Obviously this is the most exciting time of year, not just for me but for all of us, with all the past season’s shows come (and, sadly, some gone) and ready to be feted (fetid? feta’d like the cheese (don’t eat cheese)?) with the most important awards in theatre. Well, second most, as my opinions are obviously the most important. And at the same time we have all the shows of next season tantalizing us with their news and announcements. Hooray for Theatre Chrimble Day!
Okay, confession time: I can’t talk about the plays this season. I only saw a few…actually I saw one new one (“King Charles III”) and one revival (“Noises Off”). I really think that was all. Both were very special: KS3 was a future-historical tense play, lots of will have hads, about what might happen after Queen Elizabeth dies and Charles ascends the throne (get it he’ll be the third Charles). It was a fascinating look at the royal family and I loved how they made the semi-villain the person everyone would least expect. (Except me. I would totally expect her.) But it only brought a limited run over from London (confession, that's where I saw it, but the same cast was brought over for Bway like a day later so it's the same) and closed back in January, so the chances of it winning are low, despite how crazy Americans get over everything Britain farts out. As for "Noises Off", it was one of the absolute funniest, most flawless productions I’ve ever seen. Telling the tale of a group of nutters trying to put on a play, the first act shows rehearsals (going pretty ridiculously badly), the second act shows the production from the audience’s point of view (going pretty wrong), and the third act shows the production going on another time from backstage (going absolutely bonkers). Getting all the bits from different perspectives and recognizing where things from earlier came into play later reminded me of “The Norman Conquests”, the greatest comedy plays I’ve ever ever ever seen. And the cast (Andrea Martin?! Megan Hilty?! Jeremy Shamos?! Rob McClure?! Tracee Chimo?! So many!) was amazing. Really. I would love for it to win Best Revival of a Play, but it will probably go to one of the very depressing dramas on hand. OH I also saw 'A View from the Bridge' because it transferred from London and we saw it here! Okay! I saw three!
But, despite living in London, I did make some time for the musicals. I would like to see everything that opens each season and some years I’ve done an incredible job with both musicals and plays but I mean I live in London so bite me. I’ve emboldened the picks below, either what I believe will win, what I want to win, or both, just read the text to get an idea. Let’s go!
School of Rock
Not really sure about this one just kidding adurr "Hamilton" is the greatest musical of all time so yeah it will win. If it wasn’t nominated, I think “Shuffle Along” is the clear second place, as I said in my last pre-Tony review. But I think it should be a much closer race for second than it is. “Waitress” and “Bright Star” have lovely unique scores (by famous people!) and lovely quiet stories, while “School of Rock” is a super fun ride that makes audiences happy. What a solid year! Though I don’t think any of the four really scream best musical of the year like, say, “Dear Evan Hanson” did for me (but it was off-Broadway (next year woot!)). Well it’s a good thing this is all a moo point because “Hamilton” knows what to do in the trench ingenuitive and fluent in French I mean…
LEADING ACTOR MUSICAL
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton
God I know I say ‘any other year’ a lot and sometimes you’re just like ‘well no…there will be stronger stuff in any other year too…’ but for Danny Burstein it’s really true. He’s the Kelli O’Hara of male Broadway actors, having been nominated five or six times without a win. He is a workhorse and a darling and really who on earth would have ever thought that he WOULDN’T be winning for his turn as Tevye, the role he was born to play? But “Hamilton” really put the kibosh on a lot of those kinds of stories, so I’m sorry Danny, please keep doing lots of shows and maybe hopefully one day you’ll get yours. Zachary Levi was surprisingly fantastic in “She Loves Me”, stealing the show from his cast of Broadway stalwarts and stars with his endless charm and impeccable timing. But the year of “Hamilton” means the year of extraordinary male performances in “Hamilton”. Lin, the creator, really is great in the title role, and although at first I was upset he won the very prestigious Drama League award (only awarded to one acting performance across the board every season –men, women, featured, lead, doesn’t matter, just one gets it), but he really did deserve it: His performance defines this season, it’s the thing people will remember most, and that is kind of what that award does. But for the Tony, I don’t think Lin should beat Odom/yeah he’s good with the words cuz he wrote ‘em/but Leslie’s voice and acting overflowed him/and I hope tonight we’re all saying ‘Philly boy you damn showed ‘em'. He’s RG.
