“Oh What a Circus…” - An Actors First Time at the Tony Awards Press Event

Alex Chester

I can honestly say I never thought I would be attending a press event for the Tony Awards as a Journalist. I'm not gonna lie it was something I had to grapple with when I got this opportunity.

I am an actor first. I moved to NYC to pursue my dreams of The Broadway. Little did I know Broadway would continue to disappoint me year after year of pounding the pavement. The lack of representation and diversity just plain sucks. 

I am not too delusional of a person and of course I had dreams of being nominated for a Tony. 

Why the hell not? It could still happen. Probably won’t because I’m “causing problems” with being too outspoken. I have found a passion for journalism and calling out people that are not pro-diversity in the theatre arts.  And yet there I was, at 8 in the fucking morning, anxiously seated among some of the top theatre journalists in the business, eagerly waiting to interview the Nominees. 

Apparently there is a lack of people of color in the Press as well and I found myself the only "ethnic" person there. Also, I was the only person asking diversity questions. What the actual fuck? I guess people think Hamilton fixed all the diversity problems on Broadway. One show isn’t the answer. I want to see every single flavor up on stage. 

Unless it’s a race-specific show like Miss Saigon or The Color Purple, I want real inclusion, not just once in a blue moon. I will say this probably a million times, theatre is an art form where it shouldn't matter what you look like. Theatre is where you burst into song. That does not happen in everyday life. Unless you are a theatre major or a musical theatre person, and that is something we just kind of do on a daily basis.  New York City has always been a diverse melting pot, the cast of Hello Dolly!, should have represented that. 

Anyway, I digress. It was an awesome opportunity, and I'm really glad I got to be there for this. I hope I was able to make some people think and look more closely at what they can do to promote inclusion in the arts.  

Lucas Hnath - Playwright of A Doll’s House, Part 2

Alex - As a playwright do you feel you have any obligation to promote diversity and inclusion in your works?

Lucas - I do actually. Whenever I write a play, if we can cast that play as diversely as possible, it’s a mandate to the casting director to say we need to see as many people as possible. In the case of A Doll’s House, Part 2, the way I wrote it, very intentionally, it’s a place slightly abstract. So you can cast any ethnic breakdown. In terms of this group of four actors, it felt very important that we do that in this particular play. Because you're not reading it as literal Helmer Family, it's a little more abstract.

Bradley King - Lighting Designer for The Great Comet of 1812

Alex - What influenced you in your lighting design?

Bradley - Oh so many things… working with Mimi Lien (Scenic Designer) is an inspiration. The way she treats space, I mean it’s really an unbelievable group of people to have worked with for five years now. It’s very humbling. I draw inspiration from my own world. Things I see everyday in my life, whether it be art, movies, or television, or the way the sky looks on a beautiful Fall day. These are all things I draw from.

Dennis Jones - Choreographer of Holiday Inn

Alex - How important is diversity and inclusion when casting this show? Did you feel you had to stay very true to the movie?

Dennis - Oh, not at all. Diversity was very important to us in the casting process. And it’s the kind of thing that if you look at production quality, and I did, and if you look at it in any sort of historical sense, casting actually makes very little sense. But diversity was something that was very important to us, and really we were able to achieve that diversity onstage by hiring people that we felt that were best for the jobs. I’m very proud of the way the cast ended up.

Paloma Young - Costume Designer for The Great Comet of 1812

Alex - Do you have a favorite costume in the show?

Paloma - Oh it changes ever time I see it and sometimes where I am sitting. We added a costume during previews for Helene. She has a new dress for “Charming.” So she used to wear the same dress throughout act one, and now she changes her dress in the middle of act one to come in for her big number. It’s this bright green and gold explosion of fabrics and textures. And then when she comes to the ball, right after her big number, she has this pair of black cupid wings that are covered in Swarovski stones. She’s not the center of that scene, she's kinda just circling Anatole and Natasha. And she's this strange, dark, evil cupid. I love that costume because it manages to stay out of the way but also be this force that is kinda just shadowing everything that is happening in the scene.

Eva Noblezada - Leading Actress in Miss Saigon

Alex - As the only Asian being nominated for a Tony in your category, do you feel you have to represent every Asian American in the theatre arts right now or are you still able to maintain your own individuality?

Eva - I think individuality, but I think part of my individuality is being half Mexican half Filipina.

Alex - Hapa!  

