Tony Awards: Divas duel for Best Musical Actress

The hottest race to watch on this Sunday’s Tony Award telecast is Best Musical Actress. The main contenders are Kristin Chenoweth for her madcap movie star Lily Garland in “On the Twentieth Century,” six-time nominee Kelli O’Hara as the iron-willed schoolteacher Anna Leonowens in the Lincoln Center revival of “The King and I,” and two-time Tony winner and ten-time nominee Chita Rivera as the icy millionaires Clair Zachannassian in “The Visit.”

Chenoweth won a Featured Actress Tony for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999. This season, her screwball performance has been wildly praised.  She totally dominates “Twentieth Century” and displays a great deal of versatility. She gives voice to her operatic range, plays a mouthy accompanist in a flashback as well as the glamorous movie star, and engages in slapstick comedy routines. She has won both the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk Award, always a good indicator of how the Tonys will go. Plus she is the favorite of our Experts, taking 11 out of 14 votes as well as five of our seven Editors. Add in support from 8 of the Top 24 (those two dozen folks who did the best predicting last year’s winners) and one-third of all Users and she has leading odds of 4/5. 

O’Hara, who was not even nominated by the Drama Desk, has never won a Tony. Many theater fans feel it is finally her time and that she should have won last year for her sensitive portrayal of a lonely Iowa housewife in “The Bridges of Madison County” which closed before the Tonys. Her other nominations are for “The Light in the Piazza” (2005), “The Pajama Game” (2006), “South Pacific” (2008), and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (2012). On the con side of the O’Hara argument, some theater insiders have squawked that she does not bring anything new to her role. She is the favorite of both 15 of the Top 24 and half of all users. However, with only three Experts and two Editors backing her bid, she has odds of 17/10.  

Then there is 82-year-old Rivera in her valedictory Broadway performance in “The Visit.” In another year with less stiff competition, she would be a lock not only for sentiment’s sake but also for her sterling performance as the wealthiest woman in the world returning to her hometown bent on revenge. It’s not as if she has overlooked by the Tonys. She has already won Tonys for two other Kander & Ebb musicals — “The Rink” (1984) and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993) — and been nominated for seven more: “Bye Bye Birdie” (1961), “Chicago” (1975), “Bring Back Birdie” (1981), “Merlin” (1983), “Jerry’s Girls” (1986), “Nine” (2003), and “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life” (2006). While Rivera may be spoiler (according to 10% of our users who give her odds of 25/1), the main race appears to be between Chenoweth and O’Hara.

The other two nominees this year — Leanne Cope for “An American in Paris” (at 100/1) and Beth Malone for “Fun Home” (at 50/1) — will have to be content with major awards in other categories for their shows. “American” is the favorite for Best Musical and “Fun Home” for Best Score and Book.

Who do you think will win Best Musical Actress? Click on your pick to the right or use the drag-and-drop menu below.  Your picks will be pooled together to generate our official racetrack odds, and if you have this year’s best predictions, you’ll win a $100 Amazon gift card (if you qualify according to our contest rules).

Remember that coming out on top doesn’t just mean answering the week’s questions correctly. You also have to use your three big bets (one of 500 points and two of 200 points) strategically to score the most game points. If you bet on a long shot who pulls off an upset, you can really rack up the points. As we use those point totals to break ties when more than one user tops our leaderboard with the same number of correct predictions, don’t take them for granted.

Last year, our top User was Dillon Rosenblatt, who predicted 89% of the winners. Do you have that kind of special insight into this year’s contest? If so, there’s still time to make your predictions before Sunday’s live telecast. Click here to visit our predictions center, where you can enter your picks, or use the easy drag-and-drop menu at the bottom of this post to get started.

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And meet our previous contest champs. You could join them on our leaderboard

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