2018 Tony Award Predictions: A Feeble Effort at Best

2018 Tony Award Predictions: A Feeble Effort at Best

Every year, I try to predict the Tony Award winners, and I do a pretty good job getting most of them right. This year, however, may very well be my downfall. I suspect that the Tony Awards are going to be spilt over several shows, and that there are not many locks in most of the categories. This season has been underwhelming for me in some ways, with only a few standouts in my mind. I am most likely in the minority on this feeling, as it has been a blockbuster year in ticket sales and everyone else seems to be very excited about the Tonys.  I think that is great (anytime theatre is well-attended and celebrated, that is great), so I am not going to try to rain on everyone else’s parade. Let us get on to business. 

Here we go: 

Best Book of a Musical
The Band's Visit — Itamar Moses
Frozen — Jennifer Lee
Mean Girls — Tina Fey
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical — Kyle Jarrow

In this category, I am predicting that Itamar Moses’s book for The Band’s Visit is the most likely winner for Best Book of a Musical. It tells an important story and is thematically the most relevant theatrical synthesis of the world we currently live in. It speaks to our need to come together, celebrate our differences, and still view each other, first, as human beings. It’s a powerful story. 

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Angels in America — Music: Adrian Sutton
The Band's Visit — Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek
Frozen — Music & Lyrics: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Mean Girls — Music: Jeff Richmond, Lyrics: Nell Benjamin
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical — Music & Lyrics: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T's, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Domani & Lil'C

David Yazbek has long deserved a Tony Award for his compelling and vibrant scores. From The Full Monty to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, his scores are richly textured, witty, and brim with character development. For The Band’s Visit, he has surpassed himself, painting with new sounds and subtleties that reveal a composer who has matured and aged well with time. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Tom Hollander, Travesties
Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Mark Rylance, Farinelli and The King
Denzel Washington, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh

Angels in America is such a wonderfully written play, if you find an actor who can take Tony Kushner’s poetry and make a meal out of the smorgasbord of opportunities within, that actor will win the Tony Award. Andrew Garfield is dazzling audiences in this epic, two-part play, mining his character for all it is worth.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Glenda Jackson, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women
Condola Rashad, Saint Joan
Lauren Ridloff, Children of a Lesser God
Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower

Is there anyone who does not see this award going to Glenda Jackson? She has received raves from just about everyone, she is an actress with a long history of celebrated performances, and she brings such gravitas to Albee’s magnificent play. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Harry Hadden-Paton, My Fair Lady
Joshua Henry, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Tony Shalhoub, The Band's Visit
Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

I fully expect this award go to Ethan Slater. He took a goofy cartoon character, brought it life onstage, and ended up giving the feel-good performance of the season. It would seem that the award would go to any one of the other three actors for playing far more complex roles, but I think they will cancel each other out. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady
Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island
LaChanze, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Katrina Lenk, The Band's Visit
Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls
Jessie Mueller, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel

Perhaps the hardest category to predict this awards season, simply because the category is just overflowing with amazing talent, my money is on Lauren Ambrose to win for My Fair Lady. She took a character that has been played, traditionally, in a certain mold and shattered that mold to create an Eliza Doolittle for the 21stCentury. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Michael Cera, Lobby Hero
Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero
Nathan Lane, Angels in America
David Morse, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh

I’m pretty sure that Nathan Lane will take home his next Tony for the startling work he is doing in Angels in America. Roy Cohn is, perhaps, the biggest asshole in drama history (after Richard III) and Lane still manages to elicit empathy for this diabolical monster dying from AIDS. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Susan Brown, Angels in America
Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Deborah Findlay, The Children
Denise Gough, Angels in America
Laurie Metcalf, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women

Laurie Metcalf could sure use some good news right now, and I think she will get some this Sunday when she wins for her work in Three Tall Women. She may be in a supporting category, but this is a lead role and she has received the reviews that support her win as Featured Actress. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady
Alexander Gemignani, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Grey Henson, Mean Girls
Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Ari'el Stachel, The Band's Visit

Another category with just too much talent to choose from, I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these names come out of the envelope. In the end, I think it is a toss-up between Lee and Stachel, both giving very different types of performances. I think Lee has a slight edge with the popularity of his comedic brilliance in SpongeBob.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Ariana DeBose, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Renée Fleming, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Lindsay Mendez, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Ashley Park, Mean Girls 
Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady

Lindsay Mendez would be my guess for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, and why not? She’s paid her dues on Broadway several times over, she is playing a role that appears to be tailor-made for her talents, and she is fantastic. 

