The 69th Annual Tony Awards are upon us and this year's race promises to be a nail-biter. The show, which airs Sunday night on CBS, will showcase an incredible array of new and revived works that are receiving a lot of buzz from both the press and audiences alike.
This marks my ninth year as a Tony voter and a member of The Broadway League (the national association for the Broadway industry), and I continue to relish the opportunity to see the amazing works that could make their way from New York to the Hobby Center one day.
I've cast my ballot for who I think is the best, and now I give to you my preview of the rumored favorites and which races are going to be tight.
A Boy Playing Detective vs. a Sadistic Sock Puppet
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of a teenage boy, Christopher Boone (played by newcomer Alex Sharp), with an incredible mind, but a bit of trouble with the real world, who must find a way to prove his innocence when he's accused of a crime. This is the one to beat.
The show has ties to the Houston area through its playwright, Robert Askins, who is from Cypress, which also happens to be the setting for the play.
The British import — one of two featured in the race for Best Play — is a unique story that is crafted in such a visually compelling way that it easily pulls its audience into the world of its protagonist.
Another show chronicling the life of a teenage boy takes a much darker approach. Hand to God is a show about sex, violence and religion, much of which is caused by sadistic sock puppet named Tyrone. Hand to God is a dark show, frighteningly dark, but it never pretends for a moment that it is anything other than exactly what it is.
The show has ties to the Houston area through its playwright, Robert Askins, who is from Cypress, which also happens to be the setting for the play. It's not surprising that the controversial content of the show has garnered it much attention. It will be interesting to see how the show plays outside of New York.
Reviving a Man
The top contenders for Best Revival of a Play are anchored by incredibly talented lead actors and ensembles giving these two the edge over the competition. The Elephant Man and Skylight are dramatically different stories, but thanks to each show's remarkable cast, I see it being a race between these two.
The Elephant Man features Bradley Cooper, one the sexiest actors around, in the title role. What's so interesting about his performance is how he transforms into this disfigured character without the aid of prosthetics or makeup, using only his body and facial expressions. Cooper does a terrific job convincing the audience that he is the character.
The Best Man for the Job
The race for Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play is a tough one. We have star-powered performances with nominees like Bill Nighy in Skylight and Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man, but then you also have newcomer Alex Sharp from The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time who turned in an amazing performance in a challenging role. This one is anyone's race and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
Choosing a Queen
Talk about star power. The race for Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, which includes nominees Helen Mirren for The Audience, Geneva Carr for Hand to God and Carey Mulligan for Skylight, is going to be a close one. However, I think Mirren has the edge here with her performance as Queen Elizabeth II, which she is superb in.
Featured — Play
In the race for Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play one man who has been getting a lot of attention is Micah Stock for his role in It's Only a Play. In his Broadway debut role, he holds his own on stage with a powerful ensemble cast including Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Matthew Broderick and F. Murray Abraham.
A number of the nominated performances stand out in the race for Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, but I like Patricia Clarkson for her role in The Elephant Man. It's a courageous move for any actress to tackle the role of this vulnerable character. That said, I must also mention the courageous performance of Julie White as an aging, drug-addicted prostitute in Airline Highway as another strong contender.
The American Musical
The race for Best Musical finds two shows — An American in Paris and Fun Home — each with an equally large number of nominations (12 each). However, An American in Paris really has the edge over its competition in this category. This show is the quintessential Broadway musical with beautiful music and lyrics and stunning costumes all giving it strength. Telling the story of a soldier and a beautiful French girl and filled with classic Gershwin music, this show is the one to beat.
Another competitor in the race for Best Musical garnering the attention of the press is Something Rotten!, a show that combines Shakespeare, the Renaissance and two disgruntled playwrights setting out to write the very first musical.
The juxtaposition of Something Rotten! and An American in Paris gave the voters a yin and yang in this category pitting a traditional Broadway show against something completely different.
Reviving the King a Second Time
King is a huge, visually compelling production featuring star-powered singers including six-time Tony nominee, Kelli O'Hara. The set is incredible. The show is wowing both critics and audiences alike and has already announced it will go on tour in 2016. I know that any production from Lincoln Center that goes out on tour is going to be top-notch and a winner for our audiences.
Another Close One
Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical is another toss-up. The men in this category all turned out incredible performances in their respective roles. It's also another race with star power including nominations for Michael Cerveris in Fun Home and Brian d'Arcy James in Something Rotten!
The actresses up for Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical are all incredible, but I think it's a race between three of theatre's leading ladies — Kristin Chenoweth for On the Twentieth Century, Kelli O'Hara for The King and I and Chita Rivera for The Visit. As a grand dame of the theater, Rivera — who last won for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1996 — may have a slight edge over the others.
Featured — Musicals
The men seem to have all the tight races this year! The category for Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical is another one that's simply too close to call. It is interesting to note that Something Rotten! garnered nominations for two of its actors in this category — Christian Borle and Brad Oscar.
Also interesting, the race for Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical includes three actresses from Fun Home, giving it a statistical edge over the competition. It also features the only nomination for Gigi with Victoria Clark, who was wonderful in her role.
A Couple to Watch
It will be interesting to see how voters respond to Sting's debut on Broadway with music and lyrics for The Last Ship, up for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre. While Broadway is not a familiar genre for Sting, he even appeared in the cast for a brief stretch in December — not unlike Billie Joe Armstrong did with the character of St. Jimmy throughout the run of American Idiot — and reports were that he did a powerful job both on stage and with the music.
Another one to watch is Best Choreography, which really means the designing of sequences of movement. This one will be another tight race with five really dynamic, unique performances. You have On the Town, which is old school Broadway and all about the dancing, and then something like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is so unique and is more about movement than actual dance. Also, Something Rotten! is so much fun and features cleaver choreography and An American in Paris, which features ballet and really beautiful dance.
There's no doubt this year's Tony Awards will be a race that keeps you on the edge of your seat and really just a joy to watch with all of the featured performances, not to mention Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming as hosts. It's an evening you don’t want to miss!
The picks below reflect my opinions only, and not necessarily even my personal favorites nor do they necessarily reflect how I voted.
Best Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Best Musical: An American in Paris
Best Revival Of a Play: Toss up between The Elephant Man and Skylight
Best Revival Of a Musical: The King and I
Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Too close to call
Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Helen Mirren for The Audience
Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Too close to call
Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Race between Kristin Chenoweth for On the Twentieth Century, Kelli O'Hara for The King and I and Chita Rivera for The Visit
Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Micah Stock for It's Only a Play
Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Patricia Clarkson for The Elephant Man
Best Performance By an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Too close to call
Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Victoria Clark for Gigi