The Tony Awards for the 2019–20 Broadway season are surely the strangest in history. The ceremony on September 26 is taking place more than 15 months later than scheduled, and the nominations only cover half of the productions that had been expected to open in a season that wound up shortened by the shutdown. The nominations were not announced until last October, with none of the ensuing campaigning that usually fills the weeks before voters file their ballots—which turned out to be five months later. Those are just a few of the factors that make it especially tricky to predict who will win at the Tony Awards this year, and some have chafed at the very notion of an awards competition at a time when a group hug may seem more appropriate. But the Tonys still carry more weight than any other Broadway prize, and celebrating creative artists is still a worthy endeavor. So we say: Damn the asterisks! Full speed ahead! Here are our predictions for all 25 categories in the 2021 Tony Awards.
The race: Of this year's three nominees, all jukebox musicals, Moulin Rouge! has the edge for its sheer entertainment value. It may not be deep, but it delivers what it promises: a continuous stream of pop hits dressed to the nines in glamour and glitz.
The race: This category probably comes down to two shows that couldn't be more different: the raucous, challenging Slave Play and the lengthy, elegiac The Inheritance. We favor the timely Slave Play, which scored a record 12 nods and makes a better case for Broadway's artistic and cultural relevance—but its edgy tone (and playwright's Jeremy O. Harris's cheeky needling of the awards on Twitter) may alienate some voters.
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The race: Well, this one is easy. None of the three musical revivals that were supposed to compete here—West Side Story, Company and Caroline, or Change—wound up eligible, so the entire category is being omitted. (It will be an exciting one at the next Tonys, though!)
The race: The latest Broadway production of Harold Pinter's backward-looking Betrayal was the kind of elegant, pedigreed production to which Tony voters gravitate when they want to seem classy, so it has the advantage. But don't rule out the vital revival of A Soldier's Play, a powerful interrogation of divisions within the Black community.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Paul Englishby, The Inheritance
Lindsay Jones, Slave Play
Daniel Kluger, The Sound Inside
Christopher Nightingale, A Christmas Carol
Jason Michael Webb and Fitz Patton, The Rose Tattoo
The race: The season's only musical with an original score, The Lightning Thief, was snubbed by the Tony nominators entirely, resulting in a race between the composers of incidental music for plays. Of that group, A Christmas Carol is the one in which music figured most centrally, which will likely prove the deciding factor.
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Diablo Cody, Jagged Little Pill
Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
John Logan, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The race: Jagged Little Pill scored the most nominations of any production this year, and this is one of the awards it has the strongest chance of winning. Unlike her competitors—who adapted existing material or history—Diablo Cody (who won an Oscar for Juno) creates an entirely new story and characters around Alanis Morissette's songs.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill
Adrienne Warren, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: Aye, Tina! No suspense here: This award is a lock for the mighty Adrienne Warren, who gives a star-worthy and star-making performance in the Turner biomusical.
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The race: Although he's the only nominee, Aaron Tveit doesn't technically have this award in the bag; according to Tony rules, he still needs 60% of the vote. But it's hard to imagine there will be that many grinches voting to give no prize at all instead of rewarding this well-liked Broadway star.
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Joaquina Kalukango, Slave Play
Laura Linney, My Name Is Lucy Barton
Audra McDonald, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Mary-Louise Parker, The Sound Inside
The race: Although it's never wise to rule out Tony hoarder Audra McDonald entirely, the race here is likely between Broadway veteran Mary-Louise Parker and relative newcomer Joaquina Kalukango. Parker, who last won a Tony for 2001's Proof, is the safer bet for her exquisitely connected performance in The Sound Inside.
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ian Barford, Linda Vista
Andrew Burnap, The Inheritance
Jake Gyllenhaal, Sea Wall/A Life
Tom Hiddleston, Betrayal
Tom Sturridge, Sea Wall/A Life
Blair Underwood, A Soldier's Play
The race: In a crowded field of six, Tom Hiddleston stands out for his veddy English turn—restraint, restraint, flood of emotion, restraint—in the prestige revival of Betrayal. That he's also a Loki mass-culture star only sweetens the deal.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kathryn Gallagher, Jagged Little Pill
Celia Rose Gooding, Jagged Little Pill
Robyn Hurder, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill
Myra Lucretia Taylor, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: In Jagged Little Pill, Patten gets to sing two of Alanis Morissette’s most definitive numbers, “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know,” and stops the show cold with the latter. She's got this race in her pocket.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Derek Klena, Jagged Little Pill
Sean Allan Krill, Jagged Little Pill
Sahr Ngaujah, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Daniel J. Watts, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: The beloved Broadway lifer Danny Burstein currently holds the all-time record for the most Tony nominations without a win, but this will be his lucky seventh try. Not only does he deserves the award on merit for his charismatic performance in Moulin Rouge, but everyone is rooting for him personally. (He has been through the windmill in the past two years.)