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Miriam Buether, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women
Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and The King
Christine Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Santo Loquasto, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh
Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce, Angels in America

Harry Potter and the Cursed Childseems to be the one to beat in this category. It has a complex design, multiple locations, all seamlessly handled. It also just looks gorgeous. 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Dane Laffrey, Once On This Island
Scott Pask, The Band's Visit
Scott Pask, Finn Ross & Adam Young, Mean Girls
Michael Yeargan, My Fair Lady
David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

A hard choice here: My Fair Lady is exquisite, evocative, and brilliantly uses the cavernous space of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and manages to make it feel intimate. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical is such delicious, wacky fun, with creative ways of making the audience feel like they are actually underwater. I give the edge to Zinn’s underwater world. 

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and The King
Nicky Gillibrand, Angels in America
Katrina Lindsay, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Ann Roth, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women
Ann Roth, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, once again, is a magical world and that ups the stakes on its costume needs. In many ways, its epic nature makes it like a musical, and it offers the designer an opportunity to be clever and creative in ways that more traditional plays do not. Expect Katrina Lindsay to be honored.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls
Clint Ramos, Once On This Island
Ann Roth, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady

Though I’d sure love to see the vibrant costumes of Once on this Islandwin this category, there is something very important about the structure of My Fair Ladythat makes Catherine Zuber most likely to win. My Fair Ladyis as much about the costumes as it is about the characters. Eliza Doolittle’s transition from flower girl to a refined lady relies on the visual transition of her wardrobe, the juxtaposition of her Cockney world against the world she strives to join. Have you ever seen a production of My Fair Lady with bad costumes? If you have, then you know what I am talking about. Their evolution is essential to the success of the piece. Zuber’s costumes also happen to be sublime perfection, so there is that. 

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Neil Austin, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Paule Constable, Angels in America
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh
Paul Russell, Farinelli and The King
Ben Stanton, Junk

I’m a terrible writer on lighting design, as are many theatre writers. The word "atmospheric" is often used as a go-to in order to say something about lighting, though never really speaking in specifics. Maybe lighting is too intangible for us to wrap our brains around. What I do know is that, when lighting is breathtaking, we know it. Paul Constable’s work on Angels in America is just that: breathtaking. 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Once On This Island
Donald Holder, My Fair Lady
Brian MacDevitt, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Tyler Micoleau, The Band's Visit

Part of what really makes Bikini Bottom feel like it is fathoms below is the lighting design of Kevin Adams. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical owes much to his talent. 

Best Sound Design of a Play
Adam Cork, Travesties
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Angels in America
Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Tom Gibbons, 1984
Dan Moses Schreier, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh

And, as if Lighting Design wasn’t hard enough for me to discuss, Sound Design is even more of a mystery. I usually leave the theatre saying “I wish they’d turn the damn microphones down” but have little to say in terms of its creativity or nuance. When it is good, you know it, because you hear everything clearly, sound effects are crisp and clear, and there is a balance to all the voices, sounds, and music that emanates from the stage and the orchestra pit. I do think, however, that there is a great deal to juggle in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Twoand that puts Gareth Fry in the lead. 

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Kai Harada, The Band's Visit
Peter Hylenski, Once On This Island
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel
Brian Ronan, Mean Girls
Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

Keeping in mind what I stated under “Best Sound Design of a Play” about my lack of knowledge in this category (I’m making a resolution to rectify that by next year), I think this one will go to Peter Hylenski for Once on This Island. Designing sound in the round (see what I did there) must be extra challenging, and his work on the show is exemplary in its balance. 

