Diana’s 2017 Tony Predictions

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Tom and Donna voice: It’s the best day of the year! Image via BloxImages.

It’s not an understatement when I say that predicting this year’s Tony Awards is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. After the Year of Hamilton (and its inevitable sweep of awards), this year has produced an incredible number of new musicals and equally incredible talent backing them all. I’m confident in saying that I have no confidence in any of my predictions, because really, anything could happen this year.

Best Musical
Nominees: 
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Will win: Dear Evan Hansen
Upset: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 or Come From Away

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Remember when Groundhog Day opened in London and it generated so much buzz about being the next big thing? Me either. It’s a perfectly fine show, and might win any other year, but the other three are far more likely. Now that Come From Away won the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, it might even seem like more of a frontrunner – but then again, its competition for that award was slim to none (out of the five nominees, three of them were Off-Broadway, hence ineligible for Tony nominations, and the other one was Anastasia, which failed to garner a Tony nom. None of its actual competition in the Tony race).

When I left the Imperial after seeing Great Comet, I thought for sure it had Best Musical locked up. It is the definition of a spectacle, and it’s hosting a theatre experience that no other show on Broadway is doing right now. Its lighting, staging, interactive experience, top-tier performances and the most interesting score make it an ideal frontrunner – or at least, so I thought. I would love for Great Comet to win any category, even if I didn’t pick it to win, because that means it’s a step forward for innovative, diverse theatre.

Best Revival of a Musical
Nominees:
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon

Will win: Hello, Dolly!
Upset: Falsettos

I recently listened to the new Hello, Dolly! cast album and realized that when people say they don’t like musicals, this is the kind of musical they don’t like. Belting divas, a big chorus, feather headpieces, and classic numbers. A.K.A. heaven.

Leading Actor in a Musical
Nominees:
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Will win: Ben Platt
Upset: If anybody but Ben Platt wins, I will burn this place to the ground.

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Christian Borle should be applauded for two leading roles in a single season (he’s currently playing the candy man himself in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a show that garnered 0 nominations), and he’s always a Tony favourite, but this is more a thank-you for doing Falsettos, and he won’t clinch his third trophy this year, although it would be well-deserved.

I love Josh Groban!! That’s not an exaggeration. I’ve been a fan of his music for years, and he’s perfect in Great Comet. He might be the nicest guy on Broadway right now (at least for the next month-or-so until his last performance on July 2), and this nomination is saying thank you for this great performance – please come back soon.

If it weren’t for Ben Platt, Andy Karl would be the favourite. He’s worked hard on Broadway for years, he earned the Olivier for the role of Phil Connors earlier this year, he just won the Drama Desk for the part, and he literally tore his ACL on stage and continued to perform. He’s due to become Broadway’s next Susan Lucci. You’ll get ’em one year, Andy.

David Hyde Pierce already stole Raúl Esparza’s Tony in 2007 (somebody PLEASE explain to me how his Bobby was not Tony-winning. I still don’t understand), and although I haven’t seen the show in person, how could he not be upstaged by Bette?

Leading Actress in a Musical
Nominees:
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Will win: Bette Midler
Upset: Denée Benton

I would love to see my personal Jesus Patti LuPone take home her third, but it’s basically a sure thing that Bette’s taking home the trophy this year. Even if she MIGHT NOT PERFORM.

Even if it wasn’t the Year of Bette, Patti and her War Paint counterpart Christine Ebersole would likely split the votes and it wouldn’t go to either of them.

The youngest Tony nominee this year Eva Noblezada (she is 19!!!!) is absolutely killing it in the titular role of Miss Saigon – her Broadway debut. Denée Benton is also killing it playing opposite two male powerhouses – Josh Groban and Lucas Steele in Great Comet. For supposedly playing a naïve ingenue, Denée’s performance is powerful as hell.

Featured Actor in a Musical
Nominees:
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Will win: Gavin Creel or Andrew Rannells
Upset: Lucas Steele

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I’m the most unsure about this category, so I’ll let the two formerly-nominated Elder Prices (with their third and second nominations, respectively) battle it out. I genuinely want this whole category to win a five-way Tony. I’m giving Andrew Rannells the edge because I think the Tony voters want to give Falsettos SOMETHING.

Featured Actress in a Musical
Nominees:
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Jen Colella, Come From Away
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Will win: Rachel Bay Jones
Upset: Jenn Colella

Jenn Colella’s been making the press rounds with the Come From Away cast and been performing “Me and the Sky” on every talk show, which might garner up some votes. But is her performance big enough to triumph RBJ’s heartbreaking, phenomenal, truly supportive role?

The creative categories are even harder to choose, and the play categories are even harder still (because I haven’t seen any of them and I don’t pay as much attention to plays as I do musicals). But let’s get real – the real winner on Tony night is me.

