A Tony predictions story? In this climate?
Yes, the Tony Awards are happening Sunday, although you might not know it. Publicity has been hampered by the confusing roll-out of the plan for the evening, which sees the ceremony split between a premium streaming service and a traditional network. Enthusiasm has been muted, too, by a drawn-out timeline that saw nominations announced in October 2020 and voting completed in March, a year or more since any voter saw any of the shows. There is, too, the lingering cloud of ambivalence around awards shows in general in the midst of a still-ongoing pandemic (see the ratings-challenged Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys).
Nonetheless, Tony voters voted — and even if some of them have forgotten who they voted for, prognostications can be made. Based on an entirely unscientific tabulation of voter preferences, industry buzz and gut instinct (and with the caveat that this disordered awards season feels even more impossible to forecast than usual), here are 11 predictions for Sunday’s Tony Awards:
1. “Moulin Rouge!” will win Best Musical.
In a race that also includes Tina Turner bio “Tina” and Alanis Morissette musical “Jagged Little Pill,” the over-the-top, lavishly designed “Moulin Rouge!” seems to have taken the lead with voters. It’s splashy, it’s fun, and many suggest that it’s the most broadly liked of the options, even for those voters who were underwhelmed by all three shows. “Moulin Rouge!” director Alex Timbers and choreographer Sonya Tayeh also look poised to win their respective categories, although in the contest for book of a musical, the edge seems to go to recent Pulitzer winner Katori Hall for “Tina.”
2. “Slave Play” takes Best Play.
This one seemingly everyone agrees on. A complicated look at race and sexuality, “Slave Play” is a show that’s in step with the times, and even people who didn’t love it acknowledge that the conversations it provokes are important ones.
3. “A Soldier’s Play” scores Best Revival of a Play.
There’s a lot of admiration for Jamie Lloyd’s starry staging of “Betrayal,” but consensus in this category has coalesced around Kenny Leon’s fleet, engaging production of “A Soldier’s Play.” Leon looks likely to score a win for director of a play.
4. Adrienne Warren has it in the bag.
All the nominees in the lead actress in a musical category gave admirable performances, but all of Broadway has wanted to hand Warren a trophy since she took her first bow for her powerhouse performance in the title role of “Tina.” On Sunday she’ll pick up her trophy at last.
5. So does Aaron Tveit.
Look, it’s technically possible for “Moulin Rouge!” star Tveit, the sole nominee for lead actor in a musical, to lose this award. But based on the voters surveyed, he has nothing to worry about. And, honestly, if he does somehow fall short, that will be the night’s biggest upset.
6. Danny Burstein will take featured actor in a musical.
Burstein is a favorite on Broadway, both as an actor and as a human being, and at this point it’s absurd he’s never won a Tony. His nomination for his performance as impresario Harold Zidler in “Moulin Rouge!” is his seventh chance to take home an award, and he’d be a sentimental favorite to win even before you factor in the strength and grace he’s shown during a pandemic that hit him and his family particularly hard.
7. Someone from “Jagged Little Pill” will win featured actress in a musical. Um, probably.
There are three performers from “Jagged Little Pill” in the featured musical actress category, and signs point to one of them winning. Which one is hard to call, although Celia Rose Gooding gets mentioned slightly more often than her castmates. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the “Jagged” trio splits the vote, and the award goes to Myra Lucretia Taylor of “Tina” or Robyn Hurder of “Moulin Rouge!”
8. Lead actor in a play is anyone’s guess, but there’s a favorite for lead actress.
Of all the major categories, lead actor in a play is the one for which voters most often forgot their vote. The horserace, if we can make one out amid all the uncertainty, seems to be between Blair Underwood for “A Soldier’s Play” and Tom Hiddleston for “Betrayal.” Meanwhile, lead actress in a play is packed with much-admired talents like Laura Linney (“My Name Is Lucy Barton”), Audra McDonald (“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”) and Mary-Louise Parker (“The Sound Inside”). The win, though, looks poised to go to Joaquina Kalukango, for her performance in a challenging role as the emotional anchor of “Slave Play.”
9. This looks like the year for David Alan Grier and Lois Smith.
In the categories for featured performers in a play, two names get mentioned most often: David Alan Grier for his turn in “A Soldier’s Play” and Lois Smith for “The Inheritance.” Both are much admired, and neither has a trophy yet. That seems likely to change on Sunday.
10. The winners list will be more than just a winners list.
Many observers will want to read the results of the Tony Awards as a referendum on the industry’s commitment to the equity and diversity it’s vowed to embrace. It’ll be hard not to view the roster of winners as tea leaves predicting how much the industry can and will change. No one wants the Tonys to have a “Green Book” year.
11. There will be missteps.
Right now it’s near-impossible to strike the right tonal balance in an awards show, and that’ll be doubly true for a ceremony that is, in its second half, very openly about commerce and encouraging audiences to return to Broadway as much as it’s about artistic excellence. So the question is not whether there will be slips or missteps that will irk observers during the evening, but how many. Who will be rubbed the wrong way, and how severely? We’ll find out Monday morning.