Broadway heats up for awards season

Josh Rittberg

Staff Writer

As the spring theatre season draws to a close, the Broadway community prepares for its biggest night of the year: The Tony Awards. On Broadway, where ticket sales keep shows alive, Tony nominations can save a show or even turn a flop into a hit. Here are some shows to keep your eyes on during this award season.

Easily one of the hottest tickets on Broadway this season has been the Tony nominated revival of Hello Dolly starring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce. This new production of the classic musical, tells the story of Broadway’s most iconic matchmaker. With its infectious score by Jerry Herman, Hello Dolly is the clear front runner for Best Musical Revival. With raves for its leading lady, Bette Midler, expect to see this superstar take home a Tony award for her acclaimed work in Dolly. Midler has not been on Broadway since her debut in the original production of Fiddler on The Roof.  On Tony Sunday, award voters will be ready to welcome Midler back on Broadway where she belongs.

Other shows that are up for best revival of a musical this year are the hit productions of: Falsettos and Miss Saigon. Falsettos follows a tight knit family as they go through the 1970s and 1980s. Falsettos opened in the fall, and will probably end up being overshadowed by Dolly at the awards. The Tony nominations will get this revival, and much needed recognition, before it airs on PBS this fall. Also competing for best revival is the new production of Cameron Mackintosh’s Miss Saigon. This musical set in the Vietnam War is known for its iconic score and the impressive Helicopter set piece that comes on stage in Act Two. Like Falsettos, Miss Saigon will probably end up being overshadowed by Hello Dolly, but the nomination for its star, Eva Noblezada, is a major achievement for the 21-year-old actress.

Unlike Best Revival of a Musical, the category for Best Musical is extremely competitive this year. As of now, the front runner seems to be the smash hit: Dear Evan Hansen. Hansen deals with current issues, such as social media and suicide, which deeply resonate with young audiences. Whether this contemporary musical will resonate with the older Tony Award voters is hard to predict. Right now, Evan Hansen’s greatest competition for Best Musical is arguably the 9/11 themed musical, Come from Away, and the ground breaking The Great Comet. Come from Away, which portrays the inspirational hospitality that occurred in the Canadian town of Gander after planes got held up there during September 11th. This may sound like an odd concept for a musical, but this show resonates deeply with audiences, and is turning into quite the sleeper hit. Dear Evan Hansen is the front runner, but older audiences who might have trouble relating to that show, may very well end up voting for Come from Away instead.

The musical Groundhog Day, which is based off the classic 1993 film of the same name, tells the story of a weather man, named Phil Connors, who suddenly finds himself having to repeat the same day over and over again. The musical has a score by Tim Minchin, who wrote the musical for the smash hit musical, Matilda. Groundhog Day was a major success in London, but has been having trouble catching on here in the United States. Although, it is not on anyone’s radar to win Best Musical, the nominations alone can help this show succeed.

The Great Comet has 12 Tony nominations, more than any other show this season. Comet with its transporting set design by Mimi Lien and exquisite lighting design of Bradley King, is sure to excel in many of the technical categories. While Great Comet faces some tough competition for Best Musical, it does have an advantage in that there is truly nothing else on Broadway like it. Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen are both inspirational musicals, so if they cancel each other out in votes, Great Comet could take home the ceremony’s top honor.

The award for Best Actor in a Musical is most likely going to Ben Platt for his heartbreaking performance in the title role of Evan Hansen. His performance has been hailed by critics, and is a near lock for the category. Although Ben Platt is the clear frontrunner, his competition is no other than Andy Karl from Groundhog Day. Karl won an Olivier award for playing the weatherman, Phil Connors, when he played the role in London. Not only did Andy Karl get rave reviews for his performance on broadway, but he also got a lot of strong press after he continued to perform after he tore his ACL two nights before the show’s opening. Platt is still slated to win in his category, but if there is anyone who could give Platt a run for his money, it’s Andy Karl.

Rachel Bay Jones is a lock for best featured actress in a musical for her sensitive portrayal of Heidi Hansen: Evan’s mother in Dear Evan Hansen. Jones did not even get nominated for her enchanting performance as Catherine in the circus revival of Pippin a couple of seasons back. Tony voters are sure to make up for that snub with a win for Jones. Best Featured Actor in a musical is a toss-up between Lucas Steele and Gavin Creel. Steele impresses with his standout performance as Anatole in The Great Comet, but Creel, who is a longtime Broadway veteran, also has a chance of taking home the award for his turn as Cornelius Hacki in Hello Dolly. Who will win the category is hard to tell; both are giving standout performances in already strong productions.

Look for Dear Evan Hansen to excel in the creative categories of Best Book and Original Score of a Musical. The writing team of Pasek and Paul, who won an Oscar earlier this year for La La Land, are most likely taking home a Tony as well for their work on Evan Hansen. Steven Levinson, who wrote the book for Dear Evan Hansen, is also a lock for his moving dialogue.

Dave Malloy from Great Comet is nominated for Best Score, Book, Orchestrations and even Best Musical. Although he will probably be overshadowed by Pasek and Paul for best score, he will probably take home a trophy for his intricate orchestrations. Rachel Chavkin is also a lock for best director of a musical for her immersive direction for Great Comet.

The plays this year are a strong group of new works and revivals, but unlike the musicals there is no clear front runner. This is an unusually strong year for plays, and their categories will certainly be one’s to watch.

The Tony Awards this year, hosted by acclaimed actor, Kevin Spacey, is sure to be a thrilling and joyful celebration of the great theatre this season. No matter who wins or loses, celebrating the world of theatre is what matters at the Tony’s. So tune into the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11th, on CBS. It is sure to be a ceremony not to be missed.

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