Tony Nominations Predictions 2023: The Biggest Contenders and Who Deserves to Make the Cut

Tony Nominations Predictions 2023: The Biggest Contenders and Who Deserves to Make the Cut

Last year, the Tony Awards nominating committee expanded its Best Actor in a Play category to a whopping seven nominees so that none of the three British actors in “The Lehman Trilogy” would have to suffer the humiliation of being left out. Simon Russell Beale eventually won out over his colleagues, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester.

So what happens this year on May 2 when the Tony nominees are announced? The category most likely to expand again to absurd proportions is Best Play.

Twenty years ago, I toiled as a theater reporter and wrote an article about there being no new plays running on Broadway. In comparison, we are now living in a veritable golden age of new plays. An amazing 17 titles qualify this season, which saw the openings of three Pulitzer Prize winners (Stephen Adly Guirgis’s “Between Riverside and Crazy,” Martyna Majok’s “Cost of Living” and James Ijames’s “Fat Ham”) and three Olivier Award winners (Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt,” Lolita Chakrabarti’s “Life of Pi” and Suzie Miller’s “Prima Facie”). Rather than snubbing any of those contenders, the Tonys will probably add David Auburn’s “Summer, 1976” and Larissa Fasthorse’s “The Thanksgiving Play,” both of which opened recently, which always helps.

Eight nominees is only two fewer than what the Oscars anointed as the potential Best Picture of 2022. Who cares that the film community has a couple hundred titles to choose from, and not fewer than a couple dozen?

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It wasn’t such a bumper crop of new musicals, and the Tonys may stick to nominating its standard four, with “Kimberly Akimbo,” “Shucked” and “Some Like It Hot” assured slots. Will Tony also include well-packaged schlock like “& Juliet” or the flawed but more serious-minded “New York, New York”? Or expand the category to five?

The urge to punish Aaron Sorkin for his botched rewrite of “Camelot” could turn the Lerner and Loewe show into this year’s “Funny Girl” loser. More assured of recognition as Best Revival of a Musical are “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’,” “Into the Woods,” “Parade” and “Sweeney Todd.”

Although it just opened, “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” could be the “Camelot” in the Best Revival of a Play category. Only “A Doll’s House” is still running, making it a shoo-in. Expect “Death of a Salesman,” “The Piano Lesson” and “Topdog/Underdog” to make the cut. Rather than “Sidney,” I’d much prefer to see the short-lived “Ohio State Murders” honored. It’s a much better play.

The Tony Awards require its voters to take an “unconscious bias training” test. One thing not covered in this video course is the awards’ bias towards overseas directors. The Brits tend to be very showy at the helm, as evidenced by the most likely nominees in the Best Director of a Play category: Jamie Lloyd (“A Doll’s House”), Patrick Marber (“Leopoldstadt”), Justin Miller (“Prima Facie”) and Max Webster (“The Life of Pi”). If the category goes to five nominees, Miranda Cromwell (“Death of a Salesman”) will probably join her fellow Brits.

I hope I’m wrong. I prefer the more subtle work of Saleem Ali (“Fat Ham”), Jo Bonney (“Cost of Living”), Kenny Leon (“Topdog/Underdog”), Austin Pendleton (“Between Riverside and Crazy”), Daniel Sullivan (“Summer, 1976”) and Stevie Walker-Webb (“Ain’t No ‘Mo”). It’s the difference between a director putting the spotlight on the play and a director showing off, usually to the detriment of the work.

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The Yanks should make a clean sweep of it for Best Director of a Musical. The likely nominees are Michael Arden (“Parade”), Lear deBessonet (“Into the Woods”), Thomas Kail (“Sweeney Todd”), Casey Nicholaw (“Some Like It Hot”) and Jessica Stone (“Kimberly Akimbo”).

Best Actor in a Play is a lot more competitive than Best Actress in a Play, which is why the Tonys won’t be merging the two categories anytime soon to make them gender-neutral. Among the men, John David Washington (“The Piano Lesson”) and David Zayas (“Cost of Living”), along with Stephen McKinley Henderson (“Between Riverside and Crazy”), deserve to top the actor list. Only Henderson is guaranteed a slot. Expect major competition from Corey Hawkins (“Topdog/Underdog”), Sean Hayes (“Good Night, Oscar”), Oscar Isaac (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”), Nathan Lane (“Pictures from Home”) and Wendell Pierce (“Death of a Salesman”).

Compare that extensive list with the contenders for Best Actress in a Play: Rachel Brosnahan (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”), Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”), Jodie Comer (“Prima Facie”) and Jessica Hecht and Laura Linney (“Summer, 1976”). Audra McDonald (“Ohio State Murders”) and Zoe Wanamaker (“Pictures from Home”) deserve to make the cut. At first glance, I thought the Tonys might snub Linney because, as they occasionally do with McDonald and Nathan Lane, she has been nominated a lot. But then I checked: despite five nominations, Linney has never won the award for Best Actress.

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The category for Best Actress in a Musical is slightly more competitive: Annaleigh Ashford (“Sweeney Todd”), Victoria Clark (“Kimberly Akimbo”), Micaela Diamond (“Parade”), Phillipa Soo (“Camelot”) and Anna Uzele (“New York, New York”), but don’t count out Lorna Courtney (“& Juliet”).

The five nominees for Best Actor in a Musical will come down to Josh Groban (“Sweeney Todd”), Ben Platt (“Parade”), Colton Ryan (“New York, New York”), and Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee (“Some Like It Hot”).

The most acting generally wins an actor the Oscar. It’s also true for the Tonys, and in the musical categories, it helps if the performer is also very loud when he, she or they sing. Herewith are not predictions, but actors in plays and musicals who turned in featured performances that remain memorable for me. They include Kevin Del Aguila (“Some Like It Hot”), Sharon D Clarke (“Death of a Salesman”), Glenn Fitzgerald (“The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”), Arian Moayed (“A Doll’s House”), Bryce Pinkham (“Ohio State Murders”), Katy Sullivan (“Cost of Living”), Betsy Wolfe (“& Juliet”), Steven Boyer and Bonnie Mulligan (“Kimberly Akimbo”), Elizabeth Canavan and Michael Rispoli (“Between Riverside and Crazy”), Gavin Creel and Julie Lester (“Into the Woods”), Jordan Fisher and Gaten Matarazzo (“Sweeney Todd”), and Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Potts (“The Piano Lesson”).

The 76th Tony Awards will be held on June 11 at the United Palace in New York City’s Washington Heights. The ceremony airs on CBS.