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News / Theater & Performance

2016 Tony Award predictions from David Cote and Adam Feldman

Tony Awards

The 70th annual Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS on June 12 from the Beacon Theatre. So now it’s time for our annual tradition, dear reader, of bestowing our can’t-lose predictions about who will win and which races will be squeakers. As in every year, we study the list of nominees long and hard, we rack our brains and search our souls…. and then we just guess! This year it may seem less scientific than ever, since Hamilton could possibly win a historic 13 Tony Awards, beating The Producers and Billy Elliot’s 12. But the closer you look, the more complex and dicey many contests seem. Below we break it down: Who will win, who should win and what it all means.—David Cote & Adam Feldman

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Tony Awards

Best Play
Eclipsed (Danai Gurira)
The Father (Florian Zeller) 
The Humans (Stephen Karam) WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
King Charles III (Mike Bartlett)
THE RACE: Karam’s ominous family drama has already picked up the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics’ Circle Award. Look for it to add the Tony for Best Play to its crowded prize cabinet.

Best Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton  WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
School of Rock
Shuffle Along
Waitress
THE RACE: Hi there! Are you surprised to learn that Hamilton will most assuredly win this category? Well then, I guess you just recovered from that coma/trip to Saturn! In a normal year, it would be an interesting race between the other contenders, but it’s all about the Hamiltons.

Best Revival of a Play
Blackbird
The Crucible 
Long Day’s Journey Into Night WILL WIN 
A View from the Bridge SHOULD WIN
Noises Off
THE RACE: It’s a battle between a solid, traditional and beautifully acted revival of O’Neill’s family classic and Ivo van Hove’s startlingly intense, minimalist View from the Bridge. We think voters will go conservative, but it could swing the other way.

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple WILL WIN
Fiddler on the Roof SHOULD WIN
She Loves Me 
Spring Awakening
THE RACE:  Because all of the contenders are so different and so strong, this is one of the hardest categories to predict. Of the three that are still running (sorry, Spring Awakening), She Loves Me got the most nominations, and Fiddler on the Roof is arguably the most substantial. We think voters will reward The Color Purple for being better than the original production—but this could go to any of the three.

Best Book of a Musical
Julian Fellowes, School of Rock
Steve Martin, 
Bright Star 
Lin-Manuel Miranda, 
Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
George C. Wolfe, 
Shuffle Along
THE RACE: Contrary to what some of our colleagues might think, the sung-through Hamilton does indeed have a book, i.e., a structured narrative along with the musical numbers are strung like glittering pearls. And it happens to be the best this season, a canny compression of national politics, family drama, dueling rules and immigrant success story.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Sara Bareilles, Waitress
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater, 
School of Rock
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, 
Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, 
Hamilton  WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
THE RACE: 
Memorize the combination, folks, because this one is a lock.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, 
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, 
Blackbird 
Frank Langella, 
The Father WILL WIN
Tim Pigott-Smith, 
King Charles III
Mark Strong, 
A View from the Bridge SHOULD WIN
THE RACE: There’s not a meh performance in this entire bunch. Beloved trouper Frank Langella very much carries The Father, as an older man in the process of losing his mind. But Langella took home the acting Tony nine years ago for Frost/Nixon, so it’s possible voters will want to award British star Mark Strong for his elemental turn in View.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Jessica Lange, 
Long Day’s Journey Into Night WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Laurie Metcalf, 
Misery
Lupita Nyong’o, 
Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, 
The Crucible
Michelle Williams, 
Blackbird
THE RACE: Lange’s ferocious turn as morphine addict Mary Tyrone in O’Neill’s masterwork has earned her justly dazzled reviews. The entire revival revolves around her fascinating duplicity and shifting strategies of ingratiation.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, 
Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, 
She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, 
Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Leslie Odom Jr., 
Hamilton
THE RACE:  It’s looking like a duel to the finish between Hamilton costars Miranda and Odom. While the conventional wisdom once favored the latter, we think it has shifted toward the show’s onstage auteur, whose performance has deepened with time. A dark horse: six-time nominee (but no-time Tony winner) Danny Burstein, as Fiddler’s soulful Tevye.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, 
The Color Purple WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Jessie Mueller, 
Waitress
Phillipa Soo, 
Hamilton
THE RACE: Easily one of the most talent-rich races in this year’s Tonys, this is the category where Hamilton might not get its historic 13th win. Phillipa Soo is utterly captivating, but Cynthia Erivo shakes the rafters as Color Purple’s Celie, who survives terrible odds to find love, joy and freedom.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Bill Camp, 
The Crucible
David Furr, 
Noises Off
Robert Goulding, 
King Charles III
Michael Shannon, 
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
THE RACE: The race is likely to come down to Birney and Shannon. Although the latter is magnificent in his sardonic, self-loathing drunk scene, we think local trouper Birney—who could have been nominated in the Leading Actor category—will take the medallion.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, 
Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, 
The Humans WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Andrea Martin, 
Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, 
Eclipsed
THE RACE: All due respect to the women in Eclipsed, but Jayne Houdyshell turns in a beautifully measured, layered performance as a mother and wife trying to keep her family together in Stephen Karam’s achingly good drama. Maybe she’s no stranger to playing regular folks, but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Brandon Victor Dixon, 
Shuffle Along
Christopher Fitzgerald, 
Waitress
Jonathan Groff, 
Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, 
Hamilton
THE RACE: Doing double duty as Hamilton’s Lafayette in the first act, and Thomas Jefferson after intermission, Diggs is rakishly handsome, bursts with carefree comic energy, and he’s got a sick, motormouth flow. Of course, if Diggs splits the vote with other Hamilton cast members, the utterly deserving Brandon Victor Dixon could slip in and win the gold.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Jane Krakowski, 
She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, 
Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, 
Shuffle Along
THE RACE: In a category bursting with talent, the poised and witty Goldsberry has the advantage. Her big number in Hamilton, “Satisfied,” is more than satisfactory; it’s perfection.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Borritt, Thérèse Raquin
Christopher Oram, 
Hughie
Jan Versweyveld, 
A View from the Bridge
David Zinn, 
The Humans WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
T
HE RACE: 
Versweyveld could win for his striking and showy work, but Zinn’s more naturalistic bilevel design is a safer bet. The Humans is the only nominee that is still playing, which never hurts where short-memoried Tony voters are concerned.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Es Devlin and Finn Ross, American Psycho
David Korins, 
Hamilton WILL WIN
Santo Loquasto, 
Shuffle Along
David Rockwell, 
She Loves Me SHOULD WIN
THE RACE: Incredibly, set-design wizard David Korins was never nominated for a Tony before Hamilton. His fine work on the megahit may also be his first Tony win. But can we just give a shout out to David Rockwell’s elegant, witty, candy-colored set for She Loves Me? It had us swooning.

