Who’s going to win at the Tony Awards on Sunday night? Just be grateful there’s going to be a Tony Awards at all!
In the 2000s and 2010s, it was not unusual for theater journalists to criticize the Tony Awards (i.e. too much pandering to pop culture or celebs, too glitzy, too dull) and bemoan the consistently declining ratings. Now, it’s just a relief that the awards are going forward at all – and that the awards might provide a shot in the arm to Broadway (including several struggling new musicals) as it attempts to return to its pre-pandemic commercial strength.
Three years ago, the Tony Awards was indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic shutdown, with CBS replacing the ceremony with a sing-a-long version of “Grease.” In fall 2021, a belated and deflated ceremony aired to honor the truncated 2019-2020 season. Last June marked the first genuine Tony Awards broadcast to be held since 2019.
Last month, just as the Tony Award nominations were announced, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike, and it soon looked as if the Tony Awards broadcast would either be pushed back until the strike ended or replaced with a simple press conference (akin to the 2008 Golden Globe Awards announcement, which was held in the midst of an earlier WGA strike) given the threat of a picket line at the ceremony. (Perhaps CBS would have once again replaced the Tony Awards with “Grease.”)
But somehow or other, the presenters of the Tony Awards (including the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing) and the WGA reached a compromise pursuant to which the WGA agreed to not picket the event so long as the ceremony was performed with any specially-written material (such as comic banter or original songs), which is how the 1988 Tony Awards went forward in spite of a WGA strike.
I suspect that “Kimberly Akimbo” is more likely than “Some Like It Hot” to win Best Musical. Even though “Some Like It Hot” carefully rethought a classic film comedy for a contemporary audience while maintaining splashy production values, “Kimberly Akimbo” (which centers upon a teenage girl with a rare disorder that causes rapid aging) is an inventive and quirky piece that also draws a strong emotional connection with audiences. It’s not unlike the 2015 Tony race between “Fun Home” (which, like “Kimberly Akimbo,” had music by Jeanine Tesori) and “An American in Paris.”
Barring an upset, Tom Stoppard’s drama “Leopoldstadt” (which follows the fate of a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna from the early 20th century through the Holocaust) will in Best Play over “Fat Ham,” James Ijames’ freewheeling southern barbeque rethinking of “Hamlet.”
The revivals of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd” both achieved acclaim and commercial success. However, the award for Best Revival of a Musical is more likely to go to “Parade,” a triumphant production of a daring and previously overlooked work which feels especially urgent at a time of rising anti-Semitism.
Audra McDonald could make history by winning her seventh Tony Award for “Ohio State Murders,” but the award for Best Actress in a Play might easily go to Jodie Comer for her standout performance in the intense one-woman drama “Prima Facie.” Best Actor in a Play is a rich category that could swing in any direction, such as to Wendell Pierce for his performance as Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” or Sean Hayes for his performance as Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar.”
Harris Ghee (“Some Like It Hot”) will likely take Best Actor in a Musical, but don’t count out Brian d’Arcy James (“Into the Woods”) or Ben Platt (“Parade”). Best Actress in a Musical is also a tight category, but Victoria Clark (“Kimberly Akimbo”) will probably win her second Tony Award over Annaleigh Ashford (“Sweeney Todd”) and Sara Bareilles (“Into the Woods”).
2023 Tony Award Predictions:
Best Play: “Leopoldstadt”
Best Musical: “Kimberly Akimbo”
Best Book of a Musical: “Kimberly Akimbo”
Best Score: “Kimberly Akimbo”
Best Revival of a Play: “A Doll’s House”
Best Revival of a Musical: “Parade”
Best Direction of a Play: Patrick Marber (“Leopoldstadt”)
Best Direction of a Musical: Michael Arden (“Parade”)
Best Choreography: Casey Nicholaw “Some Like It Hot”)
Best Actor in a Play: Stephen McKinley Henderson (“Between Riverside and Crazy”)
Best Actress in a Play: Judie Comer (“Prima Facie”)
Best Actor in a Musical: J. Harris Ghee (“Some Like It Hot”)
Best Actress in a Musical: Victoria Clark (“Kimberly Akimbo”)
Best Featured Actor in a Play: Brandon Uranowitz (“Leopoldstadt”)
Best Featured Actress in a Play: Miriam Silverman (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”)
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Alex Newell (“Shucked”)
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Bonnie Milligan (“Kimberly Akimbo”)
Best Scenic Design of a Play: “Life of Pi”
Best Scenic Design of a Musical: “New York, New York”
Best Costume Design of a Play: “Life of Pi”
Best Costume Design of a Musical: “Some Like It Hot”
Best Lighting Design of a Play: “Life of Pi”
Best Lighting Design of a Musical: “Sweeney Todd”
Best Sound Design of a Play: “Life of Pi”
Best Sound Design of a Musical: “& Juliet”
Best Orchestrations: “Some Like It Hot”