September 21, 2023

Who will win – and who should

With the 76th Annual Tony Awards coming up, high-profile nominees include Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”), Sean Hayes (“Goodnight, Oscar”), Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”), Ben Platt (“Parade ”) and many more gear up for Broadway’s biggest night — and wait to see if they take home the gold.

As famous as New York theater was this season, the power of stars on stage doesn’t always translate into Tony’s gold. Take, for example, our supposed ‘will-win’ and ‘should-win’ choice for Best Musical. “Kimberly Akimbo” has no Hollywood talent tied to the production and received the fewest Tony Award nominations of the five new shows competing for Best Musical. But you can expect those eight nominations to bring in the most wins.

The only thing standing in the way of the show’s overwhelming success at the upcoming Tony Awards is those out-of-town presenters. They’re the biggest voting bloc of the awards, and they tend to honor more crowd-pleasing shows that can be promoted on their respective subscription series in Cleveland or St. Louis. Fortunately, their votes will probably be evenly split between ‘& Juliet’, ‘New York, New York’, ‘Shucked’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’ as there is no consensus among them. In other words, we won’t have a situation where a schlock show like “Spamalot” or “Throughly Modern Millie” wins the Tony for Best Musical.

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“Kimberly Akimbo” isn’t just aiming for a win for Best Musical. Many of the show’s nominees are also looking to take home the Tony, including Victoria Clark (Best Actress in a Musical), Bonnie Mulligan (Best Actress in a Musical Lead), Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire (Best Score), and Lindsay-Abaire (Best Book). The musical’s Jessica Stone has a good shot at winning the Best Director of a Musical award, but there’s stiff competition from Michael Arden, who directed “Parade.” The Tony’s have a history of presenting this award to the director of a revival, and in the case of “Parade,” Arden’s work is likely to land a win for Best Musical Revival as well.

Justin Cooley for “Kimberly Akimbo” or Kevin Del Aguila for “Some Like It Hot” earn the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Cooley’s plaintive “Good Kid” and Del Aguila’s heartfelt “Fly, Mariposa, Fly” are two of the season’s musical highlights. Anything soft and subtle, however, can’t compete with the Flonase blast of noise that is “Independently Owned,” as sung by Alex Newell in “Shucked.” Newell takes this Tony home.

Best Actor in a Musical is an exciting battle between J. Harrison Ghee in “Some Like It Hot” and Ben Platt in “Parade”. Since Platt already has a Tony, voters for “Dear Evan Hansen” may want to help create a new star, and Ghee’s gender-fluid performance is very timely.

“Leopoldstadt” and Patrick Marber’s direction of Tom Stoppard’s Holocaust drama have a slot on the Tony’s for Best Play and Best Director of a Play. I much prefer “Ain’t No’ Mo” and Stevie Walker-Webb’s kaleidoscopic direction of Jordan E. Cooper’s scathing comedy about racism, but few voters, not to mention theatergoers in general, saw the short-lived production .

Not many theatergoers saw Stephen McKinley Henderson’s beautifully drawn portrayal of an embittered ex-cop in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Henderson delivered the most memorable performance of the year. Instead, the Tony for Best Actor probably goes to Sean Hayes for “Goodnight, Oscar.” Not only does he give a very showy performance, he also plays the piano. Hayes has something else going for him, too: The New York Times review of the actor and play was definitely a thumbs down, and every year the Tonys like to throw their own raspberries to the Old Gray Lady and Best Actor category. is the best chance in 2023. Hayes wins. Significantly, a recent op-ed in the Times about who “will and should win” the Tony made no mention of Hayes.

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This year’s toss-up category is Best Featured Actor in a Play, a three-way race between movie star Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”) and two actors whose shows are still running: Arian Moayed (“A Doll’s House” ) and Brandon Uranowitz (“Leopoldstadt”). (Not that it makes any difference, but I vote for David Zayas in “Cost of Living,” even though his sensitive portrayal of a caretaker is a star.)

Another nail-biter is who is named Best Supporting Actress in a Play. It was supposed to be a contest between the outrageous Crystal Lucas-Perry (“Ain’t No Mo’) and the subtle Katy Sullivan (“Cost of Living”), but few voters saw those plays. It is more likely that Miriam Silverman (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”) will win. Not only is her show still on the shelves, the role of the arch-conservative sister has been considered Tony-worthy in the past: Frances Sternhagen was nominated for her turn in the 1972 revival despite production shutting down on opening night, and Alice Ghostley won the Tony in 1965 for her turn in the original production of Lorraine Hansberry’s fledgling drama about ignorant whites.

There’s a lot less excitement about Best Actress in a Play. Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”) seemed to win this award. And then came Jodie Comer (“Prima Facie”) with her solo tour-de-force performance as a lawyer who has been raped. Comer wins.

While “Topdog/Underdog” deserves to win for Best Revival of a Play, Tony is more likely to go to “A Doll’s House,” which continues to perform.

See it all happen on June 11 when the 76th annual Tony Awards take place at the United Palace in New York City. They air live on CBS from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern and are also streamed live and on-demand on Paramount+.

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