It is pure coincidence that Father’s Day falls one week after this Sunday’s Tony Awards celebration, but it’s perfectly timely. The 2015-2016 nominees displayed numerous styles of fatherhood, some of which were noble, others less than admirable. From the founding fathers of Hamilton to the contemporary fractured and fatigued father in The Humans, Frank Langella’s forgetful father in Florian Zeller’s The Father, fathers of royalty in King Charles III, tender and torn fathers in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star, fathers with questionable proclivities towards incest in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, abusive and domineering fathers who get their just deserts in The Color Purple , a drunk and angry father in the epic Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and faithful father Tevye, a man struggling to reconcile faith with the actions of his progressive daughters in Fiddler on the Roof.
The Broadway season wasn’t exclusively a bastion of patriarchy, however. Strong women continue to rule the boards in Danai Gurira’s Libyan based drama, Eclipsed. Southern belles find empowerment via fresh baked pies in the Sara Bareilles tuner, Waitress. A young lady finds courage to confront her perpetrator in Blackbird, and a talented African-American singer breaks the lily white limits of stage convention in Shuffle Along-Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Let’s not forget Laurie Metcalf, who received a well-deserved Best Actress nod for her steely turn in last fall’s Misery. Her character, Annie Wilkes, nurtures a psychosis that is far from the emblem of sanity but Metcalf’s ability to play opposite “actor”-and in this case, I use the term incredibly loosely-Bruce Willis, places her in a separate category reserved only for precious beings like saints and puppies.
So, who will go home with Antoinette Perry on Sunday night? Besides Hamilton, which racked 16 nominations and was predicted to win Best Musical even before last year’s Tony telecast, here are my guesses for top categories:
Stephen Karam’s The Humans will take the prize for Best Play. It made major critics’ top favorites list in 2015 when it played off-Broadway. The Broadway transfer has been just as acclaimed. With relatable characters played to perfect precision by an extraordinary cast, the show captures the harsh realities of just getting by and finding comfort in our families—flawed and frustrating though they may be.
Best Musical: Hamilton. If I have to explain this, crawl out from beneath your rock.
Charles Isherwood, a NY Times theater critic pleaded puzzlement over the fact that Hamilton was nominated for best book since “the show is almost sung through”. He was consequently schooled by the Dramatists Guild about the role of the book writer, adding even more validity to the win. Predicted result? Hamilton goes home with Best Book.
Lin Manuel-Miranda’s genius music and lyrics for Hamilton will earn him the award for Best Score.
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge will view a Tony on the mantle. Critics gushed so much praise over this nominee for Best Play Revival. Personally, I found it annoyingly pretentious. I chuckled to myself twenty minutes into the show when a well-to-do New Yorker seated behind me turned to her friend in exasperation and said, “Oh my Gaaaawd! I paid a fooooor-tune for these tickets!”
The Color Purple will nab Best Musical Revival. Director John Doyle’s stripped down treatment made an already touching story even better and more focused than the original. Plus, the dynamite cast continues to deliver some of the best singing Broadway has heard in years. I’m still scratching my head over Doyle’s set. He continues the trend of furniture stacked to the ceiling, along with this season’s Fully Committed and last year’s forgotten Doctor Zhivago. Chairs must be having their “moment”.
Mark Strong will win Best Actor in a Play for Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. His depiction of a deeply conflicted longshoreman was brooding and powerful. Although the show closed, he is likely to be remembered Sunday night.
Jessica Lange’s Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night has been considered the best interpretation of all 6 Broadway Journeys. For that, she will walk home with a Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Last week, with my bedroom window cracked open, I heard a drunk girl on the street at 3 AM proclaiming to her thespian friends just how great Lange’s performance is:
“Guys…Guys! Guys! Lissssss-ten.To.Me! Jess—Jess—Jessica Lange….Jessica Lange. Jessss-ica Lange is like…..Guys! Jesssssica Lange is bbbbaaaaaarrrrrringing it! Every night! Itsssss….Amazing. Thass all imgonnasay.”
The drunk girl says what the sober Tony voter thinks.
The “Susan Lucci of Broadway”, Danny Burstein, will probably get his due for Best Actor in a Musical. His portrayal of Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof is a heavy lift as he’s only off stage for 13 minutes in the whole show. He is indeed, a fine Tevye. This is his sixth nomination and although he’s in the same category as two stars from Hamilton (Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr.), my crystal ball sees him with a Tony in hand. Mazel Tov!
Cynthia Erivo will walk off with the award for Best Actress in a Musical for The Color Purple. Every night, she is raising the roof at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre with her heartbreaking portrayal of the downtrodden but determined, Celie. Erivo, a fitness buff, recently ran a ½ marathon and immediately headed to theatre to bang out a two show day. Superhuman? Yep. When she finally flies back to her native country, this British ball of energy will need extra room in her luggage for a Tony. I’m obsessed with Bright Star and find Carmen Cusack’s Broadway debut equally as thrilling and moving. I’d love to see a tie here, but my gut tells me that this will be Erivo’s night.
For Featured Actor in a Play, the Tony will be handed to Reed Birney for The Humans. Like the rest of the cast, his acting is so natural that one feels as if they are eavesdropping on an actual family dinner. Jayne Houdyshell, who plays Birney’s wife in the same piece, will not leave the Beacon theatre empty handed either. The long time stage veteran, nominated for Featured Actress in a Play, will be holding a prize by the night’s end.
Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs will win for Best Featured Actor in Musical. His dual role performance as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson is stopping the show. Plus, He’s in Hamilton, where even the concession stand attendant got nominated. Renee Elise Goldsberry is also a shoe-in for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Jennifer Simard’s hilarious turn as a gambling addicted nun in the short lived flop, Disaster! was also the talk of the town. It even inspired a social media campaign lobbying her to perform on the Tony’s broadcast. (In my opinion, she was the best part of the show.) However, the Hamilton factor will prevail.
Tony winner and late night talk show host James Corden will host the 70th Annual Tony Awards on CBS at 8PM this Sunday, June 12th,
Edie Brickell, Carole King, Steve Martin, Barbra Streisand, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, Daniel Dae Kim, and many others are scheduled to present. The night will feature performances from Bright Star, The Color Purple, Hamilton, Spring Awakening, On Your Feet, School of Rock, Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, Waitress, and Shuffle Along.
The 2015-2016 Broadway season set a record for attendance and grosses. Given the diversity and the quality that is being produced, it’s no small wonder. I couldn’t be more grateful that I’m a spectator to the world’s finest talents and their creations. I’m wishing the best for all nominees this Sunday night and hope to see you at the theater–seated eagerly with your cell phones turned off, your candy unwrapped, and your mouths shut of course.
For more information on all of the nominees click http://www.tonyawards.com/index.html