The new tuner “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” reaped a leading 12 Tony Awards nominations on Tuesday while its closest rival for Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” earned nine. On the play side, two new works — “A Doll’s House, Part 2” and “Oslo” had strong showings with eight and seven nominations respectively. Among revivals, the smash hit staging of the 1964 Best Musical champ “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler has 10 bids while two classic plays — “Jitney” and “The Little Foxes” — earned six nominations each. (See the full list of Tony Awards nominees.)
“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” which is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s epic tome “War and Peace,” had three previous productions before finally making it to Broadway, with the addition of Grammy-winning Josh Groban boosting ticket sales. He reaped a bid as did leading lady Denée Benton and featured actor Lucas Steele. Dave Malloy (“Ghost Quartet”) reaped bids for his score, book and orchestrations as did Rachel Chavkin for her innovative staging.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is a timely tuner about cyber-bullying. It transferred to the rialto from an acclaimed run at Second Stage last fall and has done boffo business, boosted by the profile of the Oscar-winning songwriters Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (“La La Land”). It is the early frontrunner to win Best Musical and breakout star Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”) is tipped to take the Best Actor (Musical) award for his sensitive portrayal of a shy teenager suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Pasek and Paul, who contended in 2013 for “A Christmas Story,” are favored to win as is the book writer Steven Levenson.
Midler is all but guaranteed to pick up a Tony for her show-stopping turn as the meddlesome matchmaker in “Hello, Dolly!.” This one-time Broadway baby was snubbed for her 2013 solo show “I’ll Eat You Last,” in which she played Hollywood agent Sue Mengers. This time around, the rave reviews and record ticket sales for this remounting of Jerry Herman‘s tuner make her the frontrunner. Among those she will face off against are a pair of two-time Tony champs — Christine Ebersole and Patti Lupone — who play rival cosmeticians in “War Paint.”
Another musical revival, “Falsettos,” could wel win Tonys for featured players Stephanie J. Block and Andrew Rannells, who are both past nominees. This 1992 Best Musical nominee had a limited run last winter and starred two-time Tony champ Christian Borle as Marvin, a newly out gay man who juggles relationships with his ex (Block), his boyfriend (Rannells), and a widening circle of friends.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2″ by Obie-winning playwright Lucas Hnath (“Red Speedo”) is a sequel of sorts to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 classic drama, “A Doll’s House.” Three-time Tony nominee Laurie Metcalf is favored to finally win for her fearless performance as Nora, who returns home some years on to find life has little changed. The rest of the cast also earned nominations with Oscar winner Chris Cooper contending in lead while last year’s Featured Actress (Play) winner Jayne Houdyshell (“The Humans”) is back to defend her title against, among others, her co-star Condola Rashad.
“Oslo,” a new political drama by J.T. Rogers (“Blood and Gifts”) recounts the efforts of Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul and her husband, Terje Rød-Larsen, — played by Tony winners Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays who both reaped bids — to broker a peace deal between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in the 1990s.
The Best Play race is rounded out by two Pulitzer Prize winners who have finally made it to Broadway. Lynn Nottage just became the first woman to win the Pulitzer twice, picking up the prize for “Sweat,” her new play about life in the rust belt in the wake of economic upheaval. She had previously prevailed in 2011 for “Ruined,” which examined the lives of women in the civil war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Paula Vogel, who won the Pulitzer in 1998 for the memory play “How I Learned to Drive,” contends with “Indecent.” This provocative piece details the controversy surrounding Sholem Asch’s 1923 play “God of Vengeance.”
Two-time Tony winner Kevin Kline is likely to pick up his third for his over-the-top performance as a self-indulgent actor in Noel Coward’s 1946 comedy “Present Laughter.” His strongest competition comes from Mays and Corey Hawkins who headlines a revival of John Guare’s 1990 drama “Six Degrees of Separation.”
While both those new stagings of old classics contend for Best Play Revival, we are predicting that award will go to “Jitney,” August Wilson‘s 1982 play about a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. While Wilson won the Tony in 1987 for “Fences,” “Jitney” was not staged on Broadway in his lifetime.
The 71st annual edition of the Tony Awards takes place on Sunday, June 11 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and airs live on CBS. Nominees for these top theater kudos were determined by 51 theater professionals while winners will be voted on by 863 members of the Broadway community.