If last year’s Tony Awards was an all-out “Hamilton” love fest and coronation, this year promises a lot more unpredictability.
Adding to the question marks over which shows, actors and creative professionals will emerge victorious on Sunday night is what kind of broadcast viewers might get — particularly considering Broadway’s darling Bette Midler is rumored not to perform.
The biggest hit on Broadway this year is the splashy revival of “Hello, Dolly!” (a lock for Best Revival of a Musical) starring Midler (a lock for Best Actress in a Musical). But because of an apparent disagreement between the producers of “Hello, Dolly!” and the Tony Awards over how to present a production number led by Midler, the Divine Miss M (as of this time) is absent from the ceremony’s performance list.
Considering that the Tonys are supposed to bring the best of Broadway to America, the idea that Midler will not perform is stupefying. Imagine what it would have been like last year if last year's ceremony lacked a performance by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of “Hamilton.” Hopefully, the situation can be resolved “before the parade passes by.”
The broadcast will also suffer in light of the large number of worthy new musicals that received few or no nominations (meaning little or no screen time) including “Bandstand,” “Anastasia,” “A Bronx Tale” and “War Paint,” plus the revivals of “Sunset Boulevard,” “Cats” and “Sunday in the Park with George” (which opted out of consideration for nominations for financial reasons).
“Dear Evan Hansen,” the smart and deeply felt new musical about a high school loner who gets mixed up in an unpredictable chain of events, has the best shot of winning best musical. But the sentimental 9/11-themed musical “Come From Away,” or even the immersive electro-pop opera “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” (which received the most nominations of any show), could conceivably pull an upset if top awards aren't won.
Best play is also up in the air. Lynn Nottage’s working-class drama “Sweat” won the Pulitzer two months ago, but it has since lost momentum, and the race is now between J.T. Rogers’ international relations drama “Oslo” and Lucas Hnath’s frisky Ibsen sequel “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”
The most interesting race is between Ben Platt (the young star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” whose vulnerable and shaded performance has won universal acclaim) and Andy Karl (who sustained a serious knee injury during the final previews of “Groundhog Day” but returned to the show just in time for opening night). Karl deserves a lot of credit for his heroic physical effort, but Platt is giving the better performance and he deserves the award.
Some safe bets include Kevin Kline (“Present Laughter”) for best actor in a play, Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”) for best actress in a play, and “Dear Evan Hansen” for best original score and best book of a musical.
Kevin Spacey (who last appeared on Broadway a decade ago) is an unlikely choice for a Tony Awards host. During the past decade, the hosts have been performers with musical comedy chops who would sing and dance and be merry (i.e. Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman, James Corden, Sean Hayes). Spacey will surely drop the grim Frank Underwood persona for the night, but I wouldn’t expect to see him doing selections from “The Lion King” and “Les Miz.”
The Tony Awards air on CBS on Sunday night at 8 p.m. For more info visit tonyawards.com.
Complete set of predictions:
Best musical: “Dear Evan Hansen”
Best play: “Oslo”
Best revival of a play: “Jitney”
Best revival of a musical: “Hello, Dolly!”
Best book of a musical: Steven Levenson (“Dear Evan Hansen”)
Best original score: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen”)
Best actor in a play: Kevin Kline (“Present Laughter”)
Best actress in a play: Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”)
Best actor in a musical: Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen”)
Best actress in a musical: Bette Midler (“Hello, Dolly!”)
Best featured actor in a play: Danny DeVito (“The Price”)
Best featured actress in a play: Cynthia Nixon (“The Little Foxes”)
Best featured actor in a musical: Gavin Creel (“Hello, Dolly!”)
Best featured actress in a musical: Rachel Bay Jones (“Dear Evan Hansen”)
Best scenic design of a play: David Gallo (“Jitney”)
Best scenic design of a musical: Mimi Lien (“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”)
Best costume design of a play: Jane Greenwood (“The Little Foxes”)
Best costume design of a musical: Santo Loquasto (“Hello, Dolly!”)
Best lighting design of a play: Christopher Akerlind (“Indecent”)
Best lighting design of a musical: Bradley King (“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”)
Best direction of a play: Bartlett Sher (“Oslo”)
Best direction of a musical: Michael Greif (“Dear Evan Hansen”)
Best choreography: Sam Pinkleton (“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”)
Best orchestrations: Larry Hochman (“Hello, Dolly!”)