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliott, Angels in America
Joe Mantello, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women
Patrick Marber, Travesties
John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
George C. Wolfe, Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh

Direction I do know quite a bit about, having made that an avenue of study and employment throughout my varied career in theatre. That being said, I am stuck on who should win in this category because everyone is so damn good. John Tiffany could win for the complex staging of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but I’m more apt to predict Marianne Elliott for her seamless and expressive staging of Angels in America

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Once On This Island
David Cromer, The Band's Visit
Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls
Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady

Oh, how I really hope this award goes to Michael Arden for his enchanting staging of the Once on This Island revival. I really want it to happen, and I’m going to predict it to send it good luck from the Gods. Once again, though, I do believe that there is an excellent case to be made for (almost) every person on this list. 

Best Choreography
Christopher Gattelli, My Fair Lady
Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Steven Hoggett, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls
Justin Peck, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel

Justin Peck will win for Carousel. This production of Carousel’s greatest asset is how Peck makes it dance with beauty and relentless conviction. No other show in the list of nominees even comes close to touching Peck’s brilliance. 

Best Orchestrations
John Clancy, Mean Girls
Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Annmarie Milazzo & Michael Starobin, Once On This Island
Jamshied Sharifi, The Band's Visit
Jonathan Tunick, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel

Jamshied Sharifi  found a way to make the sounds of a variety of musical styles come through and then made them play together, on the same playground, in juxtaposition and in in tandem. His work is easily the most-original of the nominees. 

Best Play

The Children - Author: Lucy Kirkwood; Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, The Royal Court Theatre, Vicky Featherstone, Lucy Davies

Farinelli and The King - Author: Claire van Kampen; Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Shakespeare's Globe, Paula Marie Black, Tom Smedes, Peter Stern, Jane Bergère, Jane Dubin/Rachel Weinstein, 1001 Nights Productions, Elizabeth Cuthrell & Steven Tuttleman, Rupert Gavin, Robyn L. Paley, SGC USA, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Cindy & Jay Gutterman/Marc David Levine, Marguerite Hoffman/Van Kaplan, Shakespeare Road

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two - Author: Jack Thorne; Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender, Harry Potter Theatrical Productions

Junk - Author: Ayad Akhtar; Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Adam Siegel, Hattie K. Jutagir, The Araca Group

Latin History for Morons - Author: John Leguizamo; Producers: Nelle Nugent, Kenneth Teaton, Denoff Salmira Amigos - Jeremy Handelman/Ben DeJesus, Audible, Peter Fine, Jon B. Platt, Jamie deRoy, Melissa and Dan Berger, Jose Mendez/Katie Graziano, Morwin Schmookler, Avex International Inc., Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Tony Taccone, Michael Leibert, Susan Medak, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. It’s kind of a big deal. It was a big deal in London before it came here. People love it. It’s a play on the scale of a musical. It’s play full of fantasy, special effects, and most-importantly, a compelling plot. 

Best Musical

The Band's Visit - Producers: Orin Wolf, StylesFour Productions, Evamere Entertainment, Atlantic Theater Company, David F. Schwartz, Barbara Broccoli, Frederick Zollo, Grove∙REG, Lassen Blume Baldwin, Thomas Steven Perakos, Marc Platt, The Shubert Organization, The Baruch/Routh/Frankel/Viertel Group, Robert Cole, deRoy-Carr-Klausner, Federman- Moellenberg, FilmNation Entertainment, Roy Furman, FVSL Theatricals, Hendel-Karmazin, HoriPro Inc., IPN, Jam Theatricals, The John Gore Organization, Koenigsberg-Krauss, David Mirvish, James L. Nederlander, Al Nocciolino, Once Upon a Time Productions, Susan Rose, Paul Shiverick, Allan Williams

Frozen - Producers: Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher

Mean Girls - Producers: Lorne Michaels, Stuart Thompson, Sonia Friedman, Paramount Pictures, Marisa Sechrest, Ars Nova Entertainment, Berlind Productions, Steve Burke, Scott M. Delman, Roy Furman, Robert Greenblatt, Ruth Hendel, Jam Theatricals, The John Gore Organization, The Lowy Salpeter Company, James L. Nederlander, Christine Schwarzman, Universal Theatrical Group, David Turner

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical - Producers: Nickelodeon, The Araca Group, Sony Music Masterworks, Kelp on the Road

For the same reasons that I mentioned in the Best Book and Best Score category, I pick The Band’s Visit for the Best Musical winner as well. It is such an important piece of musical theatre that stretches the art form and challenges audiences. Tony Voters occasionally get this right and they will do so this season. 

