The biggest Tony nomination surprise? No nod for six-time winner Audra McDonald for “Shuffle Along!” I blame it on the awful blue dress they put her in in Act Two! But despite that snub, there is no Oscar-style diversity problem at work here. Thanks to the slew of nods given to shows like “Hamilton,” “Shuffle Along,” “The Color Purple” and “Eclipsed,” there are almost as many people of color included as there were Oscar white folk.
The sociopolitical phenomenon “Hamilton” leads the pack with 16 nominations and will surely win a bunch (including Best Musical, Book, Score, and Director), thereby dominating the Tonys, but I don’t predict it’ll beat “The Producers”’ record of 12 wins. It’s not a lock for Actor, since the show’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr. are nominated against each other. This will split votes and could pave the way for “Fiddler on the Roof”’s Danny Burstein to do a Kelli O’Hara and win on his sixth try. But if Odom manages to come out on top, I bet Miranda will wish he didn’t give him the show’s best song (“The Room Where It Happens”), lol.
“The Color Purple”’s Miss Celie, Cynthia Erivo –– who audiences scream and cry for — will win Actress, though previous Tony winners Laura Benanti (“She Loves Me”) and Jessie Mueller (“Waitress”) would be deserving in almost any other year.
“Hamilton”’s Daveed Diggs and Renee Elise Goldsberry will nab featured awards for their vivid performances. (Goldsberry doesn’t have to worry about competing with Jennifer Hudson; the Oscar winner wasn’t nominated for her Broadway debut in “The Color Purple,” which I predicted, because although she was sensational as the bisexual free spirit Shug Avery, there’s a certain bias against her celebrity.)
Best Musical Revival will go to the romantic souffle “She Loves Me,” a production critics found no fault with, while the best shots for “Shuffle Along” — a new musical — are in the costumes and choreography category (though the “Hamilton” juggernaut could squash those chances too — and besides, there was that blue dress.)
For Play, Stephen Karam’s dysfunctional family reunion dramedy “The Humans” should handily win, even if its characters have less reason to be anxious than the tragically abused African women in Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed.” Frank Langella will cop his fourth Tony (for “The Father”); Langella plus Alzheimer’s equals award. Best Actress is a movie star danceoff between Jessica Lange (for the almost four hour revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”) and Lupita Nyong’o (for “Eclipsed”). But Jessica will get it for emoting through the long journey, and because she’s come so far since her shaky 1992 Broadway debut in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The best performance in the category is actually given by another movie star, “Blackbird”’s Michelle Williams — she’s galvanizing as an abuse victim who confronts her tormentor — but her work in the play has really been dividing people, so bye, bye, Blackbird.
Old-timers Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell will win featured awards for playing a damaged couple in “The Humans”; they are the essence of theater. (Another star of the silver screen, Saoirse Ronan, didn’t get a featured nod for “The Crucible”; she — like Keira Knightley, snubbed for her leading performance in “Theresa Raquin” — has done great work elsewhere, but threatens to recede from the stage.)
Best Play Revival is between “Long Day’s Journey” and the rethought “A View From The Bridge” (the latter isn’t running anymore, but that didn’t stop “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” from winning three years ago). And Best Lighting? Who cares!
By the way, I got 86 out of 103 predictions right, though I didn’t predict extra nominees in case of close votes (the Tonys allow for that, and it happened in three categories). Congrats to all.