'South,' 'Gypsy,' 'Sunday' may dominate

Tony nominators often have a hard time even filling out the ballot with a full complement of musical revivals, but this year, three beloved American tuners have been given dazzling makeovers.

Sam Buntrock’s digitally reconceived staging of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Sunday in the Park With George” drew audiences inside the process of creating art in literally illuminating ways. In a less robust year, the London transfer and its flawless ensemble might have had revival honors stitched up.

However, that was before two golden-age classics reappeared. Patti LuPone’s riveting self-exposure as Rose in “Gypsy” would alone be sufficient to snare a strong share of votes for the latest insightful revival, directed by 89-year-old book writer Arthur Laurents. Factor in the uncommon depth brought to the show’s two pivotal supporting roles by Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines, and you have a fearsome contender.

But voters looking beyond performance to all aspects of stagecraft might be swayed by the bewitching spell director Bartlett Sher and his collaborators cast on eyes, ears and heart in “South Pacific.” Distinguished by its sumptuous restraint, Lincoln Center Theater’s production also has the advantage of being the first Broadway revival of the 1949 Rodgers & Hammerstein show.

The play revival contest is the season’s most crowded, with 15 Broadway remounts sizing up the accolades. Productions still on the boards automatically gain some edge with voters, leaving late-in-the-season openers likely to dominate.

The front-runners appear to include Brit import “Macbeth,” starring Patrick Stewart in Rupert Goold’s boldly theatrical staging; Mike Nichols’ return to directing drama on Broadway with Clifford Odets’ “The Country Girl,” starring Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher; and Laura Linney as the malevolent Marquise de Merteuil in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” directed by Rufus Norris.

Also still to come is James Macdonald’s production of Caryl Churchill’s estrogen-loaded “Top Girls,” and Matthew Warchus’ update on the sex farce “Boeing-Boeing,” a smash in London, looking to surpass its 23-perf Broadway run in 1965.

But don’t rule out a handful of now-closed productions from earlier in the uncommonly rich season, such as “The Homecoming,” “Pygmalion” and “Cyrano de Bergerac.” And its strong business could also secure “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” a nod.

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