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons
Chalia La Tour, Slave Play
Annie McNamara, Slave Play
Lois Smith, The Inheritance
Cora Vander Broek, Linda Vista
The race: Lois Smith makes a late entrance in The Inheritance, but it's worth the wait: She's the soul of the play's second half. She's also a revered nonagenarian theater legend who has yet to win a Tony in her nearly 70 years of Broadway work; look for that to change this year.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ato Blankson-Wood, Slave Play
James Cusati-Moyer, Slave Play
David Alan Grier, A Soldier's Play
John Benjamin Hickey, The Inheritance
Paul Hilton, The Inheritance
The race: Perhaps the tightest acting race of the night, this will likely be a photo finish between the intense David Alan Grier in A Soldier's Play and the touching Paul Hilton in The Inheritance. Although Hilton's costar John Benjamin Hickey is a potential dark horse, we think Hilton has a slight edge over Grier.
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Phyllida Lloyd, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill
Alex Timbers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The race: Moulin Rouge! is a feast for the eyes and a beast of coordination, and the ever-imaginative Alex Timbers (Beetlejuice) is the director who pulled it together.
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
David Cromer, The Sound Inside
Stephen Daldry, The Inheritance
Kenny Leon, A Soldier’s Play
Jamie Lloyd, Betrayal
Robert O'Hara, Slave Play
The race: This is one of the year's toughest categories to call, but we suspect that Robert O'Hara—a brilliant comic provocateur in shows he has written himself, including Bootycandy and Barbecue—will take the prize for the acumen he brought to staging the very tricky Slave Play. Of the other contenders, Stephen Daldry leads a tight pack.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Jagged Little Pill
Sonya Tayeh, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Anthony Van Laast, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: Moulin Rouge! seems to never stop moving, thanks in large part to the dances that Sonya Tayeh has created for the show's epic medleys—including in a sensational second-act opener set largely to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Riccardo Hernández and Lucy Mackinnon, Jagged Little Pill
Derek McLane, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Mark Thompson and Jeff Sugg, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: Not much of a horserace here: Derek McLane is all set to win for the sumptuous world he creates in Moulin Rouge!
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Bob Crowley, The Inheritance
Soutra Gilmour, Betrayal
Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol
Derek McLane, A Soldier’s Play
Clint Ramos, Slave Play
The race: Rob Howell's work for A Christmas Carol is showier, and may end up winning, but Clint Ramos's smart set for Slave Play—which cleverly mirrors the different tones of the work's three sections—has a slightly better shot.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Emily Rebholz, Jagged Little Pill
Mark Thompson, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
Catherine Zuber, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The race: Another win sewn up for Moulin Rouge!—and for the unstoppable Catherine Zuber, who has won seven other Tonys since 2005.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dede Ayite, Slave Play
Dede Ayite, A Soldier’s Play
Bob Crowley, The Inheritance
Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol
Clint Ramos, The Rose Tattoo
The race: As in the race for Best Set Design of a Play, this one probably comes down to A Christmas Carol's Rob Howell versus the designer from Slave Play—in this case Dede Ayite, who is also nominated for A Soldier's Play this season. It's a close call, but we think Ayite's double nomination will work in her favor rather than against her.
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bruno Poet, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
Justin Townsend, Jagged Little Pill
Justin Townsend, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The race: Best Lighting Design in a Musical usually translates to Most Lighting Design in a Musical, and Justin Towsend keeps the party going all night in Moulin Rouge!
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Jiyoun Chang, Slave Play
Jon Clark, The Inheritance
Heather Gilbert, The Sound Inside
Allen Lee Hughes, A Soldier’s Play
Hugh Vanstone, A Christmas Carol
The race: Another hard category this year. We think the winner will be Jon Clark, whose lighting in The Inheritance was charged with the responsibility of carving out spaces and moods, over the course of six hours, in a playing area that was otherwise largely undefined.
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Jonathan Deans, Jagged Little Pill
Peter Hylenski, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Nevin Steinberg, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: At the last Tony Awards, Peter Hylenski was nominated for both Beetlejuice and King Kong, but didn't win for either. This year he is poised to complete a sweep of the creative categories by Moulin Rouge!
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paul Arditti and Christopher Reed, The Inheritance
Simon Baker, A Christmas Carol
Lindsay Jones, Slave Play
Daniel Kluger, Sea Wall/A Life
Daniel Kluger, The Sound Inside
The race: Daniel Kluger earned three Tony nominations this year: two in this category and one for original score. We suspect he'll win for The Sound Inside—not just because his work in it was excellent, but also because, let's face it, most people don't know how to vote in this category and the play literally has sound in its title.
Tom Kitt, Jagged Little Pill
Katie Kresek, Justin Levine, Charlie Rosen and Matt Stine, Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Ethan Popp, Tina—The Tina Turner Musical
The race: It took a team of crackerjack musicians, led by Justin Levine, to combine 75 songs into the musical crazy quilt that is the score for Moulin Rouge!, and the results sing for themselves.
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
New Federal Theatre
Regional Theatre Tony Award
[None this year.]
All but three of the winners of the 2021 Tony Awards will be announced live in a ceremony streamed on Paramount+ on September 26, 2021, from 7pm to 9pm. The awards for Best Musical, Best Play and Best Revival of a Play will be announced the same night in a CBS television special, The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!, from 9pm to 11pm.