Eva - Yeah! And the thing I think it should totally be normalized, obviously whoever is nominated is nominated, but I do feel pride in representing the Pinoys, and I do feel pride in representing my Hispanic side. I feel pride in representing Miss Saigon. So there are lots of parts of me are feeling really honored to be here. But I think it is important, Miss Saigon coming back is the perfect swing of diversity on Broadway. And it’s great that the show has been recognized as well. Look, label me anything… I will be proud to stand here and represent.

(Left) Paula Vogel - Playwright/Co-Creator of Indecent. (Right) Rebecca Taichman - Director/Co-Creator of Indecent

Alex - As one of the only women directors nominated, do you have any advice for inspiring women directors that would like to accomplish what you have?

Rebecca - It’s hard, and GO GO GO GO GO! You don’t give up. I think it’s ever so slowly changing, and what’s important is to make ourselves really physical and present. Don’t allow yourself to get defeated and crumble your confidence and faith.

So there you have it folks. I got to ask some of the top people in the theatre industry some questions. It was cool. It was freezing in the press room. But I survived my day at the circus. Oh and I saw Sally Field. She’s short too, like me! 

(Sally Field - Leading Actress inThe Glass Menagerie)

~~~~~

Alex Chester is a California gal living in NYC. She has been performing since she was a little girl and is also the creator of the blog MeSoHapa.com and the multicultural cabaret  "WeSoHapa", recently seen at The Triad. Theatre credits include: Broadway's “How the Grinch Stole Xmas” – Madison Square Garden (NYC) and the Broadway sit down production at The Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. TV credits include: ER, The Closer, 7th Heaven, and several national/international commercials. http://www.AlexChester.com Twitter/Instagram @AlexFChester

Why I'd Love to be Wrong About Hamilton and the Tonys

Tom Briggs

OnStage North Carolina Columnist

In my previous column [TONY BALONEY] I opined that the presence of the blockbuster musical Hamilton on the Tony Awards telecast may not spike the show’s ratings as many anticipate it will.  I admitted that mine was a minority opinion but I didn’t realize just how much in the minority I am.  No one is buying it.  My pal, D. Michael Dvorchak, an extremely savvy man of the theater, pointed out that it’s the only place to see Hamilton for less than $1,000 (their appearance on the Grammy Awards presumably notwithstanding); that teachers across the country have been using the recording in history classes; that the recording has remained firmly lodged in the Billboard Top 20 (it was released in the fall of last year).  I would add that being only the ninth musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, since the Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing in 1932, has helped bring it to the attention of a certain echelon of the citizenry.  

Just about everyone involved in Hamilton, short of the ushers, have been making appearances on day and late night talk shows.  When was the last time a musical became part of the national discourse?  But amongst whom?  Who discussed it yesterday at their respective water coolers?  Theater geeks and aficionados, that’s who, and they would tune into the telecast to hear me sing a medley from Bittersweet.  They have announced that Barbra Streisand will be on the show.  Now there’s a ratings booster.  Without the excitement generated by Hamilton, she may have passed.  Or perhaps she signed on to plug her upcoming tour, or to announce the latest news regarding her on-again-off-again film of Gypsy.  Who knows?

What's really extraordinary about Hamilton is how it is the last word in diversity on Broadway, which has been miles ahead of Hollywood forever.  Audra McDonald won her first Tony for Carousel in a role traditionally played by a Caucasian actor, and was nominated for 110 In the Shade, again playing against her ethnicity.  James Earl Jones starred in traditionally white roles in revivals of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man and You Can’t Take It with You.  There have been many such examples throughout the years, not including all-black revivals, but nothing, ever, like Hamilton’s casting of actors of African, Asian, Hispanic and who-knows-what descent to play the founding fathers of America.  

Might that translate to a more diverse viewing audience for the Tonys?  I’d love to think so but I’m skeptical.  Will curious viewers tune out after they’ve seen the number from Hamilton?  Will their number open the show and get it off to a flying start, or will they save it for last in hopes of retaining the audience?  Of course there will be a lot of entertainment value on the show, it having been a wonderful season for musicals.  (Alas, plays are not often featured on the show.)  Numbers from Shuffle Long, Waitress, Bright Star, School of Rock, The Color Purple, Fiddler On the Roof, Spring Awakening and She Loves Me are bound to captivate.  As are numbers featuring host James Corden, and inspired choice IMHO, including an inevitable carpool karaoke.  

