The 75th Annual Tony Awards, honoring the historic 2021-22 season (during which Broadway reemerged following an 18-month shutdown and endured ongoing challenges due to the pandemic), will air on Sunday night on CBS and Paramount+. Below are thoughts and predictions on some of the major awards.
Best Musical: The biggest prize of the night is a toss-up. “A Strange Loop” has deservedly won much acclaim, and its win would serve as a testament to the incredible outpouring of work by Black writers on Broadway this season. However, it may be too raw, explicit, confrontational, and out of the mainstream to appeal to many voters, including those representing out-of-town theaters. In which case, the award could swing to the hit pop concert-style musical “Six” or even the Michael Jackson bio-jukebox musical “MJ.” Or, under these circumstances, could “Girl from the North Country,” the Depression drama with Bob Dylan songs, pull off an upset?
Best Play: Barring a surprise win by the black comedy “Hangmen” or the town hall satire “The Minutes,” the award will probably go to “The Lehman Trilogy,” a three-and-a-half-hour, three-actor, brilliant narrative history of the Lehman Brothers financial institution, even though its limited run ended months ago.
Best Revival of a Musical: “Company” is a shoe-in, especially considering how Stephen Sondheim just passed away and “The Music Man,” in spite of its fabulous weekly grosses, did not live up to expectations.
Best Revival of a Play: This category is an embarrassment of riches, making it especially hard to predict. There is a push to give it to Alice Childress’s explosive backstage drama “Trouble in Mind,” which received its Broadway debut 65 years later than planned. But then there are the excellent productions of “Take Me Out,” “For Colored Girls…,” and “How I Learned to Drive.” Any shot of “American Buffalo” winning probably ended when David Mamet claimed in a recent television interview that “teachers are inclined, particularly men, because men are predators, to pedophilia.”
Best Actor in a Play: All three actors from “The Lehman Trilogy” (Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, Adrian Lester) were nominated, which could prevent any of them from winning a plurality of votes. I could see it going to Sam Rockwell for “American Buffalo.”
Best Actress in a Play: Deirdre O’Connell deserves the award for “Dana H.,” in which she meticulously lip-synched to audio recordings of a woman describing her real-life account of being held hostage for five months. However, it could also go to Mary-Louise Parker, who returned to the role she originated almost 25 years ago in “How I Learned to Drive,” even though Parker won a Tony just last year.
Best Actor in a Musical: Everybody loves Hugh Jackman and Billy Crystal, but this is probably a race between Jaquel Spivey (“A Strange Loop”) and Myles Frost (“MJ”), both young Black actors who made stunning debuts. Or, could Rob McClure win a sympathy vote for sticking with “Mrs. Doubtfire” through its multiple openings and closings and in recognition of his earlier work?
Best Actress in a Musical: Another toss-up. Did a sufficient number of voters see “Caroline, or Change” to allow Sharon D. Clarke to win? Might Mare Winningham win for her haunting performance in “Girl from the North Country”? Then again, Sutton Foster’s personality blazes in the otherwise blah revival of “The Music Man,” and Joaquina Kalukango is the standout of “Paradise Square.”
Best Original Score: Michael R. Jackson will probably win for “A Strange Loop,” which has songs full of spark and sensitivity. Then again, the pop songs by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss in “Six” are not only extremely catchy but also surprisingly layered, full of clever wordplay, historical tidbits, and character development.
Best Book of a Musical: This may be where “Girl from the North Country” earns some recognition, with playwright-director Conor McPherson winning for how he inventively interspersed Bob Dylan songs into a character-driven kitchen sink drama.