Broadway’s biggest night is just around the corner, and to prepare, NBC New York theater writers Robert Kahn and Dave Quinn sat down to dissect the top categories. Who are the safe bets, and which dark horses just might surprise in the end? Read on to find out, and then tune into see who wins at the 68th Annual Tony Awards, Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
“All The Way”
“Mothers and Sons”
Rob: I’d be thrilled to see this statue go to “Casa Valentina” or “Mothers & Sons.” Harvey Fierstein’s drama about heterosexual men who meet in the Catskills to live as women, and Terrence McNally’s sorrowful one-actor centered on a bitter mother were both groundbreaking in their own right. But count on Robert Schenkkan’s three-hour LBJ historical drama -- which has already been awarded top honors by the Outer Critics Circle, the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama League and the Drama Desks -- to notch a campaign win, warranted or not, on the coattails of charismatic star Bryan Cranston.
“Beautiful — The Carole King Musical”
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
Dave: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is the most Tony-nominated show this year (with 10 nominations), and has been awarded top honors by the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League and the Drama Desks. In a category that’s been said to be without a front-runner, it would be a huge surprise if “Gentleman’s Guide” didn’t win. But if there was one, it’d come from “Beautiful,” which elevated the jukebox musical form by focusing on character rather than just hit songs.
Best Revival of a Play
“The Cripple of Inishmaan”
“The Glass Menagerie”
“A Raisin in the Sun”
Rob: Though it closed months ago, John Tiffany’s moody revival of the Tennessee Williams classic still lingers in my mind, thanks to Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger and, most notably, Zachary Quinto, who offered a stunningly relatable Tom Wingfield. “Menagerie” deserves to win -- and if it does, it will be the first ever Tony honor for the Tennessee Williams classic. But the Globe’s old-school, all-male “Twelfth Night,” with Mark Rylance as a mincing and lovestruck Countess Olivia, will take the award, for its sheer brashness.
Best Revival of a Musical
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Dave: If there’s a category where a tie is deserved, it’s this one. Jeanine Tesori’s touching, nuanced musical, “Violet,” wasn’t afraid to put a flawed character front and center, and challenged us to dream bigger and love harder than any musical this season. But it’ll be hard to win against John Cameron Mitchell’s loud, rollicking revival of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” which has gone from cult-favorite to box office monster — largely on the shoulders of Neil Patrick Harris. My heart is still on Violet’s bus, but bet it all on “Hedwig.”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, “Twelfth Night”
Bryan Cranston, “All The Way”
Chris O’Dowd, “Of Mice and Men”
Mark Rylance, “Richard III”
Tony Shalhoub, “Act One”
Rob: Cranston nabs this trophy, deservedly so. The tireless TV star is on stage for virtually all of Schenkkan’s play, and manages to make a pretty dry story hum with electricity. The only thing surprising about the excellent performance by the “Breaking Bad” star (pictured below, with fellow trophy-owner-in-waiting Neil Patrick Harris, at a pre-awards cocktail party this month) is that it’s his Broadway debut.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, “Mothers and Sons”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, “A Raisin in the Sun”
Cherry Jones, “The Glass Menagerie”
Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
Estelle Parsons, “The Velocity of Autumn”
Dave: Audra McDonald disappeared into the role of jazz singer Billie Holiday, in a transformative performance unlike anything we’ve ever seen from her. She’ll win her sixth Tony, and break records as the first actress ever to win in all four Tony acting categories. Bow down.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Ramin Karimloo, “Les Misérables”
Andy Karl, “Rocky”
Jefferson Mays, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
Bryce Pinkham, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”
Rob: You know how people like to say Al Pacino won an Oscar for “Scent of a Woman,” but his statue that year was really in recognition of his service to cinema over his entire career? Well, this isn’t like that. Twitter’s own ActuallyNPH, the four-time Tony host Harris, would have a statue coming to him if he leaned against a wall and popped bubblegum for 95 minutes—but instead he goes out and earns it every night as Mitchell’s transgendered rock singer lost in Kansas. I hope CBS budgets a long 30 seconds for applause after his name is called.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, “A Night With Janis Joplin”
Sutton Foster, “Violet”
Idina Menzel, “If/Then”
Jessie Mueller, “Beautiful”
Kelli O’Hara, “The Bridges of Madison County”
Dave: There’s a lot of love out there for Kelli O’Hara. The five-time Tony nominee has never won, and gave the best performance of her career in the heartbreaking “The Bridges of Madison County.” She should take the top prize this year -- but the fact that “Bridges” shuttered prematurely due to a slow box office might mean that many voters didn’t get to see her performance. I’d bet on recent Drama Desk winner Jessie Mueller, whose spunky, soulful take on Carole King gives “Beautiful” its heart.