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Ins & Outs of the Tony Rules

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The accountants from Grant Thorton at last year’s Tony Awards with host James Corden. Image via Zimbio.

I love award shows, and I love trying to predict them. I feel like there’s a science behind getting it right. However, I’ve never looked at the science behind those who pick the nominees and award winners in the first place – until now, that is.

On a lazy afternoon, I read through the 2016-2017 Tony Award guidelines (exciting!) and I figured out exactly what the process was, and I’m here to break it down for you.

Before I went in, I had basically one major question: what differentiates a revival from a transfer? I had always wondered this after Hedwig and the Angry Inch won Best Revival in 2014 even though it was the show’s Broadway premiere.

I also knew that there were separate processes for nominating and then for voting (i.e., the nominees weren’t a shortlist), and that the voters were generally kept a secret. The latter is not necessarily true, but I’ll explain all that now too. Come along, fellow data nerds, and let’s decipher this jargon together.

A Broadway House
For a theatre to be considered “on Broadway” and the shows inside to be eligible for awards, it has to meet the following criteria:
• Be located in the Borough of Manhattan
• Have 500+ seats
• Be used mainly for “legitimate theatrical productions”
• Or be deemed otherwise qualified by the Tony Awards Administration Committee

A list of currently eligible theatres is on page 21 of the rulebook.

Opening Night
The Tony Committee set a cutoff date every year (generally late April), and you have to have your opening night on or before that date. You have to all members of the nomination committee to “professional” performances (i.e., not the invited dress rehearsal, but previews and regular performances are fine) before the cutoff date.

In order for any actor to be eligible to be nominated in acting categories, they have to perform in that role on opening night (which is why it was such a big deal when Andy Karl got injured near opening). If the committee determines that the role you’re playing now is too similar to a role you’ve played before, you won’t be eligible – sorry, Glenn Close. Can’t win it twice.

Revivals vs. Transfers
There’s only a Best Revival of a Musical category and a Best Revival of a Play category if there are three or more eligible shows of each to choose from.

A revival is the following:
• Complies with the above rules about a Broadway house and opening night
• A show that’s deemed a “classic”
• Or has not been performed within three years of the eligibility date

That’s the difference between a revival and a transfer. Fun Home, Hamilton, Great Comet, and Dear Evan Hansen, in recent memory, all played Off-Broadway and then transferred. Shows like Hedwig died for years before coming to Broadway.

The Nominating Committee
The nominating committee is made up of anywhere between 15 and 51 people of the theatre community. They must meet the following criteria:

• Have worked in the theatre/theatre education before
• Represent a “range of expertise” in the theatre community, have knowledge of productions past and present
• See every show of the season
• Not be a working member of the press

These people are randomly divided into three groups, and serve for one, two, or three seasons.

Picking the Nominees
A date is picked after the opening night cutoff, and the nomination committee has a meeting (officially titled the “Tony Nomination Meeting”). The members of the committee have two hours to discuss the eligible performances, but they can’t take any informal straw polls or anything like that.

The committee then privately and secretly votes for the nominees. Each member of the committee gets the number of votes that there are nominees. For example, if there are four slots for Best Musical, then each member can give four musicals a checkmark for a Best Musical nomination.

If you’re related to someone in any category, you can’t vote in that category. Duh.

Picking the Winners
Members of the boards from each the Actors’ Equity Association, The Dramatists Guild, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and United Scenic Artists are all voting members. The nomination committee are also voting members. The following organizations also have voting members:

• Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the American Theatre Wing (up to 75 people)
• Voting Members of The Broadway League
• Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America (up to 16 people)
• Officers or Executive Board members of Musicians’ Local 802 (up to five people)
• Current governing board of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (up to 15 people)
• New York Drama Critics Circle (up to 25 people)
• Board/Council of the National Association of Talent Representatives (up to 10 people)

These people get free tickets to every show. They get a mail ballot from the accountants 14 days before the Tonys (at the latest), and can vote up to 50 hours before the Tonys. Nobody knows, except the accountants, who wins until the telecast.

Eligible productions can not campaign for votes. Anymore. This is most likely thanks to Avenue Q’s genius marketing in 2003 – and they won over Wicked. (Both shows are still running, albeit one show Off-Broadway and one show in one of the Broadway largest houses with still some of the highest ticket prices 14 years later, but there were no losers here). Eligible shows also can’t mention the names of other eligible shows in marketing campaigns (e.g., putting a quote like “I loved it more than [this other eligible show]!” on the marquee).

There are a lot more nitpicky rules – like tiebreakers, ho boy – that I’ve highlighted and you can review in the Tony Awards Rules PDF. There are also a lot of rules with the producers – they have to offer free tickets to the voters, sign agreements of eligibility, etc., etc., which you can also read about in the PDF.