2021 Tony Awards slugfest: Who has the edge in the incredibly competitive Play races? [WATCH]

“The plays are really where it’s at in terms of races,” Sam Eckmann declares to kick off the first of our 2021 Tony Awards predictions slugfest. Though we don’t yet know the date when the winners will be announced, we do know that Tony voters will fill out their ballots from March 1 to March 15. Sam and I regrouped ahead of the voting period to debate who we think currently has the edge going into this pivotal stretch of the race. Watch the full video above.

Sam and I both pick “Slave Play” for the top honor. Sam thinks “our conversations about racism and systemic racism, especially in the entertainment industry” will help the topical play pull off the win, while I emphasize that the opportunity to give a Tony to rising star playwright Jeremy O. Harris will also work in its favor. For Best Revival, we both back “Soldier’s Play,” whereas our experts favor “Betrayal,” because we think the nominations for actor Blair Underwood and director Kenny Leon demonstrate its broad support.

SEE 2020 Tony Awards nominations: ‘Jagged Little Pill,’ ‘Moulin Rouge!’ lead musicals, ‘Slave Play’ sets record for plays with 12

“I think there’s now a genuine race in all four” of the acting categories, Sam mentions, though he thinks Lois Smith (“The Inheritance”) has a lock on the Featured Actress. We both think Andrew Burnap (“Inheritance”) will triumph over frontrunner Tom Hiddleston (“Betrayal”) for Best Actor, though Sam thinks Jake Gyllenhaal (“Sea Wall/A Life”) could pull off an upset.

We’re split on who will win Featured Actor. Sam picks Paul Hilton (“The Inheritance”) because “that monologue he has is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on a Broadway stage and will stay with me forever.” Despite his argument, I’m betting on David Alan Grier (“A Soldier’s Play”), not only because of the acclaim for his larger-than-life performance, but also because he’s overdue for a win with four career nominations dating back to 1982.

WATCH 5 furious Tony Awards Experts: When’s the show? Who’ll win? [Video and audio podcast]

Though we were once so confident, now we fret a bit about our prediction of Mary-Louise Parker (“The Sound Inside”) for Best Actress because Joaquina Kalukango has a great chance for “Slave Play.” Despite our hesitation, we’re sticking with Parker for now because I think “The Sound Inside” is “probably her best role in 20 years on the stage” and Sam agrees, saying the play is his “favorite thing he’s ever seen her in, stage, film, TV.”

We cap off our discussion by debating those tricky design categories. We both think “Slave Play” could take Costume Design, and Sam thinks it will pick up Scenic Design, too. I’m currently picking “A Christmas Carol” for Lighting Design and, though that seasonal play is out front for Best Score, Sam considers “The Inheritance” and I ponder switching to “The Rose Tattoo.”

PREDICT the 2020 Tony Awards

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