Some years are more exciting for the Tony Awards than others, be it because of competition among high-profile shows or the presence of a big blockbuster (i.e. “Hamilton,” “The Book of Mormon”) or high-energy host (i.e. Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman).
This is not one of those years.
“The Band’s Visit,” an intimate and absorbing portrait of an Egyptian police band that takes the wrong bus and gets lost in Israel’s Negev Desert (based on a 2007 Israeli film of the same name), is the clear favorite for best musical. But truth be told, it has not generated the same kind of excitement or commercial appeal achieved by other recent winners.
If the contest were only between “Mean Girls” and “The Band’s Visit,” “Mean Girls” (which has been performing well at the box office) might have pulled an upset, but its shot at the prize is diluted by fellow nominees “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Frozen,” which are also commercially-branded properties intended for a family audience, that received mixed reviews.
“Mean Girls” may end up winning only Best Book (which means an acceptance speech from Tina Fey).
“The Band’s Visit” will likely also win for score, direction, orchestrations and sound design, as well as Katrina Lenk’s alluring lead performance. Similarly, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will win best play, along with awards for its stunning production values.
Best musical revival may be the most interesting category, a showdown between Lincoln Center Theater’s well-crafted revival of “My Fair Lady,” Michael Arden’s immersive, in-the-round staging of the Caribbean fairy tale “Once On This Island” and Jack O’Brien’s highly divisive and revised “Carousel.” As with Lincoln Center Theater’s revivals of “South Pacific” and “The King and I,” “My Fair Lady” will likely win, but perhaps voters will want to change up the routine.
Best lead actor in a musical is also a tossup. Although Ethan Slater has a lot of buzz for his winning turn as the cheery title character in “SpongeBob SquarePants,” the award could go to Joshua Henry for his full-bodied performance as the maladjusted Billy Bigelow in “Carousel” or Tony Shalhoub for his restrained but powerful performance as a sad and stern police commander and musical conductor in “The Band’s Visit.”
Glenda Jackson is a lock for best lead actress in a play for her scorching performance in “Three Tall Women.” However, while Joe Mantello’s acclaimed revival of Edward Albee’s drama has become a surprise hit, “Angels in America” will probably win best play revival, in addition to capturing acting awards for Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane and Denise Gough.
Co-hosts Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban ought to make a cute and friendly pair, and perhaps they can bring in some younger viewers.
The most exciting portion of the evening may likely be the live performance by Bruce Springsteen, who will receive a special Tony Award for his solo show “Springsteen on Broadway.”
It is unfortunate that the producers of the Tony Awards have never been able to (or been interested in) effectively showcasing nominated plays during the telecast. Over the years, live performances of scenes from the nominated plays have been replaced by short snippets of stock footage. An opportunity to show Nathan Lane, Denzel Washington and Glenda Jackson doing brilliant work is being sadly passed over.
Matt Windman’s Tony predictions
Best musical: “The Band’s Visit”
Best play: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Best musical revival: “My Fair Lady”
Best play revival: “Angels in America”
Best lead actress in a musical: Katrina Lenk (“The Band’s Visit”)
Best lead actor in a musical: Joshua Henry (“Carousel”)
Best lead actress in a play: Glenda Jackson (“Three Tall Women”)
Best lead actor in a play: Andrew Garfield (“Angels in America”)
Best featured actress in a musical: Lindsay Mendez (“Carousel”)
Best featured actor in a musical: Norbert Leo Butz (“My Fair Lady”)
Best featured actress in a play: Denise Gough (“Angels in America”)
Best featured actor in a play: Nathan Lane (“Angels in America”)
Best direction of a musical: David Cromer (“The Band’s Visit”)
Best direction of a play: John Tiffany (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)
Best score: David Yazbek (“The Band’s Visit”)
Best book of a musical: Tina Fey (“Mean Girls”)
Best Orchestrations: Jamshied Sharifi (“The Band’s Visit”)
Best Choreography: Justin Peck (“Carousel”)
Scenic Design of a Play: Christine Jones (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)
Scenic Design of a Musical: Michael Yeargan (“My Fair Lady”)
Costume Design of a Play: Katrina Lindsay (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)
Costume Design of a Musical: Catherine Zuber (“My Fair Lady”)
Lighting Design of a Play: Neil Austin (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)
Lighting Design of a Musical: Tyler Micoleau (“The Band’s Visit”)
Sound Design of a Play: Gareth Fry (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”)
Sound Design of a Musical: Kai Harada (“The Band’s Visit”)
‘The 72nd Annual Tony Awards’ will air live from Radio City Music Hall from 8 p.m. on CBS.