In the 2017–18 season, Broadway took a long look backward—and maybe a few steps back, as well. It was a strong year for revivals, sure, but new musicals were in short supply, and new plays were even scarcer: The leviathan Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the only one to open since January. The narrowness of the field—and the expansion of most categories to five nominees from four—meant massive Tony Award nomination tallies for many productions: 12 apiece for SpongeBob SquarePants and Mean Girls, 11 for The Band’s Visit, Carousel and Angels in America, and 10 for My Fair Lady and Harry Potter. But only a few of those will probably end up with the lion’s share of prizes. Here’s who we predict will win (or should win) the marquee races when Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban host the awards show at Radio City Music Hall.
The race: Last season, there were 13 new musicals on Broadway; this time, there were merely seven, of which only The Band’s Visit was aimed squarely at adults. That gives this elegant, soulful show a decisive advantage among Tony voters eager to maintain the image of Broadway as a destination for sophisticated entertainment.
The race: The Tonys make a distinction between production and writing when it comes to musicals—but not for plays. The Children and Junk may be superior to Harry Potter on the page, but the magical epic will ride its spectacular staging to victory just as War Horse did in 2011. (Expect Potter to make a clean sweep of the design categories, too.)
The race: All three offer beautiful accounts of shows whose gender politics are potentially troubling. But Lincoln Center Theater’s version of My Fair Lady comes nearest to being in tune with contemporary attitudes.
The race: In an otherwise meager season, play revivals have had a terrific showing, as evidenced by these five standouts. Three Tall Women may be a better production than Angels in America, but the latter has a weightier sense of event; scope, ambition and sheer length are the wind beneath its wings.
The Band’s Visit Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy
BEST SCORE Angels in America (Adrian Sutton) The Band’s Visit (David Yazbek) Frozen (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) Mean Girls (Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin) SpongeBob SquarePants (various artists)
The race: No uncertainty here: After three previous nominations, top-tier Broadway tunesmith Yazbek will win his overdue first Tony for his sinuous, evocative songs in The Band’s Visit.
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL The Band’s Visit (Itamar Moses) Frozen (Jennifer Lee) Mean Girls (Tina Fey) SpongeBob SquarePants (Kyle Jarrow)
The race: Moses’s book for The Band’s Visit is a model of grace and may deserve to beat Fey’s amusing adaptation of her own movie. But the Tony voting equation often involves spreading the wealth, and this category presents an opportunity to show Mean Girls some love. (Fey’s fame doesn’t hurt, either.)
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island LaChanze, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls Jessie Mueller, Carousel
The race: This is technically the night’s widest category, with six candidates in the running due to a tie in the nominating process, but it all comes down to a close call between the luminous Ambrose and the darkling Lenk. Ambrose does a lovely job in the role that made Julie Andrews a star, but Lenk has no such performance to eclipse. Her languorous charisma redefines the slow burn.
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL Harry Hadden-Paton, My Fair Lady Joshua Henry, Carousel Tony Shalhoub, The Band’s Visit Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants
The race: The thinness of the 2017–18 season is clearest in this bout, which has been narrowed to four contenders because only five actors were even eligible for it. Henry has the meatiest role, so we predict his third Tony nomination will be the charm—but don’t rule out the tender Shalhoub or the energetic Slater.
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women Condola Rashad, Saint Joan Lauren Ridloff, Children of a Lesser God Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower
The race: Jackson has said she doesn’t care for awards, which is a shame because she’s about to be burdened with another one. The British actor’s masterful portrayal of an imperious woman in decline is the easiest win of the night to predict.
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY Andrew Garfield, Angels in America Tom Hollander, Travesties Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King Denzel Washington, The Iceman Cometh
The race: Rylance has appeared on Broadway in three previous seasons and won a Tony each time. That streak stops here, with Garfield favored for his portrayal of a resistant prophet in Tony Kushner’s masterpiece. If the preponderance of Brits triggers a patriotic reflex in voters, though, Washington—the category’s only out-and-out American—could eke out a win.
Mean Girls Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL Ariana DeBose, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Renée Fleming, Carousel Lindsay Mendez, Carousel Ashley Park, Mean Girls Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady
The race: Up-and-comer Park has already picked up a slew of prizes for Mean Girls and Off Broadway’s KPOP. But we think it will be “none for Gretchen Wieners” on Tony night, thanks to Mendez’s supremely lovable turn in Carousel. (As Game of Thrones fans know, however, one should never underestimate Dame Diana Rigg.)