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along
This one is much harder than I ever thought it would be. After seeing “Hamilton” last year, way too long ago now and I am suffering withdrawal and why didn’t I buy all the tickets when nobody knew what it was yet I only got two what the hell is wrong with me, the one thing I remember thinking DURING “Satisfied” was “Renee is going to win a Tony”. Everyone seemed to think so. But the bad thing about a show opening so far away from the Tonys is that new things come in and people take over that spotlight and some voters forget how amazing older performances were. Danielle Brooks has gotten raves for her excellent job in Purps, as has Adrienne Warren pulling double duty. Somehow, Jennifer Simard’s truly hilarious turn as a gambling-addicted nun in the truly ridiculous Disaster! has gained traction lately with everyone wanting to see her perform on the telecast, and what was once a surprisingly cool nomination is now considered by some pundits to be a dark horse for the award. But that shit kinda cray. The real dark horse, or maybe frontrunner, is Jane Krakowski as Ilona in “She Loves Me”, or as I called her, the “Miss Rhode Island” of it, and if you get that, we should be friends. Her definitive take on the role has garnered her several of the lead-up/Golden Globe style awards. But my money’s still on Renee, not just because of Hamilton’s potential to sweep but because she was breathtaking and if I could vote, I would vote for her. And Daveed in every category.
Steve Martin, Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Julian Fellowes, School of Rock
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Rest of the Title
I meannnn how cool is it that Steve Martin is nominated for two Tony Awards! I like him very much! Also am I the only person who whenever Julian Fellowes is mentioned goes “Hello I’m Julian Fellowes!” in Tracy Morgan’s voice? Um anyway, so book. Several pundits and people who think they are smart choose ‘Shuffle Along’ to win for book, just to spread the wealth around from “Hamilton” but also because some TRUE IDIOTS think that sung-through shows don’t have books. Listen people, if you are someone who thinks that, then you do not have ANY IDEA what the book is, and you do not deserve the right to call yourself a journalist or a theatre critic or really anyone who knows things, because you don’t.
As for the former reason, to spread the wealth, it’s an equally bad reason because omg don’t give an award that Hamilton actually really deserves to the one with the worst book! Seriously, “Shuffle” had the potential to be an unbelievable show, but the book is a mess. THE BOOK IS ITS BIGGEST PROBLEM. So that critics want to award THAT aspect of it over other much more deserving parts gives me agita something fierce. I don’t want “Hamilton” to sweep, really (especially Lead Actress), but it should absolutely win the awards it deserves to win, and book is one of them.
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Confession (again): I haven’t seen “Fiddler” yet. I love “Fiddler” though, hell I was in “Fiddler” (not on Broadway) (yet) (look so Jewish) (even more so in London because my hair is frizzier in this weather) (I’m getting away from myself) and I love Danny Burstein, so I have no qualms about including it in the mix when I say this is the best season I can remember (or read about) for musical revivals. The other three, the ones I saw, were absolutely flawless. Throughout and after “Color Purple”, “She Loves Me”, and “Spring Awakening” I thought to myself (in the very very few rare moments when I was aware that I was still a person and not part of the air in that theatre just floating in admiration) “Holy crap, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” So what a competition! That's why those three are all italicized above - I would be happy if any of them won. The reimagining of “Spring Awakening”, using deaf actors and sign language to add even more depth and genius to that beautiful show (god that scene with Krysta Rodriguez) (holy crap that ending scenery), in any other year would have be the clear winner, I think, but its limited run ended in January and that’s a really big hurdle to overcome. But also, it’s so f-ing competitive because of the other two shows: first, the beyond sublime giddy puppy of a show peeing all over your feet and running around in circles until you down and pet it “She Loves Me”, the musical version of “You’ve Got Mail” so, ya know, perfection. This is How to Perfectly do a Revival Method 1: stay true to its heart, exactingly traditional and true, but do it perfectly. The last one, “The Color Purple”, the one that rips your heart out and stuffs hot burning sand into the hole it left but then rebuilds your heart a little bigger than it was before (not in a congenital enlarged heart way but in a full of love way) and gently puts it back where it belongs and then gives you a big bear hug through tears, is How to Perfectly do a Revival Method 2: scale down what wasn’t necessary before and let the emotional center soar without excess baggage so that the beautiful story and score shines more than anyone previously thought possible. This year, I think “Purple” has the edge because Method 2 proved more exciting and spell-binding and life-changing for all viewers. It also had a secret weapon, an immigrant we know and love who's unafraid to step in and show the world that she is a force that no one can dare reckon with (see below). But honestly, any of these would be deserving winners, which is an awesome, rare thing to be able to say about any category in any thing ever.
LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
To give you an idea of how competitive this category was for nominations, Audra wasn’t even nominated even though she was fantastic and is always award-worthy even in crap like Ricki and the Flash which I couldn’t even finish on an airplane except for her scenes. Just such strong performances by talented women this year. But now that we’re actually talking about the award, I don’t think this is competitive at all. Sure, Laura Benanti (“in any other year!”) is beloved onstage and gives a phenomenal performance, heartfelt and sung superbly and hilarious too; and sure Phillipa is really lovely in the monster smash of a generation and lots of fangirls want her to win despite her role being a little below the standard of what I think this category requires; and sure Jessie Mueller is always dependably worthy and gives show-stopping performances that break your heart; and sure Carmen Cusack is giving a wonderful Broadway debut that has charmed everyone who has seen her. But, no. Nope. Cynthia Erivo is to right now what Audra McDonald was in the ‘90s (and also now and forever) – a game changer. Talent like this doesn’t come around often and performances like hers don’t soon leave your memory. She is unstoppable and if she doesn’t win, it’ll be like when Raul Esparza didn’t win for “Company” but approximately 41 billion times worse. I mean awards don’t matter and all and she is so talented that the Tony can’t really begin to recognize how amazing she is but still she deserves it. And I'm not just saying this because we are friends. (It counts if I baked for her and she ate it and we talked about it right. That's all friendship is.)
FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton
DAVEED MY MANNNN. Daveed is so good in “Hamilton” it’s not really fair to other actors. Like in the world. He’s a rapper (and maybe the best one on earth omg listen to clipping. right now) and was a theatre major at Brown (where my friend knew him! Or her friend did! It’s hard to remember because my head exploded!), but wasn’t really known in the theatre world at all before his debut in “Ham” and now he’s just THE GREATEST MAN ALIVE well no not that but seriously everyone adores him and you can’t not adore him and he’s absolutely incredible in two very different roles and if he doesn’t come to London with it I will be quite sad. Give him all the Tonys.
Gonna do my only 'should have been nominated' comment here. Okierete Onaodowan (also my friend because of baked goods in London) should have been nominated over one of the others, probably Jon Groff whom I absoluuutely adooore but was onstage for 3 minutes. He was hilarious and perfect, but Oak does some seriously impressive acting up there as the bigger than life Hercules Mulligan in the first act and then the taciturn, sickly, small professor of a politician James Madison in the second. He's really incredible.
Bright Star, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (who i keep calling Little Edie)
Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda
School of Rock, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater
Waitress, Sara Bareilles
How cool is it that Sara Bareilles wrote a musical and it’s actually great?? How cool is it that Steve Martin wrote this charming show of mostly banjo music and it’s lovely?? How cool is it that Sir Andrew in the Hot Pants has a new show?? Pretty cool!
Savion Glover must win choreography for "Shuffle Along". It was not only the best part of that show, but it was the best choreography of the season. What he can do with tap dancing is beyond awards. I love that he makes tap dancing seem so necessary and fresh and somehow like the physical version of hip-hop music. It's very cool. He's doing for dance in theatre what Lin is doing for music.
The other thing I care about is Lighting and anything technical, which should absolutely go to American Psycho, which I didn't see (so sad, so sad), but which I know from clips (legal) and people whose opinions I respect revolutionized the use of projections and computers to tell their story. I like that they pushed the boundaries in every single way, and at least they should be awarded in some way here. However, I think "She Loves Me" should win for Set Design, because that incredible toybox set so beautifully defined what splendor can come on Broadway stages.
Here’s my last confession of the day: I can’t watch this shit live, I mean come on it’s starting at 1am my time. So please don’t text me your reactions to what happens. You CAN send emails and write comments because I won’t read those until after I watch. Enjoy! Don't forget to leave out a plate of cookies and (nondairy) milk for the ghost of Ethel Merman!