Best Revival of a Play

Angels in America - Producers: Tim Levy for NT America, Jordan Roth, Rufus Norris & Lisa Burger for the National Theatre, Elliott & Harper Productions, Kash Bennett for NT Productions, Aged in Wood, The Baruch-Viertel-Routh-Frankel Group, Jane Bergère, Adam Blanshay Productions, Catwenjam Productions, Jean Doumanian, Gilad-Rogowsky, Gold-Ross Productions, The John Gore Organization, Grove Entertainment, Harris Rubin Productions, Hornos-Moellenberg, Brian & Dayna Lee, Benjamin Lowy, Stephanie P. McClelland, David Mirvish, Mark Pigott, Jon B. Platt, E. Price-LD Ent., Daryl Roth, Catherine Schreiber, Barbara Whitman, Jujamcyn Theaters, The Nederlander Organization, The Shubert Organization

Edward Albee's Three Tall Women - Producers: Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, Eli Bush, The John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, Candy Spelling, Len Blavatnik, Rosalind Productions, Inc., Eric Falkenstein, Peter May, Patty Baker, Diana DiMenna, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Benjamin Lowy & Adrian Salpeter, Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson

Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh - Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Universal Theatrical Group, Eric Falkenstein, Dan Frishwasser, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, Peter May, Stephanie P. McClelland, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey, Patty Baker, Diana DiMenna, David Mirvish, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Benjamin Lowy & Adrian Salpeter, Jason Blum, Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson

Lobby Hero - Producers: 2ndStage, Carole Rothman, Casey Reitz, Christopher Burney

Travesties - Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow, Chocolate Factory Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions, David Babani

Another exciting category, each one a top-notch representation of how Broadway can make something old, new again. Angels in America will undoubtedly win, but in any other season, the others would have a really good shot at taking home the prize. 

Best Revival of a Musical

My Fair Lady - Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Adam Siegel, Hattie K. Jutagir, Nederlander Presentations, Inc.

Once On This Island - Producers: Ken Davenport, Hunter Arnold, Carl Daikeler, Roy Putrino, Broadway Strategic Return Fund, Sandi Moran, Caiola Productions, H. Richard Hopper, Diego Kolankowsky, Brian Cromwell Smith, Ron Kastner, Rob Kolson, Judith Manocherian/Kevin Lyle, Jay Alix/Una Jackman/Jeff Wise, Witzend Productions/Jeff Grove/Wishnie-Strasberg, Mark Ferris/Michelle Riley/Marie Stevenson, Silva Theatrical Group/Jesse McKendry/Dr. Mojgan Fajiram, Conor Bagley/Brendan C. Tetro/Invisible Wall Productions, Silverwalport Productions/Tyler Mount/Ushkowitzlatimer Productions, The Harbert Family/Reilly Hickey, Keith Cromwell/Red Mountain Theatre Company, 42nd.Club/The Yonnone Family/Island Productions

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel - Producers: Roy Furman, Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, Edward Walson, Universal Theatrical Group, Benjamin Lowy, Eli Bush, James L. Nederlander, Candy Spelling, John Gore Organization, Peter May, Ronnie Lee, Sid & Ruth Lapidus, Stephanie P. McClelland, Sandy Robertson, Caiola Productions, Len Blavatnik, Dominion Ventures, SHN Theatres, The Araca Group, Patty Baker, Al Nocciolino, Darlene Marcos Shiley, Julie Boardman & Marc David Levine, Jennifer Fischer & Olympus Theatricals, Candia Fisher & Allen L. Stevens, Jon Jashni & Matthew Baer, Thomas S. Perakos & Jim Fantaci, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Bruce Robert Harris & Jack W. Batman, John Thomas, Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson

This one is to be battled out between Once on This Island and My Fair Lady. Though I feel that the former is the more deserving of the two, I suspect that Bartlett Sher’s empowering reimagining of the latter will be the victor in what is essentially a Sophie’s Choice situation. 

I also predict that Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber will be given Lifetime Achievement Awards. I wager that they are both a lock for this honor. Fingers crossed. 

And those are my predictions, folks. I tell you, with all honesty, I expect to get as many wrong as I get right. You can all throw tomatoes at me on Monday.   

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