in “Hansen.”
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel in “Dolly!” is likely to win for best featured actor in a musical, although nothing compares to Mike Faist’s understated, charismatic suicide in “Hansen.”
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
And among the featured actresses, Mary Beth Peil in “Anastasia” has a slight edge. Incomprehensible is why Tony didn’t nominate the best performance in this category, Amber Gray’s wickedly seductive Helene in “Great Comet.”
Best Book of a Musical
“Dear Evan Hansen” book writer Steven Levenson also looks and deserves to win. (The Off Broadway luster of his great new play “If I Forget” helps.)
Also expected to win is the “Hansen” score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. (Their “La La Land” Oscar helps.) I prefer Tim Minchin’s much edgier songs for “Groundhog Day,” which doesn’t have a prayer in this or any other category, except for Andy Karl’s lead performance.
Last year, in the above categories, I picked the winners, with one exception: I thought Joe Mantello would win for directing “The Humans,” and the award instead went to Ivo van Hove for staging the revival of “A View From the Bridge.”
Among all the following categories, I got only one right last year. This time out I’m going to go with whom I think should win and leave it at that:
Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand” (choreography); David Zinn, “Doll’s House” (costumes for a play); Paloma Young, “Great Comet” (costumes for a musical); Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent” (lighting for a play); Bradley King, “Great Comet” (lighting for a musical); Alex Lacamoire, “Hansen” (orchestrations); Michael Yeargan, “Oslo” (scenic design for a play); and Mimi Lien, “Great Comet” (scenic design for a musical), although hands down the most innovative scenic design for a musical was David Rockwell’s ever-changing cyclorama and modular set for “Falsettos,” which was not nominated.
CBS airs the Tony Awards live from Radio City Music Hall on June 11.