In any event, I hope that my smart friend, Mike, is correct and that this year’s Tony Awards will be the most viewed annual commercial for Broadway ever.  If not, trust me – I’ll mourn, not gloat.

My 2016 Tony Award Predictions

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Editor-in-Chief
  • Twitter: @CMPeterson81

With the Tonys just days away, a lot of story lines about Broadway's biggest night are going to surface. Will Hamilton sweep the ceremony? Will Danny Burstein finally nab a Tony on his sixth try? What show will walk away with Best Revival of a Musical? 

On June 12th, we'll know all the answers to these questions and more. So here are my picks of who I think think will win and also who should win for each category. 

Best Orchestrations

  • August Eriksmoen, "Bright Star"
  • Larry Hochman, "She Loves Me"
  • Alex Lacamoire, "Hamilton"
  • Daryl Waters, "Shuffle Along"

Will Win: Alex Lacamoire, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Alex Lacamoire, "Hamilton"

With a few exceptions, the winner of this award is usually paired with the winner of Best Score and since my pick for that category will also be Hamilton, I think Lacamoire will walk home with his second Tony. 

Best Choreography

  • Andy Blankenbuehler, "Hamilton"
  • Savion Glover, "Shuffle Along"
  • Hofesh Shechter, "Fiddler on the Roof"
  • Randy Skinner, "Dames at Sea"
  • Sergio Trujillo, "On Your Feet!"

Will Win: Savion Glover, "Shuffle Along"

Should Win: Sergio Trujillo, "On Your Feet!"

This will be one of the few categories Hamilton will lose. Reason being is that this award typically goes to shows where choreography is one of the center features. You can't really say that about Hamilton. Given his stellar work, I expect Glover to win but I would really like to see Trujillo win for his energetic and creative work on On Your Feet! 

Best Direction of a Musical

  • Michael Arden, "Spring Awakening"
  • John Doyle, "The Color Purple"
  • Scott Ellis, "She Loves Me"
  • Thomas Kall, "Hamilton"
  • George C. Wolfe, "Shuffle Along"

Will Win: Thomas Kall, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Thomas Kall, "Hamilton"

No evidence to make me think Kall won't win the award. The only possible spoiler in the bunch is Arden. 

Best Direction of a Play

  • Rupert Goold, "King Charles III"
  • Jonathan Kent, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • Joe Mantello, "The Humans"
  • Liesl Tommy, "Eclipsed"
  • Ivo Van Hove, "A View from the Bridge"

Will Win: Jonathan Kent, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Should Win: Joe Mantello, "The Humans"

I think it's a neck and neck race between Kent and Mantello. Both productions are absolutely fantastic and will likely win their respective categories. 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

  • Howell Binkley, "Hamilton"
  • Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, "Shuffle Along"
  • Ben Stanton, "Spring Awakening"
  • Justin Townsend, "American Psycho"

Will Win: Howell Binkley, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Justin Townsend, "American Psycho"

I think Binkley will benefit from Hamilton's dominance of the night but the award should really go to Stanton, whose work on American Psycho was one of the best aspects of the production. 

Best Lighting Design of a Play

  • Natasha Katz, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • Justin Townsend, "The Humans"
  • Jan Versweyveld, "The Crucible"
  • Jan Versweyveld, "A View from the Bridge"

Will Win: Jan Versweyveld, "A View from the Bridge"

Should Win: Jan Versweyveld, "A View from the Bridge"

With not much else on stage, Versweyveld's lighting design was almost a character as well. I would be shocked if anyone else won. 

Best Costume Design of a Musical

  • Gregg Barnes, "Tuck Everlasting"
  • Jeff Mahshie, "She Loves Me"
  • Ann Roth, "Shuffle Along"
  • Paul Tazewell, "Hamilton"

Will Win: Paul Tazewell, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Paul Tazewell, "Hamilton"

No arguments to be made here. When stacked up against the competition, no doubt Tazewell should win. 

Best Costume Design of a Play

  • Jane Greenwood, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • Michael Krass, "Noises Off"
  • Clint Ramos, "Eclipsed"
  • Tom Scutt, "King Charles III"

Will Win: Jane Greenwood, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Should Win: Jane Greenwood, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Given the trends I've seen for winning this category, Greenwood makes the most sense, plus the work was excellent. 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

  • Es Devlin and Finn Ross, "American Psycho"
  • David Korins, "Hamilton"
  • Santo Loquasto, "Shuffle Along"
  • David Rockwell, "She Loves Me"

Will Win: David Korins, "Hamilton"

Should Win: David Rockwell, "She Loves Me"

