Tony predictions slugfest: ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ leads, but many play categories remain toss-ups

With just days to go before the 75th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 12, Gold Derby’s trio of Broadway pundits gathered together to dish which shows are ahead in the race. Susan Haskins-Doloff and David Buchanan join me to hash out the 11 play categories, where “The Lehman Trilogy” dominates the race for new work while the popularity of five revivals muddy the tea leaves as to which classic will emerge victorious. Top top it off, a reduced number of eligible voters has thrown the race into chaos. Watch the full video slugfest above.

I suggest that “there’s a lot more opportunity for surprises” when it comes to the play categories, because we may have the lowest pool of eligible voters in modern Tony history. Broadway fans will remember that the Tony Awards recently instituted a virtual portal where every voter must log the performance they attended of every nominated production. This portal generates a unique ballot for each voter so that they only vote in categories where they saw every nominee.

SEE the complete list of 2022 Tony Award nominees in all 26 categories

The issue this year is that the majority of the plays were limited runs in the fall and winter months (as opposed to the musical-dominated spring), just as devastating waves of the Delta and Omicron Covid variants swept through the nation. Many out-of-town voters held off on traveling to New York during that time, and even some locals were not yet ready to return to packed theaters. There are over 800 total Tony voters, but we are hearing estimates that less than half of them will vote for plays. A smaller voting body can yield surprising results.

Still, we are all certain that “The Lehman Trilogy” will have an easy path to a Best Play win. “I absolutely think it is solidly out front. It is epic,” exclaims Haskins-Doloff. Buchanan concurs, noting he’s “just not sure what would emerge as the alternative.” We also predict Sam Mendes to pick up the directing trophy for his gargantuan production, despite stiff competition from Camille A. Brown.

“If ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ is a juggernaut and is going to steamroll Best Play, then Best Revival of a Play is really anyone’s game,” I chime in. All the nominees have a shot here (with the exception of “American Buffalo” which voters will likely avoid thanks to its author’s misguided remarks about teachers), and this is where a small pool of voters makes for an unpredictable race. When asked for his winner prediction, Buchanan jokes that “I have a different answer depending on which day of the week you ask me.” Haskins-Doloff is eyeing baseball drama “Take Me Out” because it “is fun and people love it,” but ultimately throws her support behind “How I Learned to Drive” based on the highly emotional reactions she has witnessed in the audience. Plus, “Drive” playwright Paula Vogel is the only writer of the bunch to appear on the ballot, so a win here would be a way to finally reward the celebrated artist with her first Tony. I counter that I was plenty devastated during “for colored girls”, but the dance-heavy choreo-poem is not typical Broadway fare. So I too am wary that it may fall victim to the more traditional presentation of “Take Me Out.”

We all contend that “How I Learned to Drive” should win Lead Actor for David Morse. He must contend with a trio of nominees from “The Lehman Trilogy” where Simon Russell Beale has picked up some steam. But Buchanan explains that he can imagine fans of the play who will back Beale’s co-stars instead. Haskins-Doloff is quick to bolster his claim by confessing she would be voting for Adam Godley if she had a ballot. So there is a very real scenario where the ‘Lehman’ men cancel each other out.

My colleagues are both certain that “Drive’s” winning streak will continue with Mary-Louise Parker in Lead Actress, but I’m still holding a candle for Deirdre O’Connell from “Dana H.” “It’s such an incredible thing to be surprised nowadays,” I exclaim as I describe how her one-of-a-kind lip synced performance has remained seared into my brain since the fall. Haskins-Doloff began Tony seasonin the O’Connell fan club with me, but now admits “I have joined the pack” to back Parker. Buchanan concedes that “it’s not a slam dunk” for the actress, but the “recency” of the play works in her favor.

Be sure to watch the full slugfest for our thoughts on every race, including the hotly competitive featured acting categories. Can Kenita R. Miller (“for colored girls”) fend off emerging competition from Rachel Dratch “(POTUS”) and Kara Young (“Clyde’s”)? Will Jesse Tyler Ferguson win thanks to his gorgeous monologues or will his co-star Jesse Williams win for his softly commanding central performance? Let the battle of the Jesse’s commence!

And in the design categories, “The Lehman Trilogy” looks to make a clean sweep, unless “The Skin of Our Teeth” and “Dana H.” can pull off upsets in Scenic Design and Sound Design, respectively. “Lehman” isn’t nominated for costumes, which could benefit the scale and variety of the garments in “The Skin of Our Teeth,” but watch out for “Plaza Suite” which could prevail for its sole nomination in a wide open category.

PREDICT the 2022 Tony Awards now through June 12

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