With the 76th annual Tony Awards imminent, high-profile nominees like Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”), Sean Hayes (“Goodnight, Oscar”), Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”), Ben Platt (“Parade”) and many more are readying for Broadway’s biggest night — and waiting to see if they’ll take home the gold.
As starry as New York theater was this season, star power on the boards does not always translate to Tonys gold. Take our presumed will-win and should-win pick for Best Musical, for instance. “Kimberly Akimbo” has no Hollywood talent tied to its production, and it received the fewest Tony Award nominations of the five new shows competing for Best Musical. But you should expect those eight nominations to yield the most wins.
The only thing standing in the way of the show’s overwhelming success at the upcoming Tony Awards are those out-of-town presenters. They are the awards’ largest voting block, 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 likely be evenly split between “& Juliet,” “New York, New York,” “Shucked” and “Some Like It Hot,” since there is no consensus favorite among them. In other words, we won’t have a situation where a schlock show like “Spamalot” or “Thoroughly Modern Millie” wins the Tony for Best Musical.
“Kimberly Akimbo” is not only eyeing a win for Best Musical. Many of the show’s nominees also look to take home the Tony, and they include Victoria Clark (Best Actress in a Musical), Bonnie Mulligan (Best Featured Actress in a Musical), Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire (Best Score) and Lindsay-Abaire (Best Book). The musical’s Jessica Stone has a good shot at winning Best Director of a Musical, but there’s strong competition from Michael Arden, who directed “Parade.” The Tonys have a history of giving this award to the director of a revival, and in the case of “Parade,” Arden’s work is also likely to net a win for Best Musical Revival.
Justin Cooley for “Kimberly Akimbo” or Kevin Del Aguila from “Some Like It Hot” deserve 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, cannot compete with the Flonase blast of noise that is “Independently Owned” as sung by Alex Newell in “Shucked.” Newell takes home this Tony.
Best Actor in a Musical is a tight contest between J. Harrison Ghee in “Some Like It Hot” and Ben Platt in “Parade.” Since Platt already has a Tony, for “Dear Evan Hansen,” the voters may want to help create a new star, and Ghee’s gender-fluid performance is very much of the moment.
“Leopoldstadt” and Patrick Marber’s direction of Tom Stoppard’s Holocaust drama have a lock on the Tonys 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 more theatergoers saw Stephen McKinley Henderson’s exquisitely drawn portrayal of an embittered ex-cop in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Henderson delivered the year’s most memorable performance. Instead, the Tony for Best Actor will probably go to Sean Hayes for “Goodnight, Oscar.” He not only gives a very showy performance, he also plays the piano. Hayes has another thing going for him, too: The New York Times’s review of the actor and the play were decidedly thumbs-down, and each year, the Tonys like to throw its own raspberries at the Old Gray Lady, and the Best Actor category is its best chance in 2023. Hayes wins. Tellingly, a recent Times opinion piece on who “will and should” win the Tony made no mention Hayes.
This year’s flip-a-coin category is Best Featured Actor in a Play, the contest a three-way race between the movie star Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”) and two actors whose shows are stilling running: Arian Moayed (“A Doll’s House”) and Brandon Uranowitz (“Leopoldstadt”). (Not that it makes any difference, but I’m voting for David Zayas in “Cost of Living,” even though his sensitive portrayal of a caregiver is a lead role.)
Another nail-biter is who will be proclaimed Best Featured Actress in a Play. It should 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. More likely, Miriam Silverman (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”) will win. Not only is her show still on the boards, the role of the arch-conservative sister has a history of being considered Tony-worthy: Frances Sternhagen was nominated for her turn in the 1972 revival despite the production closing on its opening night, and Alice Ghostley won the Tony in 1965 for her turn in the original production of Lorraine Hansberry’s inchoate drama about clueless white people.
There’s much less suspense regarding Best Actress in a Play. Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”) appeared to have a lock on this award. And then along came Jodie Comer (“Prima Facie”) with her solo tour-de-force performance as a barrister who is raped. Comer wins.
While “Topdog/Underdog” deserves to win for Best Revival of a Play, that Tony is more likely to go to “A Doll’s House,” which continues to perform.
See it all play out on June 11 when the 76th annual Tony Awards take place at the United Palace in New York City. They will air live on CBS at 8 p.m.–11 p.m. Eastern and also stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.