Korins will win due to Hamilton's big night, but if decided purely on quality, the award must go to Rockwell. 

Best Scenic Design of a Play

  • Beowulf Boritt, "Therese Raquin"
  • Christopher Oram, "Hughie"
  • Jan Versweyveld, "A View from the Bridge"
  • David Zinn, "The Humans"

Will Win: Jan Versweyveld, "A View from the Bridge"

Should Win: Christopher Oram, "Hughie"

While Versweyveld will most likely win, the award should go to Oram whose work on Hughie was, literally, the best thing about that show. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Danielle Brooks, "The Color Purple"
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry, "Hamilton"
  • Jane Krakowski, "She Loves Me"
  • Jennifer Simard, "Disaster!"
  • Adrienne Warren, "Shuffle Along"

Will Win: Renée Elise Goldsberry, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Renée Elise Goldsberry, "Hamilton"

It's been Goldsberry's to lose since the day the show opened. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton"
  • Brandon Victor Dixon, "Shuffle Along"
  • Christopher Fitzgerald, "Waitress"
  • Jonathan Groff, "Hamilton"
  • Christopher Jackson, "Hamilton"

Will Win: Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Daveed Diggs, "Hamilton"

While I might be weary of a Fun Home-splitting the vote scenario, I think Diggs will be the winner when it's all said and done. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Pascale Armand, "Eclipsed"
  • Megan Hilty, "Noises Off"
  • Jayne Houdyshell, "The Humans"
  • Andrea Martin, "Noises Off"
  • Saycon Sengbloh, "Eclipsed"

Will Win: Jayne Houdyshell, "The Humans"

Should Win: Jayne Houdyshell, "The Humans"

Sandwiched in between multiple nominated shows, I still think Houdyshell is the top choice. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Reed Birney, "The Humans"
  • Bill Camp, "The Crucible"
  • David Furr, "Noises Off"
  • Richard Goulding, "King Charles III"
  • Michael Shannon, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Will Win: Michael Shannon, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Should Win: Reed Birney, "The Humans"

Birney's tremendous performance should win him the award but I have a sneaking suspicion that the voters will favor Shannon here. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Laura Benanti, "She Loves Me"
  • Carmen Cusack, "Bright Star"
  • Cynthia Erivo, "The Color Purple"
  • Jessica Mueller, "Waitress"
  • Phillipa Soo, "Hamilton"

Will Win: Cynthia Erivo, "The Color Purple"

Should Win: Phillipa Soo, "Hamilton"

I do think this will be the lone acting award Hamilton loses, but it's a shame because Soo's work is incredible. Given that Erivo's performance has been said to be better than LaChanze's Tony winning run, my guess is that she'll take the award. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Alex Brightman, "School of Rock"
  • Danny Burstein, "Fiddler on the Roof"
  • Zachary Levi, "She Loves Me"
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"
  • Leslie Odom Jr., "Hamilton"

Will Win: Leslie Odom Jr., "Hamilton"

Should Win: Leslie Odom Jr., "Hamilton"

If it was any other year Danny Burstein....any other year...

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Jessica Lange, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • Laurie Metcalfe, "Misery"
  • Lupita Nyong'o, "Eclipsed"
  • Sophie Okonedo, "The Crucible"
  • Michelle Williams, "Blackbird"

Will Win: Jessica Lange, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Should Win: Laurie Metcalfe, "Misery"

Metcalfe deserves every award imaginable for the job she did in Misery. However the buzz favors Lange. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Gabriel Byrne, "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • Jeff Daniels, "Blackbird"
  • Frank Langella, "The Father"
  • Tim Pigott-Smith, "King Charles III"
  • Mark Strong, "A View from the Bridge"

Will Win: Frank Langella, "The Father"

Should Win: Frank Langella, "The Father"

Best Original Score

  • Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, "Bright Star"
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"
  • Glenn Slater and Andrew Lloyd Webber, "School of Rock"
  • Sara Bareilles, "Waitress"

Will Win: Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Best Book of a Musical

  • Steve Martin, "Bright Star"
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"
  • Julian Fellowes, "School of Rock"
  • George C. Wolfe, "Shuffle Along"

Will Win: Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Should Win: Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Hamilton"

Smart money would be for Miranda to take both categories but I wouldn't be shocked if there is an upset in the book category coming from Martin. 

Best Revival of a Musical

  • "The Color Purple"
  • "Fiddler on the Roof"
  • "She Loves Me"
  • "Spring Awakening"

Will Win: "The Color Purple"

Should Win: "Spring Awakening"

Surely one of the tightest races of the evening, all deserving. My pick right now is The Color Purple but for what Michael Arden and Deaf West did with Spring Awakening, they should be awarded. 

