Another busy Broadway season has drawn to a close and Tony nominations are just days away. David Buchanan joins me in a rousing slugfest to sift through what musicals will be remembered at the 2023 Tony Awards. The sheer volume of quality productions and striking performances in contention makes for exciting races that are challenging to predict. Watch our full video slugfest above.
We begin by examining the potential nominees for Best Musical, which is possibly the only straightforward race in this discussion. David and I are certain that “Kimberly Akimbo,” “Some Like it Hot,” “& Juliet,” and “Shucked” should feel secure about their impending nominations. But that final spot is totally “up for grabs.”
I’m fairly certain that the “grandness” of “New York, New York,” with its lush design elements and swoon-worthy dancing, will help the show attain a spot in the lineup. Plus, the show should benefit from the impressive roster of industry heavyweights on the creative team, namely Tony-winners John Kander, Fred Ebb, Lin-Manuel-Miranda and Susan Stroman. Still, we are both wary that some harsh reviews for this NYC love letter could open the door for “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” to sneak in instead. “It feels strange to not have a biomusical” in the lineup, admits David. After all, the past three ceremonies have all featured such a tuner in the Best Musical race, with “MJ,” “Tina,” and “Ain’t Too Proud” competing for the top category. We are sticking with “New York, New York,” but hey, “Sweet Caroline” is catchy, and nominators may not be able to resist a good time!
The Revival of a Musical race feels similar in that there is seemingly one open slot, with the other nominations locked up. I note that “Into the Woods,” “Parade,” and “Sweeney Todd” all “feel like major events” this season. They boast all-star casts who bring their respective scores to vibrant life, and have all smashed the box office. These three are solid. But given that there are only six eligible contenders in this field, the vote will yield just four nominees. So who gets the last spot?
David and I agree that it’s a battle between Lincoln Center Theatre’s revival of “Camelot” and director Wayne Cilento’s new version of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin.” With a mixed overall response to “Camelot,” I’ve slotted “Dancin” into my lineup. The show is fun, sexy, pays homage to a giant of the theater, and the cast is impressive as hell. But I admit that it’s risky to bet against LCT in this category since nominators fell head over heels for their past lush revivals of “My Fair Lady,” “The King and I,” and “South Pacific.” David is sticking with the Lerner and Lowe classic because he sees the show racking up a healthy number of overall nominations, when compared to a relatively low expected tally for “Dancin” (since the numbers are a true recreation of Fosse’s work, it is ironically not eligible for the Choreography race).
In both lead acting races, we observe that there are three contenders who appear relatively secure, “and then there’s a whole mess of people competing for two slots.” That’s true of the Lead Actor in a Musical category, where J. Harrison Ghee (“Some Like it Hot”), Josh Groban (“Sweeney Todd”), and Ben Platt (“Parade”) are leading the pack. Both David and I are betting that nominators will then back two beloved industry veterans for the remaining spots: two-time Tony winner Christian Borle (“Some Like it Hot”) and three-time nominee Brian d’Arcy James (“Into the Woods”).
They are far from a sure thing, however, when other industry favorites are nipping at their heels. Andrew Burnap (“Camelot”) is fresh off his Tony win for “The Inheritance” and Will Swenson (“A Beautiful Noise”) is going down the tried-and-true path to awards recognition by transforming himself into a real life music icon. “I’m really concerned about not picking Will Swenson,” admits David. But I’m even more nervous about omitting newcomer Colton Ryan, who gives a remarkably charming star turn in “New York, New York.” There is a distinct possibility that nominators anoint his big moment with a nomination at the expense of one of their usual favorites.
When we reach a discussion about Lead Actress in a Musical, I’m betting that Victoria Clark (“Kimberly Akimbo”), Annaleigh Ashford (“Sweeney Todd”), and Micaela Diamond (“Parade”) are all secure for a nomination. Despite a crowded field, I believe that “Into the Woods” will eat up that last two slots thanks to powerful, nuanced performances from Sara Bareilles and Patina Miller. Though I am wary that Caroline Innerbichler (“Shucked”), recently thrown into the lead actress race by the Tony Administration Committee, could be a last minute surprise thanks to her “endearing, full fleshed out character.” David agrees with me on Bareilles but thinks a fifth slot will go to Phillipa Soo (“Camelot”), who will be recognized for a strong season which also includes a featured actress play for “Into the Woods.” Lorna Courtney (“& Juliet”) and Anna Uzele (“New York, New York,”) also pose major threats thanks to their powerhouse vocals.
Lead Actress isn’t the only spot where multiple performers from the same show could wind up nominated alongside one another. Continuing with the impressive cast of “Into the Woods,” Soo and Julie Lester both stand a chance at being recognized for Featured Actress in a Musical. Another pair might be nominated alongside them, with Bonnie Milligan and Alli Mauzey both staking a strong claim for recognition. “Kimberly Akimbo” will also try to snag two bids in Featured Actor in a Musical, for 19 year old frontrunner Kevin Cooley and past Tony nominee Steven Boyer. Meanwhile, Alex Newell is rocketing up our odds for Featured Actor, while their “Shucked” costars Kevin Cahoon and Andrew Durand have a real shot to join Newell and blanket the category in corn-y jokes..
To hear out full breakdown of the featured acting races, as well as our thoughts on Score, Book of a Musical, Choreography, and Director, be sure to listen to our full video slugfest. Tony nominations will be announced on May 2, 2023.
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