Tonys Best Actor showdown: Bradley Cooper vs. Jake Gyllenhaal vs …

An unknown could defeat a field of superstars in the competitive Best Actor (Play) category at this year’s Tonys. Who do you think will win this competitive category? Make the best predictions in our Tony nominations contest and you could win a $100 Amazon gift certificate and a place of honor in our famous leaderboards. 

Three of the frontrunners in this race are a recent graduate of Juilliard (Alex Sharp in “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”), an award winner in a transfer from Off-Broadway (Steven Boyer in “Hand to God“), and a British performer dominating a two-evening historical drama (Ben Miles in “Wolf Hall Parts 1 and 2”).

Their main competition comes from high-profile film stars like Bradley Cooper (“The Elephant Man”), Bill Nighy (“Skylight”), John Lithgow (“A Delicate Balance”), and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Constellations”).

Hugh Jackman (“The River”) and Ewan McGregor (“The Real Thing”) are possibilities for nominations but their performances were not as highly praised as the rest.

If the Tonys had a separate comedy category like the Emmys and the Golden Globes, you would undoubtedly see nominations for Nathan Lane in “Its Only a Play” and Larry David in his own play “Fish in the Dark.” These two are in the biggest financial hits of the season, so they might still get a nod but both are long shots.

Sharp, Boyer, and Miles have the advantage of playing demanding roles. Sharp brilliantly limns the autistic teenager Christopher in “Curious Incident,” Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, displaying both Christopher’s keen intelligence and his emotional neediness while narrating the play and never leaving the stage.

Boyer is equally dazzling as another troubled youngster, the repressed Jason and as his sock-puppet alter-ego Tyrone. The young actor has already won an Obie and a Lortel Award for the two Off-Broadway productions of “Hand to God” and the New York Post’s Elisabeth Vincentelli went so far as to say that if he did not win a Tony as well “there is no justice in this world.” (The producers may put Boyer in the Featured Actor category since his name is billed below the show’s title in order to increase his chances of winning, but I’m betting he will compete in the lead slot.)

Miles’ role of Thomas Cromwell, the Machiavellian councilor to King Henry VIII, is not as flashy as that of Christopher or Jason/Tyrone, but he hardly leaves the stage during the two parts of “Wolf Hall,” Mike Poulton’s stage version of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning series of historical novels about Cromwell’s role in Henry’s divorce from Katharine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boelyn. He also delivers a multi-layered portrayal of a character who is usually seen only as a blackhearted villain in earlier versions of the story such as “A Man for All Seasons,” “Anne of a Thousand Days,” and “The Other Boelyn Girl.”

Of the more famous candidates, Cooper is the biggest threat. Though the two previous actors to play the title role in “The Elephant Man” on Broadway — Philip Anglim in 1979 and Billy Crudup in 2002 — did not win Tonys, both were nominated. Plus John Merrick is just as challenging a part as those in “Incident” and “Hand.” The actor must contort his body to suggest Merrick’s deformities without make-up or prosthetics. Cooper has lost all three of his Oscar bids (“Silver Linings Playbooks,” “American Hustle,” “American Sniper”), but that probably won’t affect his Tony chances since the voting body is entirely different.

Being a major TV or movie star does not always guarantee a Tony win. When Tom Hanks was headlining “Lucky Guy” he lost to the respected playwright-actor Tracey Letts for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Likewise Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts drew huge crowds for their Broadway stints, but were snubbed.

There’s been some chatter behind the scenes that it’s in Broadway’s best interest to give out Tonys to film liminaries like Hanks, Cooper, Kidman, and Roberts so they will keep coming back to the boards and bolster the box office. But the majority of Tony voters seem to want to reward the most outstanding performance rather than the size of the star’s reputation on the small or big screen. Sometimes the two go together like Bryan Cranston who has both a major TV name and delivered an amazing Tony-winning performance as LBJ in last year’s “All the Way.”

Tonys Best Musical Actress battle:
Kelli O’Hara vs. Chita Rivera vs. Kristen Chenoweth

When it came to predicting the Tony Awards nominations last year, the Experts tied the Top 24 Users (those users with the best scores predicting the 2013 nominations) with an overall accuracy rate of 86.67%. Our Editors were at 80.42% while all Users averaged 67.92%. (Click on each group’s name to see their overall results from last year.)

As Gold Derby Users – just like YOU – turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it’s vital that you give us your predictions. Your picks factor into our Users racetrack odds. These, in turn, are a key component of Gold Derby’s official (combined) odds

To win, you must have the highest accuracy percentage – and maybe more than that. If more than one player has the best accuracy, the winner is the person with the highest accuracy plus most game points. So, remember to place your three super bets when making predictions. Each player gets one super bet of 500 points and two of 200 points with all the other categories worth 100 points. Strategy is key. Place those super bets wisely and they could crown you our winner.

That’s what happened when we tallied up prediction scores for last year’s Tony Awards nominations. Nine users were tied at the top with a jaw-dropping 95% accuracy. However, J F Petsche was our official winner because he scored 6,046 points (including 2,915 points for Play Revival where he had placed his 500 point bet). Compare that to second-place finisher Ted Stevenson  who scored 5,674 points (he put his 500 point bet on Musical Revival and earned 2,333 points there). 

Get started by making your own predictions for Best Actor (Play) using our easy drag-and-drop menu found at the bottom of this post.

You can continue to update and change your predictions until the morning of the nominations announcement on April 28. Just click “Save Predictions” when you’ve settled on your choice. And remember to place your 500 and 200-point bets wisely. 

To enter your predictions for the other genre categories, make sure you are logged into your Gold Derby account or register for a free account via Facebook, Twitter or Google.

After logging in, click on the “Predictions” button found at the top-right of every page. That will bring you to a list of every event currently being predicted at Gold Derby.

We are forecasting everything from the winners of the Academy of Country Music Awards and both Daytime and Primetime Emmys to the results on reality TV shows like “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” and talent shows such as “American Idol” and “The Voice.” Click on any box to bring up that event, then scroll down to start making your predictions.

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