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7 Big Predictions About the 2017 Tony Nominations

Variety logo Variety 4/27/2017 Gordon Cox
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Tony predictions were easy last year: One word – “Hamilton” – and you’re done. The race for the 2016-17 Tony Awards is far less cut-and-dried, with plenty of strong contenders but no clear, sweeping favorite. With the Tony nominations announced Tuesday, we’re making a forecast based on conversations with industry veterans, early awards-season attention and gut instinct. Here are seven big predictions for how the noms will shake out in this uncertain season.

(1) A Supersized Best Musical Race

Since 2014, the Tonys have had the option of expanding the best musical category (among others) to five from the usual four. Tony nominators don’t make a deliberate decision to do so; it’s triggered only when the usual voting process for the four top shows results in candidates four and five coming within spitting distance of each other. Still, five seems a strong possibility this year, given the diverse roster of contenders and the lack of clear favorites. The definites: buzzy hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” sleeper success “Come From Away” and idiosyncratic electropop epic “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” The two shows most often mentioned right behind that pack are “Groundhog Day” and “War Paint,” with “Groundhog Day” taking the lead as the title that would likely win the final fourth slot if the category doesn’t expand.

(2) No One’s Breaking Any Records

This is a year where one show will walk away with a record haul of nominations, the way “Hamilton” did last year with 16. “Dear Evan Hansen,” for example, doesn’t have much choreography to speak of, and it doesn’t have a big cast to fill out slots in featured acting categories. “Dolly!” has a lot going for it in terms of the production, but as a revival, it’s not eligible for score or book the way a new musical would be. Expect clumps of 10 or 12 nominations for the biggest shows.

(3) Battle of the Dames

There are only three names that are near-certain to make the list for lead actress in a musical — but boy, are they doozies: Bette Midler (“Hello, Dolly!”) Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole (both for “War Paint”). Glenn Close (“Sunset Boulevard”) won’t be in the race to make things harder; she isn’t eligible since she’s previously won a Tony for the same role. That means the other two slots are up for grabs; odds are they’ll go to Laura Osnes (“Bandstand”) and Philippa Soo (“Amelie”), although Denee Benton (“Amelie”) and Christy Altomare (“Anastasia”) also have some support behind them.

(4) Duel for Lead Actor

Ben Platt has been a major contender for lead actor in a musical since the Off Broadway premiere of “Dear Evan Hansen” last season. His major competition: the well-liked Andy Karl, whose breakout performance in “Groundhog Day” earned even more good will first when the actor led his cast in overcoming a technical disaster in the first preview, and now as he’s valiantly soldiered on after injuring himself during a press performance. They’ll both nab nominations, as will David Hyde Pierce, holding his own against Midler in “Dolly!,” and Christian Borle for “Falsettos” (but not for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which doesn’t have much love behind it). The fifth name is anybody’s guess, with the edge going to Corey Cott (“Bandstand”).

(5) A Last-Minute Play Contender

Three titles will definitely be in the race for best play: Lynn Nottage’s recently-anointed Pulitzer winner “Sweat,” J.T. Rogers’ diplomacy thriller “Oslo” and “Indecent,” the Broadway debut of the well-liked Paula Vogel. The fourth candidate came in just under the wire: “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which opened as the final eligible show of the season April 27. The title picked up notable buzz (if not much in the way of box office) in previews, and the timing of its hot-off-the-presses reviews will pay off in a nomination.

(6) “Dolly!” Will Dominate

“Hello, Dolly!” is the clear favorite in the musical revival category (and will do well in design and acting categories too). Its main competition for revival will be the now-closed “Falsettos” and “Sunset Boulevard,” led by Close in a much-lauded performance. It’s either “Cats” or “Miss Saigon” for slot four; bet on “Saigon.”

(7) Kline and Janney and Field, Oh My!

The play revival field will come down to “Six Degrees of Separation” and “Jitney,” with “The Little Foxes” and “The Front Page” in the mix. Those revivals will also contribute some of the starriest names to the acting categories, including Allison Janney for “Six Degrees,” Kevin Kline for “Present Laughter,” Sally Field for “The Glass Menagerie” and Nathan Lane for “The Front Page.” From the new play list, Laurie Metcalf (“Doll’s House”) is sure to make the cut.

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