If you’ve been having difficulty making your Tony Awards predictions for Featured Actor and Actress in a Play this year, you are not alone. The current Broadway season could easily be summed up as “The Year of the Ensemble.” Many of this year’s top plays (and a few musicals) opt for a large cast without any clearly defined lead. Though every actor gets their time to shine on stage, it’s making the Featured acting categories an absolute bloodbath.
The casts of “Indecent,” “Jitney,” “Oslo,” “The Play That Goes Wrong,” and “Sweat” are all likely competing in the Featured races. And even plays with a true lead, such as “Significant Other” and “Present Laughter,” have many viable contenders below the title.
Producers can petition the Tony Administration Committee for category changes. Below, we detail the reasons for five performers who might benefit from avoiding the overstuffed Featured acting categories. Tell us who you think should make a run for Lead in our poll below.
Anthony Azizi: “Oslo”
While the two Tony winners of “Oslo” (Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle) are the assumed leads, Azizi shoulders the bulk of the emotional weight of the play. As Ahmed Quire, Finance Minister for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, he enters into intense negotiations for the future of his people. Alternating between fiery rage and quiet pain, it’s a performance that packs a wallop and could easily make a dent in the Lead Actor category. Otherwise he competes with co-stars Michael Aronov and Adan Dannheisser for a nomination in Featured.
Chris Cooper :“A Doll’s House, Part 2”
While the entire cast appears above the title for “A Doll’s House Part 2,” the story centers on Laurie Metcalf’s Nora. As Torvald, Cooper provides the emotional backbone of an otherwise comical play. He illuminates the harsh consequences of Nora’s decision, and moving him to Lead Actor could help this touching performance avoid competing with the more flamboyant Featured performances.
Johanna Day: “Sweat”
In Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” Day expertly paints a picture of a woman in freefall. Facing a layoff from the steel mill, Tracey has several emotional outbursts, rails against her best friend, and turns to drugs and alcohol in her desperation. The performance recently netted her a Drama League nomination and moving to Lead would take her out of competition with co-stars Michelle Wilson and Alison Wright.
Richard Topol: “Indecent”
Paula Vogel utilizes a “band of players” style conceit in her gripping new play “Indecent.” It works beautifully, but could become a hurdle when it comes to Tony nominations for her cast. For the men, the best awards bet comes from Topol, the only actor who does not play multiple roles. As Lemml, Topol becomes the eyes and ears for the audience, having been with “God of Vengeance” from its first reading to its trial for obscenity. “Indecent” should easily find itself in the Best Play lineup, and Topol would pair well as a Lead Actor nominee.
Michelle Wilson: “Sweat”
While Day’s character gets down in the mud in “Sweat,” her co-star Wilson becomes a more sympathetic figure. As Cynthia, she works hard to become the first black woman in management at the factory. But when local workers are forced out, Cynthia’s friends turn against her. Producers could argue Wilson and Day are co-leads (both earned Drama League nominations), or push for Wilson as the sole lead since the audience can easily side with Cynthia’s story.
Be sure to make your Tony Awards predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Broadway insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our Tony odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on May 2. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Tony Awards taking place right now in our theater forums.