TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
EntertainmentTheater

There's no such thing as a sure thing in this year's Tony race

Amber Gray and Patrick Page star in "Hadestown,"

Amber Gray and Patrick Page star in "Hadestown," which is up for best musical at the Tony Awards. Credit: Matthew Murphy

WHAT The 73rd annual Tony Awards

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS/2

INFO James Corden hosts live from Radio City Music Hall.

When the top-grossing American play in Broadway history doesn’t score a best play nomination, it’s clear that almost anything could happen when the 73 annual Tony Awards are presented on Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

True, "To Kill a Mockingbird," Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of the Harper Lee classic, goes into the awards ceremony with nine nominations, including a best acting nod for Jeff Daniels, and another for director Bartlett Sher. But apparently nominators felt the show, which has been a sellout since opening in December, didn’t have the originality of more unique works, like the probable winner, Jez Butterworth's sweeping family saga "The Ferryman," set in the agonizing period known as The Troubles. "What the Constitution Means to Me," written by Heidi Schreck, who also stars in what is basically a monologue about the revered document, has it supporters, but a win would be a surprise. 

The buzz about this year’s Tony ceremony, and it’s been especially vigorous in the past couple of weeks, suggests no single show will sweep the awards, as "The Band's Visit" did last year with 10. Upsets are possible in almost every category, certainly when it comes to best musical. "Hadestown," Anaïs Mitchell’s modern interpretation of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth, with some of the loveliest music around, topped the nominations with 14 and has the lead on a couple of prediction sites. But "Tootsie," the entertaining stage version of the 1982 film, is coming on strong, and the very vocal devotees of "The Prom," a feel-good story about a lesbian who wants nothing more than to take her girlfriend to the dance, are hoping for an upset.

It's an especially slim year for musical revivals, with only two eligible. The pared down "Oklahoma!," with Daniel Fish's vision of the darker side of territorial life, seems likely to beat out the more traditional "Kiss Me, Kate!" though fans of old-time, traditional shows might disagree. More competitive is the best play revival, with five serious contenders: "All My Sons" and "Burn This" may have a slight edge in that they're still running, with Tony voters perhaps forgetting about the strong productions that have already closed like "The Boys in the Band," "Torch Song" and "The Waverly Gallery." 

As always, the acting categories could go any number of ways. Stephanie J. Block appears to be in the lead for best actress in a musical. Her performance as the oldest of the three Chers was loved by pretty much everyone. But "Kate's" Kelli O'Hara is a Broadway darling, so you can't count her out. And Santino Fontana will probably get best actor in a musical for his widely praised take on the actor who dresses up as a woman to get a part.

Bryan Cranston of "Network" (another production surprisingly left off the best play list) and Daniels of "Mockingbird" will duke it out for best actor in a play, but the competition is tough in this category. Jeremy Pope isn't likely to get it for "Choir Boy," but he'll have a big night anyway, with two nominations (he's also up for best featured actor for "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations"). Many would love to see Elaine May win best actress in a play for her portrayal of a woman falling into dementia in "The Waverly Gallery," but six fine actresses are nominated and, once again, anything could happen. Voters may feel it's fair to give Laurie Metcalf of "Hillary and Clinton" a year off (she's won the past two years). And Schreck is least likely to be honored for "Constitution" (she's playing herself, after all), but as noted there's a chance she might pull off a win for best play.

Other interesting categories to watch during the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall include best costume, where it will be hard to beat Bob Mackie and his extravagant, over-the-top numbers for "The Cher Show." It probably won't matter that costume designer William Ivey Long goes against himself, with nominations for "Beetlejuice" and "Tootsie." People who can honestly say it's a thrill to be nominated include Camille A. Brown, who was noticed for her choreography of the play "Choir Boy," and Adam Guettel, who earned a best original score nod for "Mockingbird." Of course, in that category, we're rooting for our Long Island entry, Garden City's Joe Iconis, who got the only nomination for the internet sensation "Be More Chill." That entire production has defied more odds than you can count, so we'll keep the positive vibes going. 

Here's who theater critic Barbara Schuler thinks should win, and who she predicts will win, at Sunday's Tonys:

Best Musical

"Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations"

"Beetlejuice"

"Hadestown"

"The Prom"

"Tootsie"

SHOULD WIN The glorious music and the enduring love story should give "Hadestown" the edge.

WILL WIN "Hadestown"

--

Best Play

"Choir Boy"

"The Ferryman"

"Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus"

"Ink"

"What the Constitution Means to Me"

SHOULD WIN "Constitution," for its powerful message on the document that rules our land.

WILL WIN The sheer drama of "The Ferryman" will probably take it.