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady Alexander Gemignani, Carousel Grey Henson, Mean Girls Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit
The race: Once on This Island’s gender-twisting Alex Newell shoulda been a contender, but in his absence it comes down to Broadway favorite Butz—who already has two Tonys to his (unforgettable) name—and handsome new arrival Stachel. Goodwill for The Band’s Visit gives the latter a modest edge.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY Susan Brown, Angels in America Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Deborah Findlay, The Children Denise Gough, Angels in America Laurie Metcalf, Three Tall Women
The race: Gough will be tough to beat, especially after her bravura turn in Off Broadway’s People, Places & Things earlier in the season. In terms of competition, Harry Potter’s forceful Dumezweni spells the most trouble for her.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Michael Cera, Lobby Hero Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero Nathan Lane, Angels in America David Morse, The Iceman Cometh
The race: This category is usually among the hardest to call, and this year is no exception. Lane is the front-runner for several reasons—he’s a living Broadway legend giving a harrowing performance in a large and rich part in a prestige production—but we would not be shocked by a victory for Boyle or Henry, who are both unimprovable in their roles.
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL Michael Arden, Once on This Island David Cromer, The Band’s Visit Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady
The race: We suspect that Cromer will win for his refreshingly unsentimental, straight-play approach to The Band’s Visit, but he faces stiff challenges from Sher and Landau among voters inclined toward more lavish pageantry. (Historically, this award almost always goes to the winner of Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical—but it didn’t last year.)
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY Marianne Elliott, Angels in America Joe Mantello, Three Tall Women Patrick Marber, Travesties John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child George C. Wolfe, The Iceman Cometh
The race: Tiffany’s wizardly coordination of the complex and dynamic Harry Potter will probably earn him the prize, but Elliott and Mantello have long shots at it if voters rebel against Pottermania.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY Christopher Gattelli, My Fair Lady Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants Steven Hoggett, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls Justin Peck, Carousel
The race: Peck’s ravishing dances are arguably the main attraction in Carousel, and the New York City Ballet wunderkind will leap off with the Tony for his Broadway debut.
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL Dane Laffrey, Once on This Island Scott Pask, The Band’s Visit Scott Pask, Finn Ross and Adam Young, Mean Girls Michael Yeargan, My Fair Lady David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants
The race: Zinn's ravishingly imaginative vision transports audiences to a magical undersea world. It deserves the prize—but if snooty voters think Bikini Bottom is beneath them, Yeargan's handsome set may steal the win.
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY Miriam Buether, Three Tall Women Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King Christine Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Santo Loquasto, The Iceman Cometh Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce, Angels in America
The race: Conventional wisdom favors Jones for her role in bringing Harry Potter's epic story to the stage. But if Harry Potter doesn't sweep the design awards, this may be where it falls short: We would not be surrpised by an upset win for Buether's gorgeous, mind-twisting set for Three Tall Women.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls Clint Ramos, Once on This Island Ann Roth, Carousel David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady
The race: Zinn's costumes complement his set design perfectly, but Tony voters can't resist Zuber's costumes for Lincoln Center musicals. Her Tony Awards for The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific and The King and I will probably soon have a sibling.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King Nicky Gillibrand, Angels in America Katrina Lindsay, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Ann Roth, The Iceman Cometh Ann Roth, Three Tall Women
The race: The lavish 18th-century garb in Farinelli and the King might win in a different year, but Harry Potter will likely add this one to the pot.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL Kevin Adams, SpongeBob SquarePants Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Once on This Island Donald Holder, My Fair Lady Brian MacDevitt, Carousel Tyler Micoleau, The Band’s Visit
The race: Other shows are brighter, but Micoleau's lighting plays a major role in bringing out The Band's Visit's delicate shades.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY Neil Austin,Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Paule Constable, Angels in America Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, The Iceman Cometh Paul Russell, Farinelli and the King Ben Stanton, Junk
The race: Lumos! Austin has this one locked up.
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL Kai Harada, The Band’s Visit Scott Lehrer, Carousel Peter Hylenski, Once on This Island Brian Ronan, Mean Girls Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, SpongeBob SquarePants
The race: The Tonys for sound design return this year for the first time since 2014. We think the wacky SpongeBob will take it with a bang.
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY Adam Cork, Travesties Ian Dickinson and Autograph, Angels in America Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Tom Gibbons, 1984 Dan Moses Schreier, The Iceman Cometh
The race: Another almost-certain win for Harry Potter's technical magic.
Spongebob Squarepants Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus
BEST ORCHESTRATIONS John Clancy, Mean Girls Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin, Once on This Island Jamshied Sharifi, The Band’s Visit Jonathan Tunick, Carousel
The race: When the band is the title character, the orchestrator gets a larger share of the spotlight than usual. Sharifi’s exceptional work is central to the show's appeal, expanding Broadway's musical palette with Middle Eastern instruments like the oud and the darbuka.