Tony Awards Best Musical Revival preview: Which past champ will win again?

We’re less than two months away from the announcement of nominations for this year’s Tony Awards. We’ve already covered the contenders for Best Musical and Best Play, so let’s talk about the possibilities for Best Musical Revival. There are six musical revivals this season but only five of them are in the running for Broadway’s top honor.

The one that isn’t eligible: the second rialto revival of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner “Sunday in the Park with George”. Following a sold-out run at City Center this past fall, this new production of the tuner by Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine re-opened recently at the Hudson Theatre with Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain” [2005]) and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford (“You Can’t Take It With You” [2015]) in the starring roles. The musical follows painter Georges Seurat (Gyllenhaal) in the months leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Consumed by his need to “finish the hat”, Seurat alienates the French bourgeoisie, spurns his fellow artists, and neglects his lover Dot (Ashford), not realizing that his actions will be repeated a century later. With a limited run scheduled to end on April 23, the producers withdrew from Tony consideration to avoid giving away tickets to voters.

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With only five shows eligible, there will likely just be three nominees for Best Musical Revival, though a fourth could make the cut if the vote is close.

The first Broadway revival of the 1983 Best Musical winner “Cats” opened last summer to so-so reviews and decent grosses. This remounting makes only minor tweaks to the original, which ran for a then record-breaking 18 years. Indeed, two-time Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler (“In the Heights” [2008], “Hamilton” [2016]) won’t even be eligible for Best Choreography. But at least he will be in contention for the new musical “Bandstand”, which opens on April 26.

Lincoln Center Theatre’s revival of 1992 Best Musical nominee “Falsettos” received mostly positive reviews from critics back in the fall, and ended its limited run on January 8. This tuner tells the story of  Marvin (Christian Borle), who struggles to create a tight-knit family out of his eclectic array of core relationships including his ex-wife (Stephanie J. Block), his new boyfriend (Andrew Rannells), his adolescent son (Anthony Rosenthal), his psychiatrist (Brandon Uranowitz) and his neighbors (Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe). Amidst a series of monumental life changes, he is forced to reckon with his own views on love, responsibility and what it means to be a man. While shuttered shows rarely win Tonys, “Falsettos” is likely to reap a bid as are but featured players Rannells (“The Book of Mormon”) and Block (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”) as well as helmer James Lapine (who also contended for the original production).

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The first Broadway revival of “Sunset Boulevard,” which won Best Musical in 1995 against just one other nominee (“Smokey Joe’s Cafe”) returned to the rialto last month with original star Glenn Close in a stripped-down concert version that is slated to run until June 25. Close can’t contend as she won a Tony 22 years ago for her performance as faded silent-screen goddess Norma Desmond who lives in a fantasy world in her mansion on Sunset Boulevard. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton adapted Billy Wilder’s 1950 Academy Award-winning film. Both versions tell the story of impoverished screenwriter Joe Gillis (Michael Xavier), who is on the run from debt collectors when he stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman (Siobhan Dillon) leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

Opening on March 23, is the long-awaited first Broadway revival of Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg‘s 1991 nominated musical “Miss Saigon.” This production of the epic love story set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War is coming to town after a two-year run in London’s West End. It stars newcomer Eva Noblezada as Kim (the role that made a star out of Lea Salonga) and Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer (a role that was played by the white actor Jonathan Pryce in the original to much controversy, though he won a Tony). Orphaned by war, 17-year-old Kim is forced to work as a bar girl in a sleazy Saigon nightclub owned by a notorious wheeler-dealer known as ‘The Engineer.’ John (Nicholas Christopher), an American GI, buys his friend Chris (Alistair Brammer) the services of Kim for the night, a night that will change their lives forever.

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Rounding out the race is a revival of the 1964 Best Musical champ “Hello, Dolly,” which opens on April 20. Carol Channing won a Tony for originating the role of Dolly Levi and headlined Broadway revivals in 1978 and 1995 while one of her replacements in the original run, Pearl Bailey, starred in a 1975 production. In this production, Bette Midler takes on the iconic role of the New York City matchmaker who receives her toughest challenge yet when rich grump Horace Vandergelder (David Hyde Pierce) seeks a suitable wife. She successfully matches many others in the city, including Horace’s niece (Melanie Moore) and his two young clerks (Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch), but everything seems to go wrong when it comes to matching Horace. Dolly finally realizes that maybe she’d like to marry Horace herself, but only if her late husband will send her a sign, and if Horace will have her.

This production has already broken box office records, raking in $9 million on the first day tickets went on sale. This production is being directed by Jerry Zaks, who won Tonys for directing productions of “The House of Blue Leaves” (1986), “Lend Me a Tenor” (1989), “Six Degrees of Separation” (1991), and “Guys & Dolls” (1992). But his track record has been inconsistent as of late with underwhelmingly received productions of “The Civil War” (1999), “Little Shop of Horrors” (2003), “La Cage aux Folles” (2004), “The Addams Family” (2010), and most recently “A Bronx Tale” (2016).

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