Final Tony Predictions: Best Actor – Race is Too Close to Call for Sean Hayes or Stephen McKinley Henderson to Win

Variety Awards Circuit section is the home for all awards news and related content throughout the year, featuring the following: the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tony Awards ceremonies, curated by Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis. The prediction pages reflect the current standings in the race and do not reflect personal preferences for any individual contender. As other formal (and informal) polls suggest, competitions are fluid and subject to change based on buzz and events. Predictions are updated every Thursday.

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UPDATED: June 8, 2023

2023 Tony Predictions:
Best Actor in a Play

Between Riverside and Crazy review
Stephen McKinley Henderson in “Between Riverside and Crazy” on Broadway.

Weekly Commentary: Like the race for leading actress in a play, this one’s a nail-biter: In a category packed with deserving performances, two names have risen to the top.

In a transformative turn as late-night fixture Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar,” Sean Hayes wins votes with a performance that’s literally virtuosic, complete with a bravura sequence that shows off his formidable chops as a concert pianist. Hayes has the highest wow factor of the category, and that’s something voters like to reward.

Just as competitive, however, is Stephen McKinley Henderson in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Henderson is the kind of actor who makes it look easy, so it’s sometimes harder for audiences to spot the skill at work. But he’s a Broadway favorite known for a long career of seemingly effortless and authentic performances in plays by great American writers, and in “Riverside” he turned in stellar work in a rare leading role. Plus, at 73 years old, he’s never won a Tony Award, and many voters feel like this is his year to take one home at last.

Both actors have awards momentum heading into the race. Hayes won both a Drama Desk and an Outer Critics trophy, while Henderson scored a lifetime achievement award at the Drama Desks.

In our polling for the Tonys, the edge goes to Henderson – but it could go either way.

Gordon Cox’s Picks
Will win: Stephen McKinley Henderson, “Between Riverside and Crazy”
Could win: Sean Hayes, “Good Night, Oscar”
Should win: Stephen McKinley Henderson, “Between Riverside and Crazy”
Should Have Been Nominated: Marcel Spears, “Fat Ham”

Clayton Davis’ Picks
Will win: Sean Hayes, “Good Night, Oscar”
Could win: Stephen McKinley Henderson, “Between Riverside and Crazy”

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Tony Awards predictions in all categories.

The 76th Annual Tony Awards are scheduled for June 11, 2023, at the United Palace in New York City. It will air on CBS and Paramount+ and be produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, with the latter also serving as the director.

And the Nominees Are:

  1. Stephen McKinley Henderson — “Between Riverside and Crazy” (Hayes Theater)

  2. Sean Hayes — “Good Night, Oscar” (Belasco Theatre)

  3. Corey Hawkins — “Topdog/Underdog” (Golden Theatre)

  4. Wendell Pierce — “Death of a Salesman” (Hudson Theatre)

  5. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II — “Topdog/Underdog” (Golden Theatre)

All Eligible Shows and Performances (Unranked)

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About the Tony Awards

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, better known as the Tony Awards, is given out annually by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League, recognizing excellence in live Broadway theatre. The ceremony, held annually in New York City, was founded by theatre producer and director Brock Pemberton and is named after Antoinette “Tony” Perry, an actress, producer and theatre director who was co-founder of the American Theatre Wing.

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