What do OCC nominations tell us about Tonys production races?

The Outer Critics Circle Awards announced their nominees Monday. These precursor prizes offer lots of hints as to next Tuesday’s Tony Awards nominations. However, the OCC comparison comes with one important caveat: some of their categories combine Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. (See complete list of nominations here.)

Best New Broadway Play
It is no shock to see “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and “Lucky Guy” among the five nominees as they are near locks in the Tony category too with “Vanya” having the edge in both races. “The Nance” was less of a certainty, as critics were on the fence about the show, despite praising the performance of Nathan Lane. “Grace” is a surprise entry, but don’t expect it to reap a Tony bid since that race, which has only four slots, is so competitive. Nor is the still-to-open one woman show “The Testament of Mary,” which showcases Fiona Shaw, likely to contend for the top Tony.

Snubbed by the OCC was “The Assembled Parties,” which opened last week to universally positive reviews and is likely to reap a Tony bid. 

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Best New Broadway Musical
Matilda” and “Kinky Boots” are the frontrunners in the category with the Olivier-winning “Matilda” having the edge. It is quite encouraging to see “Chaplin” and “A Christmas Story make the cut as they’ve both been closed for months. “Hands on a Hardbody,” which shuttered this month after just 28 performances, was certainly innovative and had fairly positive reviews. This nomination is a good sign for the show moving forward into Tony season.

The most notable, but not altogether surprising, omission is “Motown,” which is a box office smash but did not register critically. 

With the Tony category only allowing for four nominees, either “Chaplin” or “A Christmas Story” will be left behind, and it’s a toss-up as to which. While a Christmas-themed musical has never earned a Tony nomination in the top category, it will be returning to Broadway at the end of the year.  

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Best Revival of a Play (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is the frontrunner both here and at the Tonys. “Golden Boy” earns a very well deserved nomination, despite closing in January. Although “The Trip to Bountiful” has not opened, word of mouth has been very positive, especially for Cicely Tyson’s performance. This recognition may help pave the way for a Tony nomination over earlier revivals that have already closed. The nod for “Orphans” is a head-scratcher, considering the downright bizarre publicity surrounding Shia LaBeoufs exit and subsequent critical reception. 

Notable omissions include the high-wattage revivals of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “The Heiress.”  Expect at least one of those — probably “Glengarry” — to be nominated for the Tony in the slot that was filled by the Off-Broadway remount of “The Piano Lesson” while another could take the place of “Orphans.”

Best Revival of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Expect to see the four Broadway productions “Annie,” “Cinderella,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” and “Pippin” repeat in the Tonys race. 

Pippin” reaped a leading 11 OCC nominations, making it frontrunner to win the category here and at the Tonys too.

Best Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
“Matilda” has the early advantage here, although “Kinky Boots” could take home the prize for Harvey Fierstein’s libretto. As many critics carped about Douglas Carter Beane’s rewritten libretto for “Cinderella,” don’t expect it to win either award. The nomination for “Chaplin” should be seen as the reward in and of itself.  It could even be boxed out of a Tony nomination by the more recent “Hands on a Hardbody,” but its appearance in this category is certainly a vote of confidence.  

Best New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
This category has the dubious honor of most surprising snub: “Matilda.” Despite that omission, there is no way that “Matilda” is missing out on a Tony nomination, especially as two slots here went to Off-Broadway shows (“Dogfight,” “Here Lies Love”).

“Kinky Boots,” which will likely win here, will definitely return for the Tonys as will “Hands on a Hardbody.” The nomination for “Chaplin” is a good sign that it might make the cut at the Tonys, edging out “Bring It On,” and “A Christmas Story.”

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