OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief
A little while back we released some of our way too early Tony predictions, but now that the nominations are just a month away, and with very little left to open on Broadway, it's time to start thinking about who might be hearing their named called on June 12th.
So with that in mind, for the next couple of days, I'll be releasing my Tony nominations and possible winners.
Today's Category: BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
While this category will certainly have a loaded field, I feel there will be some surprises in the mix. There are strong contenders throughout but not a Soo-in front runner(Get it?). This might be one of the tighter races of the night.
- Phillipa Soo - Hamilton
- Jessie Mueller - Waitress
- Laura Benanti - She Loves Me
- Cynthia Erivo - The Color Purple
On the Bubble
- Ana Villafane - On Your Feet
- Lea Salonga - Allegiance
- Sandra Mae Frank/Katie Boeck - Spring Awakening
- Carmen Cusack - Bright Star
- Audra McDonald - Shuffle Along
As you can see, this field is loaded. I fully expect to see the three locks nominated. I would be floored if they weren't. I also expect to see Erivo get in as well. Her performance is being hailed and some are telling me it's even better than what Lachanze did with the role.
That leaves one more spot open and the bubble here is plentiful. You could almost make a case for everyone on the list. Since Tony voters tend to give edge to roles that the musical is centered around, my guess is that it will be either Villafane or Cusack. Sadly I think the curse of an early closing will leave out Salonga. You might be surprised to see Audra McDonald on the bubble of any list but she's only going to be in Shuffle Along for six weeks before leaving the production for London. So a Tony nomination over these other roles seems both unlikely and a bit unfair.
So that leaves Frank/Boeck. I put them together since Frank, who is deaf, played the role of Wendla and Boeck provided her singing voice. I found their work together was profound and beautiful and I hope Tony voters saw that as well to give them both a much deserved nomination.
Probable Winner: Too close to call at this point. You could make a case for four women to win this award right now. Given that Hamilton looks to dominate the night, Soo would be a strong contender in this race.
But this award typically goes to show-centered female roles. For instance, you would have to go back to 1992(Faith Prince, Guys & Dolls) to find a winner of this award whose character wasn't the lead or had their character name in the title of the show.
So that's what makes me think it will be someone else in this race, which adds a lot more to think about, given Tony voting trends.
First of all, it's very hard to become a two-time winner in this category. In recent years, the only actress to pull that off is Sutton Foster. Under this formula, that might work against Mueller who won the award two years ago for Beautiful.
That being said, this award also tends to go to revival. Of the last six awards, five of them have gone to revival performances. Which is what might give Benanti and Erivo the edge in the race.
Now consider this, only three lead actress roles have won multiple Tonys. That would be Anna from The King & I and Mama Rose from Gypsy with three apiece. The other is Desiree Armfeldt from A Little Night Music with two wins. So with that history, it might be unlikely to hear Erivo's name called, especially since the role won the award ten years ago and a role in this category has never won within ten years in this category. Which would lead me to believe that Laura Benanti has the strongest shot at winning this award.
Phew. Now that I've said all that, this is going to be one of the closest and strongest categories of the night. You could make a strong argument for every actress and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
PS: How awesome is it, that possibly three performers of color from three different ethnic groups might be nominated in this category? As a performer of color myself, Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I'm Lovin' It!