--

Best Revival, Musical

“Kiss Me, Kate”

“Oklahoma!”

SHOULD WIN Giving new life to the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic will win it for "Oklahoma!"

WILL WIN "Oklahoma!"

--

Best Revival, Play

“All My Sons”

“The Boys in the Band”

“Burn This”

“Torch Song”

“The Waverly Gallery”

SHOULD WIN All strong plays, but Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" remains a gripping piece of theater that's still frightening in its relevance.

WILL WIN "The Waverly Gallery" for it's emotional wallop.

--

Actor, Play

Bryan Cranston, “Network”

Paddy Considine, “The Ferryman”

Jeff Daniels, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Adam Driver, “Burn This”

Jeremy Pope, “Choir Boy”

SHOULD WIN Daniels is wonderful as Atticus Finch, but I can't get Cranston out of my head as that "mad as hell" anchorman.

WILL WIN Toss up, but I'm sticking with Cranston.

--

Actress, Play

Annette Bening, “All My Sons”

Laura Donnelly, “The Ferryman”

Elaine May, “The Waverly Gallery”

Janet McTeer, “Bernhardt/Hamlet”

Laurie Metcalf, “Hillary and Clinton”

Heidi Schreck, “What the Constitution Means to Me”

SHOULD WIN Even if you don't consider the nostalgia vote, May deserves this for her gripping portrayal of a woman slipping into dementia.

WILL WIN May

--

Actor, Musical

Brooks Ashmanskas, “The Prom”

Derrick Baskin, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”

Alex Brightman, “Beetlejuice”

Damon Daunno, “Oklahoma!”

Santino Fontana, “Tootsie”

SHOULD WIN Fontana carries the show. He should get it just for the costume changes. Dustin who?

WILL WIN Fontana

--

Actress, Musical

Stephanie J. Block, “The Cher Show”

Caitlin Kinnunen, “The Prom”

Beth Leavel, “The Prom”

Eva Noblezada, “Hadestown”

Kelli O’Hara, “Kiss Me, Kate”

SHOULD WIN Not a bad word was written about Block's performance, with the real Cher praising her every chance she got.

WILL WIN Block

--

Featured Actor, Musical

André De Shields, “Hadestown”

Andy Grotelueschen, “Tootsie”

Patrick Page, “Hadestown”

Jeremy Pope, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”

Ephraim Sykes, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”

SHOULD WIN It's tough when actors from the same production go up against each other, but let's give this one to De Shields, who is hypnotic in "Hadestown."

WILL WIN The deep-voiced Page might steal it from his colleague.

--

Featured Actress, Musical

Lilli Cooper, “Tootsie”

Amber Gray, “Hadestown”

Sarah Stiles, “Tootsie”

Ali Stroker, “Oklahoma!”

Mary Testa, “Oklahoma!”

SHOULD WIN Can we call it a five-way tie? All fabulous performances, but since I must, I'll say yes to Stroker.

WILL WIN Maybe Gray, maybe Testa? I'm sticking with Stroker.

--

Featured Actor, Play

Bertie Carvel, “Ink”

Robin de Jesús, “The Boys in the Band”

Gideon Glick, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Brandon Uranowitz, “Burn This”

Benjamin Walker, “All My Sons”

SHOULD WIN I voted for Uranowitz, whose sophisticated humor gave "Burn This" a great boost.

WILL WIN The "Mockingbird" sympathy vote might swing it for Glick.

--

Featured Actress, Play

Fionnula Flanagan, “The Ferryman”

Celia Keenan-Bolger, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Kristine Nielsen, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus”

Julie White, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus”

Ruth Wilson, “King Lear”

SHOULD WIN This should go to Wilson, who was mesmerizing in each of the two roles she played in "Lear."

WILL WIN Again, "Mockingbird" fans could give it to Keenan-Bolger, but I won't be happy.

--

DIRECTOR, Play

Rupert Goold, “Ink”

Sam Mendes, “The Ferryman”

Bartlett Sher, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Ivo van Hove, “Network”

George C. Wolfe, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus”

SHOULD WIN Hard to pick a winner in this group of theatrical giants, but I'm going with Mendes for the depth he gave "Ferryman."

WILL WIN Mendes

--

Director, Musical

Rachel Chavkin, “Hadestown”

Scott Ellis, “Tootsie”

Daniel Fish, “Oklahoma!”

Des McAnuff, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”

Casey Nicholaw, “The Prom”

SHOULD WIN Chavkin, for her beautiful stage pictures of the underworld.

WILL WIN Chavkin

WHAT The 73rd annual Tony Awards

WHEN WHERE 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS/2

INFO James Corden hosts at Radio City Music Hall

More Entertainment