• The prizes will be awarded at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, June 11, during a ceremony at Radio City Musical Hall, much of which will be broadcast on CBS. Kevin Spacey will host. Some 840 producers, investors, performers and others who work in the theater choose the winners.
Emotional musicals are likely to get noticed
Competition for Broadway’s big prizes will be hard-fought and harder to predict. We’ll have all the news right here as it’s announced, so keep checking back for the list of nominees, commentary by our critics and reaction from the artists.
Two heart-wrenching musicals — “Dear Evan Hansen,” about an anxiety-ridden adolescent who insinuates himself into the life of a grieving family, and “Come From Away,” about a Canadian town that sheltered stranded travelers after the terrorist attacks of 2001 — are expected to be the leading candidates for best new musical, the most coveted prize with the biggest box office impact.
The race for best new play appears to be wide open, but the odds are the winner will be an American writer making his or her Broadway debut — good news for those who care about the visibility and viability of new American plays.
Can Bette or Ben be beat?
There were 37 Tony-eligible plays and musicals on Broadway this season, but two performances have been the indisputable must-sees: 23-year-old Ben Platt in a devastating star-is-born turn as a decompensating adolescent in “Dear Evan Hansen,” and 71-year-old Bette Midler in a delirious career-capping turn as a meddlesome matchmaker in “Hello, Dolly!”
They are pretty well assured to be nominated for awards on Tuesday, he as best leading actor in a musical, she as best leading actress in a musical.
Can either of them be beat?
Ms. Midler seems like a lock. The reviews were nearly unanimous in their praise, despite some concerns about the quality of her singing voice; audiences have been worshipful and are paying top dollar to see her (premium seats are being sold for $748).
Two much-honored Broadway mainstays, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, could face off in the awards derby for playing the rival cosmetics executives Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden in “War Paint.”
There were also some promising debuts — Denée Benton in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” and Eva Noblezada in “Miss Saigon” — and some early career standouts — Christy Altomare in “Anastasia,” Laura Osnes in “Bandstand” and Phillipa Soo in “Amélie.”
Mr. Platt has been universally acclaimed, and has accomplished the rare feat of creating an original role that speaks to young people. His main challenger is expected to be Andy Karl, who stars as the caddish weatherman Phil Connors in “Groundhog Day.”
Mr. Karl’s magnetic performance has come to seem almost heroic, given that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament three days before the show opened and is performing in a knee brace.
Other men to watch in lead roles: the pop singer Josh Groban, wowing critics and fans with his Broadway debut in “Great Comet,” the television star David Hyde Pierce, daffy and winning as the feed store owner in “Hello, Dolly!,” and Jon Jon Briones, the scheming Engineer in “Miss Saigon.”
Playwrights make their first marks on Broadway
The unknown back story of a Middle East peace pact. The impact of deindustrialization on manufacturing workers in Pennsylvania. The ill-fated journey to Broadway of a Yiddish play with a lesbian subplot. And an imagined sequel to a great 19th-century drama.
Each of the expected contenders for the best new play Tony marks the writer’s Broadway debut — and each of the playwrights is American. Brits will not dominate this prestigious category this year.
The front-runners are likely to be “Oslo,” by J. T. Rogers, an unexpectedly crackling drama about a Norwegian couple who helped broker the 1993 Middle East peace accords, and “Sweat,” by Lynn Nottage, which depicts the impact of a declining manufacturing plant on friends and family in Reading, Pa. Not to be counted out: “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” by Lucas Hnath, which was the last show of the season to open, and did so to uniformly positive reviews, and “Indecent,” by the Pulitzer-winning playwright Paula Vogel, which reconstructs the controversy over “The God of Vengeance,” which opened on Broadway in 1922.
In an era of #OscarsSoWhite, how are the Tonys doing?
The last Broadway season — the one with “Hamilton,” “The Color Purple,” “On Your Feet!” and “Allegiance” — was widely celebrated for its diversity, and all four acting awards for musicals went to black actors. This season, the successes were less flashy, but still noteworthy.
“Jitney,” the only one of August Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle never before staged on Broadway, was given a sterling production by the Manhattan Theater Club. The playwright, the director and the entire cast were African-American.
Ms. Nottage, an African-American playwright who was unable to get “Ruined,” her Pulitzer Prize-winning play about rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Broadway, this year got there with “Sweat.” The play’s critical reception was mixed, but it won Ms. Nottage a second Pulitzer Prize.
And a revival of “Miss Saigon,” with a predominantly Asian-American cast, served as a reminder of how much attitudes toward casting have changed: The leading role of the Engineer, controversially originated by a white British actor, Jonathan Pryce, in 1991, has since been played by actors of Asian heritage, and the revival stars a Filipino-American, Mr. Briones, who was in the original British ensemble.
What happens next
Once the nominations are announced, it’s up to the voters. Over the next five weeks, they must finish seeing all the nominated shows, and then have until 6 p.m., June 9, to submit their ballots.
Who are the voters? About 840 people cast ballots — theater investors and producers, as well as actors, directors, designers, journalists and others whose economic or professional lives intersect with Broadway. Many of them have financial interests in one or more of the nominated productions.
There is campaigning, of a sort. Producers send glossy souvenir books, and often compendiums of positive reviews, to remind voters of what they’ve seen, and some send gag gifts as well. Shows that opened in the fall — “The Great Comet” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” for example — invite voters who attended months ago to see them again.
Nominees, meanwhile, show up or perform at gala fund-raisers for nonprofit organizations that have Tony voters in the crowd. And there is an invariable battle for press coverage as well.
A few folks can start making room on their shelves now.
The Tony Awards administration committee announced Thursday that James Earl Jones, a two-time Tony winner (for “The Great White Hope” and “Fences”) will be given a special Tony for lifetime achievement in the theater.
Baayork Lee, an actress, choreographer and director best known as a member of the original cast of “A Chorus Line,” will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, which honors volunteerism, in recognition of her work with the with the National Asian Artists Project, which she founded.
Dallas Theater Center will receive the regional theater Tony Award. Two longtime general managers, Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser, will receive Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater. And a special Tony for sound design will be presented to Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin for their work on Simon McBurney’s one-man show, “The Encounter.”