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Michael Krass, 
Noises Off
Clint Ramos, 
Eclipsed WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Tom Scutt, 
King Charles III
THE RACE: Scutt’s royal costumes for King Charles were impressive, but Ramos’s ragtag togs in Eclipsed play a major role in establishing the play’s war-torn Liberian world. Bonus points: Ramos also designed the play’s set.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Ann Roth, Shuffle Along SHOULD WIN
Paul Tazewell, 
Hamilton WILL WIN
THE RACE: 
It takes nothing away from Paul Tazewell’s sexy, modified-Colonial costumes to say he’ll probably ride the Hamilton wave to victory. However, the venerable Ann Roth (who’s clothed troupers since the 1950s) did gorgeous work on the jazzy couture for Shuffle Along.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, 
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Justin Townsend, The Humans WILL WIN
Jan Versweyveld, 
The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, A View from the Bridge SHOULD WIN
THE RACE: 
Not just a superb play featuring a top-notch cast, The Humans also has excellent design. Justin Townsend got to simulate indirect sunlight and artificial light (not to mention creepy shadows) for Stephen Karam’s wonderfully atmospheric piece. It wins if Tony voters weren’t sufficiently impressed by Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld’s striking, minimalist approach.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, 
Shuffle Along
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend, American Psycho
THE RACE: When a show wins big, lighting is one of those categories that it almost always carries. But this year, it’s not just about Hamilton sweep energy; Binkey’s lights do crucial work in differentiating playing spaces on the spare set.

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, 
King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans WILL WIN
Liesl Tommy, 
Eclipsed
Ivo van Hove, A View from the Bridge SHOULD WIN
THE RACE:

It’s been a huge breakout year for Belgian superdirector Van Hove, who directed two convention-exploding Arthur Miller revivals on Broadway. But not everyone responds to his flashy deconstructions of classics. Mantello’s pitch-perfect direction of The Humans is less divisive.

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along
THE RACE: Despite solid work from several veterans, the victory goes to Thomas Kail’s breathtaking integration of dance, gesture and lightning-fast scene transitions in the hip-hop historical whirligig that is Hamilton.

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton WILL WIN
Savion Glover, 
Shuffle Along SHOULD WIN
Hofesh Shechter, 
Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Skinner, 
Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo, 
On Your Feet!
THE RACE: In a perfect world, the exceptional choreography in Shuffle Along and Hamilton would tie for this award. If voters want to spread a little love to Shuffle Along, this will be the place they do it. But our hunch is that Hamilton fever will carry the day.

Best Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, 
Bright Star
Larry Hochman, 
She Loves Me
Alex Lacamoire, 
Hamilton WILL WIN / SHOULD WIN
Daryl Waters, 
Shuffle Along
THE RACE: Alex Lacamoire has been with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton from the beginning (that’s him playing piano with LMM at the White House in 2009). Taking Miranda’s lyrics-driven score and making it not only dynamic and varied but intelligible to a non-hip-hop audience is a huge achievement. It’s the best new score in years, and he’s a big part of that.

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