Tony Awards 2024: Who Will Win vs. Who Should

Three shows look to win big at the 2024 Tony Awards.

David Adjmi’s “Stereophonic” is a shoo-in for best play, and will make Tony history by being the first play ever to win the award for best score, by Will Butler.  Adam Guettel’s score for “Days of Wine and Roses” deserves to win that prize, but the Tony nominating committee, in one of its biggest blunders ever, failed to nominate “Days” for best musical, which just happens to be the best musical of not only 2023-24 but a few previous Broadway seasons as well. Daniel Aukin also has a lock on winning best director for his seamless ensemble work in “Stereophonic.”

Where Adjmi’s play, about a rock band trying to record an album, might come up short on Sunday is in the best featured actor and featured actress categories. No fewer than five actors have been nominated. Those competing nominees are Will Brill, Juliana Canfield, Eli Gelb, Tom Pecinka and Sarah Pidgeon. They will cut into each other’s votes, giving the Tony for best featured actor to Corey Stoll, who plays the son of a racist U.S. senator in “Appropriate.” Stoll and Pecinka should both be in the lead actor category, with Pecinka’s rock star being one of the season’s most memorable portrayals. But that’s just my opinion. Recently, the Lucille Lortel Awards gave its outstanding featured performer award to Gelb in “Stereophonic.” So, you see the problem confronting this ensemble at the Tonys.

Kara Young wins best featured actress in a play for her awesomely insane turn in “Purlie Victorious.” Again, hers was really a lead performance. The show closed a few months ago, never a plus for Tony voters, but it has the advantage of airing on PBS.

“Appropriate” will be one of the evening’s other big winners. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ comedy about racism not only wins for best featured actor but Sarah Paulson’s star turn in “Appropriate” takes the Tony for best actress in a play.

I can’t disagree with either “Appropriate” or “Purlie Victorious” receiving the Tony for revival of a play, but sometimes the word “best” can mean several things. Since its world premiere in 2013, Jacobs-Jenkins’ play has received a number of productions around the country. Unfortunately, the story of “Purlie Victorious” is very different. After the Ossie Davis comedy about a sly preacher closed in 1962, it essentially disappeared. The 2023 Broadway revival brought back an important work in the American theater, making it a major challenger to “Appropriate.” A recent citation of excellence from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle also gives “Purlie Victorious” a lot of oxygen among the Tony voters.

Receiving the Tony for best revival of a musical is “Merrily We Roll Along,” the night’s third big winner. Tony voters like to give the award for best direction of a musical to the director of a revival, and “Merrily” director Maria Friedman will follow Marianne Elliott’s 2022 win for her work on another Stephen Sondheim classic, “Company.” Expect the “Merrily” triumvirate of Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez to win, respectively, for best actor, featured actor and featured actress in a musical.

The open question is which show will win for best musical. By far the biggest voting block at the Tonys are the out-of-town presenters, those people who book tours into theaters outside New York City. They like the imprimatur of a Tony to help sell a musical to their local audiences. “Water for Elephants” will get most of their votes, thanks to its name recognition, the Cirque du Soleil acrobatics and all those cute animal puppets.

For out-of-town presenters, the other nominees for best musical present challenges. “Hell’s Kitchen” tells the story of a spoiled biracial girl who doesn’t have a clue she’s privileged. “Illinoise” tells the story of a young gay man whose first male lover commits suicide. “Suffs” charts the first women’s march on Washington, D.C. And “The Outsiders” just doesn’t have a chance to win.

Since “Hell’s Kitchen” features the songs of superstar Alicia Keys (but not enough original songs to get a nomination for best score), it has the clear edge. Also, among the five nominees, it’s grossing the most at the box office, and money is everything to the out-of-town presenters. With “Days of Wine and Roses” out of the picture, “Suffs” deserves to win the best musical Tony. Also, Leigh Silverman’s direction of this feminist musical handles multiple storylines with ease, efficiency and, yes, real elegance. She should win the Tony for best director of a musical.

The Tonys, like the Oscars, tend to award the most acting, not the best acting. That would appear to give the edge for best actor in a play to Michael Stuhlbarg, who devours the stage every night in “Patriots.” Jeremy Strong, giving a very low-key performance in “An Enemy of the People,” will defy conventional logic to win that Tony. Also helping Strong’s chances is his show’s SRO status, with “Patriots” being a surprising box-office disappointment. My personal favorite in this best actor category is William Jackson Harper, who presents a most unusual and gripping doctor in “Uncle Vanya.”

The Tonys will look to honor Shaina Taub, the quadruple-threat talent from “Suffs.” Taub wins for best book of a musical. She also has a little sympathy going for her. The Tonys made the mistake of not nominating her for best actress in a musical.

In that category, Kelli O’Hara will receive the Tony. Her “Days of Wine and Roses” performance as an alcoholic wife and mother was one for the ages.

Sometimes the Tony nominators don’t follow their own logic. Take the best director categories. Jessica Stone, Justin Peck and Whitney White are nominated for their work on “Water for Elephants,” “Illinoise” and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” respectively. Yet, no performers from those productions are nominated. Meanwhile, directors Scott Ellis and Rebecca Frecknall failed to receive recognition despite Ellis’ “Doubt” receiving three actor nominations and Frecknall’s “Cabaret” receiving four actor nominations. Something’s not making sense here.

The 77th Tony Awards telecast live from Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS and Paramount+.

The post Tony Awards 2024: Who Will Win vs. Who Should appeared first on TheWrap.