It’s a year of sure things and wild cards. As Broadway heads into the 2018 Tony Awards (airing June 10 on CBS), a lot of the night’s biggest winners feel like foregone conclusions — except for the few ultratight races where anything goes. Here’s our best bets for what will win, and what shows might surprise us all.
THE SURE THINGS
“The Band’s Visit”
An intimate, deftly crafted musical about an Egyptian police band stranded overnight in a tiny town in the Israeli desert, “The Band’s Visit” has looked like the Tony frontrunner since it opened way back in November. It’ll win for being both intimate and subtle, two words rarely associated with musical theater. Besides, the show’s fledgling brand could use the help a Tony win would give it, unlike “Mean Girls” and “Frozen,” two mega-selling competitors that don’t need any help from the Tonys, thank you very much. “SpongeBob SquarePants,” an underselling title that surprised critics into liking it, has fans too, but look for “Band’s Visit” to nab the crown.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
You don’t have to take a Divination class at Hogwart’s to know that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will score the new play prize on Sunday. It’s a massive transatlantic hit that’s bringing new, young audiences to Broadway — and the epic, two-part production is also a dazzling and artfully-conceived swirl of theatrical magic. None of its departed competitors — limited-run productions “Farinelli and the King,” “The Children” and “Junk” — sent the same kind of shockwaves through audiences and critics alike. Chances are, “Cursed Child” will top the headlines Monday morning as the winner of the most awards of the night, after nabbing all the evening’s play-design trophies, plus at least one more. (See below.)
David Yazbek, “The Band’s Visit”
Composer-lyricist Yazbek will win this one for a score that’s rich with Middle Eastern inflections. It sounds like nothing else on Broadway.
ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Katrina Lenk, “The Band’s Visit”
As the diffident but unexpectedly generous heart of “Band’s Visit,” Lenk has had a breakout couple of years, attracting attention both for her current show and for last season’s “Indecent.” Lauren Ambrose’s turn in “My Fair Lady” has partisans, but don’t count on an upset.
ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Glenda Jackson, “Three Tall Women”
She’s a legendary actress returning to Broadway for the first time in more than 30 years — and she delivers, giving a fiery, fierce performance as a dying woman in “Three Tall Women.”
ACTOR IN A PLAY
Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America”
He’s got probably the toughest role in the one of the most bracingly intellectual and uncompromisingly emotional plays in the American canon. Voters will reward him for it, despite competition from a formidable field that includes Denzel Washington in another American masterpiece, “The Iceman Cometh.”
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Nathan Lane, “Angels in America”
Lane is one of the few born-and-bred Broadway stars we have, and in “Angels” he’s getting a chance to show off his dramatic chops in a role (the real-life attorney Roy Cohn) that’s taken on new resonance as Cohn’s protégé, Donald Trump, has risen to the presidency. Lane seems sure to win — although if anyone can come from behind, it would probably be Anthony Boyle, playing fan-favorite new character Scorpius in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
THE BEST BETS
REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Best bet: “My Fair Lady”
Wild card: “Carousel”
This one’s tight. The classy, well-reviewed revival of “My Fair Lady,” directed by Tony favorite Bartlett Sher, looks like the winner. But “Carousel,” a lush production of a musical with a gorgeous score and discomfiting undercurrents of domestic abuse, has adherents, too. Ditto director Michael Arden’s lively reimagining of “Once On This Island.” “My Fair Lady” will probably win Sunday night, but if it doesn’t, either one of its competitors could snatch the prize.
REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Best bet: “Angels in America”
Wild card: “Three Tall Women”
The starry National Theatre production of “Angels” looks like a shoo-in for play revival: Lots of people on Broadway love the production (directed by two-time Tony winner Marianne Elliott), and even the ones who have mixed feelings about this “Angels” harbor so much affection for Tony Kushner’s ambitious, epic masterpiece that it’s hard to vote for anything else. If there’s a dark horse, it seems most likely to be “Three Tall Women,” in a perfect gem of a production from director Joe Mantello, although George C. Wolfe’s slick, satisfying staging of “The Iceman Cometh” makes a strong case for itself, too.
BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Best bet: Tina Fey, “Mean Girls”
Wild card: Itamar Moses, “The Band’s Visit”
Tony voters would love to give an award to Fey, the smart-comedy superstar making her Broadway debut. She’s put in the work with the Broadway community, and her nimble adaptation of “Mean Girls” — the teen movie comedy for which she wrote the original screenplay — seems to have won over the industry. The wild card here is Moses, whose work on “Band’s Visit” is far more understated but just as skillful.
DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Best bet: Tina Landau, “SpongeBob SquarePants”
Wild card: David Cromer, “The Band’s Visit”
“SpongeBob SquarePants” is an underdog, both at the Tonys and at the box office, but we’re betting the show takes home a directing award for Landau. The sweetly loony “SpongeBob” — with a clever, homemade aesthetic that echoes the indie appeal of the Nickelodeon cartoon that inspired it — was essentially Landau’s brainchild, and the industry seems inclined to reward her for it. The other real contender here is “Band’s Visit” director Cromer, who could triumph if his show sweeps.
DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Best bet: John Tiffany, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Wild card: Marianne Elliott, “Angels in America”
Elliott (“War Horse,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”) is a favorite with voters, and her production of “Angels” is staged with her signature audacity. But “Harry Potter” director Tiffany, also credited as co-creator of the story with Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling, is more likely make it to the podium, thanks to a brilliantly conceived production that never lets its powerhouse property or mammoth budget get in the way of its gratifying theatricality.
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Best bet: Denise Gough, “Angels in America”
Wild card: Noma Dumezweni, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Gough has had a good year, after earning New York raves for an Off Broadway turn in “People, Places and Things” before hitting Broadway as the yearning, hallucinating Harper in “Angels.” She looks poised to take the prize, although Dumezweni, giving a strong performance as Hermione in “Cursed Child,” has been a warm, witty presence on the awards circuit. And don’t count out the formidable turn by Laurie Metcalf — last year’s Tony winner for lead actress — in “Three Tall Women.”
THE REAL TOSS-UPS
ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Our guess: Joshua Henry, “Carousel”
Wild card: Ethan Slater, “SpongeBob SquarePants”
This one’s basically impossible to predict. A lot of industry types are thinking the trophy will go to Henry for his powerful, sensitive take on Billy Bigelow in “Carousel.” But Slater, the young performer who captures the elastic, optimistic essence of SpongeBob SquarePants, comes up in the conversation enough that it seems like he has a shot, too.
FEATURED ACTRESS/ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Our guesses: Lindsay Mendez, “Carousel” / Gavin Lee, “SpongeBob SquarePants”
Wild cards: Ashley Park, “Mean Girls” / Norbert Leo Butz, “My Fair Lady”
In the featured actress race, Mendez — a New York stage vet and a favorite in the theater community — looks like the frontrunner, thanks to a standout performance as sidekick Carrie Pipperidge in “Carousel,” but Park’s sympathetically comic take on the most conflicted of the “Mean Girls” also has plenty of admirers. Meanwhile, the featured actor category is genuinely anybody’s guess: Butz (playing Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”) is a Tony favorite, but Lee, who delivers a showstopper as Squidward in “SpongeBob SquarePants,” gets mentioned a lot, too. Heck, there’s plenty of affection for Grey Henson of “Mean Girls” as well. Who will triumph? We’ll know Sunday night.