Everybody loves a surprise, and in awards season, there wouldn’t be any surprises if there weren’t predictions. Since the Tony nominations were announced April 28, the theater industry has had more than month to speculate and prognosticate and altercate about what will happen at the Tony Awards ceremony June 7. Here’s the way people think it’ll go on Sunday night:
It’s the biggest award of the night, and this year it’s also the biggest nailbiter. In conversations with industry types, “An American in Paris” and “Fun Home” — each nominated in a dozen categories — are the clear frontrunners, but that’s where the consensus ends. Some people voted for one; some people voted for the other; some people voted for one but think the other’s going to win.
The intimate “Fun Home,” about a lesbian cartoonist coming to terms with her relationship with her late father, has downtown cred going for it (after its Off Broadway success last season at the Public Theater), as well as ambitious subject matter that feels like it pushes the Broadway musical into new territory. Arguably it’s also the most unified artistic success, at least according to the critics, many of whom didn’t love the book for “American in Paris.” Plus, last season it won every single Off Broadway award it possibly could.
But “American in Paris,” the dance-centric stage version of the classic movie musical, has the element of surprise going for it, since the show wasn’t on anyone’s radar until it unexpectedly wowed critics and theatergoers when it opened in April. It also hits the sweet spot of being considered both artistically sophisticated — for the way in which it incorporates serious ballet into an old-fashioned musical — as well as undeniably commercial, as evidenced by its million-dollar-plus weeks at the box office. It also skews a little older than the edgy “Fun Home,” and let’s face it, Tony voters aren’t the youngest bunch.
Prediction: Put a gun to my head, I’ll say “An American in Paris.” But I’m prepared to be wrong.
London import “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” has been the presumptive Tony favorite since it opened in the fall, and it still is, despite some support for the homegrown “Hand to God.” It’s also shown consistent strength at the box office, and is one of the rare nonmusicals that will hit the road in an upcoming tour.
Prediction: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The broad comedy and lush music of “On the 20th Century” has its fans, but the Lincoln Center Theater revival of “The King and I” — a smart, classy, lyrically designed take on a beloved but problematic property — seems poised to take the crown.
Prediction: “The King and I”
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
“The Elephant Man” made a splashy return with juggernaut sales and a well-received star turn by Bradley Cooper, and a lot of people liked “You Can’t Take It With You,” too. But “Skylight,” with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan in one of David Hare’s very best plays, looks like the winner.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE / BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
These two categories look like locks for Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, the composer and lyricist-book writer of “Fun Home” — especially if “American in Paris” wins best musical, in which case the writing awards will go to the indie contender that didn’t take the top prize (as so often happens at the Oscars). “American in Paris” isn’t eligible for score because its songs come from the pre-existing Gershwin catalog, thereby leaving the “Fun Home” team in the clear for that category. And although the all-out comedy of “Something Rotten!” — and the fact that it’s entirely original — gets some appreciation in the race for book, Kron seems a sure bet for her heartfelt and intellectually ambitious adaptation of the dense graphic memoir on which the show is based.
Predictions: Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron (“Fun Home”) for score / Kron (“Fun Home”) for book
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL / BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is the hands-down winner for his choreography to “American in Paris,” integrating traditional musical theater dance numbers with the kind of serious ballet-world elegance that almost never shows up on Broadway. “Fun Home” director Sam Gold, though, has the edge for the director trophy, given the hurdles he faced in staging challenging material — and then doing it all over again, when he reconfigured the show for its in-the-round venue on Broadway. He’s also openly credited by Tesori and Kron as an equally intergral force in the development of the show overall.
Prediction: Sam Gold (“Fun Home”) for direction / Christopher Wheeldon (“American in Paris”) for choreography
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Marianne Elliott seems near-certain to take best direction of a play for her dazzling staging of “Curious Incident,” which manages to be both high-tech and human-powered at the same time.
Prediction: Marianne Elliott, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
This one’s looking like it’ll go to Michael Cerveris for his much-admired performance as the tortured father figure in “Fun Home.” Robert Fairchild (“American in Paris”) and Brian d’Arcy James (“Something Rotten!), the latter as much of a well-liked Broadway regular as Cerveris, are acknowledged as giving strong performances themselves, but still don’t look likely to triumph.
Prediction: Michael Cerveris, “Fun Home”
BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kristin or Kelli? Kelli or Kristin? This one’s tough. But while Kelli O’Hara of “The King and I” is an enormously respected Broadway regular who has never won a Tony, there’s been a huge swell of industry affection for Kristin Chenoweth (“20th Century”). She gets bonus points, too, for co-hosting this year’s Tony ceremony.
Prediction: Kristin Chenoweth (“On the 20th Century”) — but it’s tight
BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY
Pundits have predicted a Tony win for Alex Sharp (“Curious Incident”) since last October. Since then Bradley Cooper won raves in “Elephant Man” and Steven Boyer began giving his virtuosic and wildly funny performance as both the main character of “Hand to God” and as the demonic puppet attached to his right hand. Still, Sharp, playing the hypersmart but emotionally and socially stunted main character in “Curious Incident,” seems likely to pull it out.
Prediction: Alex Sharp (“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”)
BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Dame Helen. Mic drop.
Prediction: Helen Mirren (“The Audience”)