Best Revival of a Play

  • "The Crucible"
  • "A View from the Bridge"
  • "Blackbird"
  • "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
  • "Noises Off"

Will Win: "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

Should Win: "A View from the Bridge"

I'll be the first to admit I'm not a fan of Ivo van Hove, but his version of "A View from the Bridge" was brilliant. 

Best Play

  • "Eclipsed"
  • "The Father"
  • "The Humans"
  • "King Charles III"

Will Win: "The Humans"

Should Win: "The Humans"

Given their Obie, NY Drama Critics, Outer Critics and Drama League awards, I have no doubt The Humans will add a Tony to that shelf. 

Best Musical

  • "Bright Star"
  • "Hamilton"
  • "School of Rock"
  • "Shuffle Along"
  • "Waitress"

Will Win: "Hamilton"

Should Win: "Hamilton" 

Even taking away Hamilton's gigantic buzz and press coverage, it's still the best piece of the bunch and deserves to take its place in Tony history. 

Why the Tony Awards Are About More Than Hamilton

Max Bahneman

  • OnStage St. Louis Columnist
  • @MaximusBahneman

Since they first announced their transfer to Broadway in February of 2015, Hamilton has been the frontrunner for this year’s Tony Awards.  And it has a right to be—it is completely revolutionary in its concept and execution.  However, as the rest of the Broadway season began to come into focus, it became clear that this was one of strongest seasons in recent memory.

On May 3, the Tony nominations were announced and, to no one’s surprise, Hamilton broke the nomination record.  Social media quickly began buzzing with numerous posts about how the other contenders didn’t stand a chance of winning.  While Hamilton certainly deserves all of the praise and awards it’s receiving, the Tony Awards are about much more than the awards themselves—they are about the celebration of a thriving community.  And there was a lot to celebrate this season on Broadway.

The 2015-2016 Broadway season brought a slew of shows with extremely diverse casts.  While Hamilton certainly contributed a great deal by reimagining our founding fathers as the people inhabiting America today, other shows this season had equal contribution.  Shows such as The Color Purple, Shuffle Along, Allegiance, On Your Feet!, Fiddler on the Roof, and Eclipsed brought minorities into the spotlight.  As a result, of the 40 acting nominees, 14 are actors of color.  In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, this is a huge deal.  Not only is it important that actors of color are being recognized, it is notable that Broadway is telling the stories of people of color and other minorities.

The diversity on Broadway this season wasn’t strictly limited to minority representation either. The nominated shows themselves represent a broad variety of styles and subject matter.  In the best musical category, we have a bluegrass musical based on a true event (Bright Star), a hip-hop musical about America’s first treasury secretary (Hamilton), a rock musical adapted from a popular film (School of Rock), a behind-the-scenes musical written around an existing score (Shuffle Along), and a pop-infused musical about a waitress trying to make a better life for herself and her future child (Waitress).  For revivals, we have a retooled version of a newer musical that was written off by critics in its initial production (The Color Purple), another newer musical reimagined with the use of American Sign Language (Spring Awakening), and two Bock and Harnick classics (Fiddler and She Loves Me).  The diversity in the types of musicals makes it clear that there is room for more than one style of musical on Broadway.  The strong box office numbers being posted by most of these musicals are also quite encouraging.

The play nominees are also admirable with an exceptionally strong revival category lead by Ivo van Hove’s Arthur Miller revivals.  The best play category also features strong entries with two Off-Broadway transfers and two plays from across the pond.  The acting nominees in the play categories are diverse in race as well as experience; the nominees feature celebrities, Broadway veterans, and relative newcomers.

Based on the nominations, it is clear that this season on Broadway was a strong one.  So when the big night comes, we should absolutely celebrate Hamilton, but we should also celebrate all of the other wonderful shows that graced the Broadway stage this season.  Plus, we are in for some incredible live performances.

 

Early Tony Predictions 2016: BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Chris Peterson

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. 

Locks

  • Phillipa Soo - Hamilton
  • Jessie Mueller - Waitress
  • Laura Benanti - She Loves Me

Probable Nominees

  • 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!

Early Tony Predictions 2016: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Chris Peterson

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 Featured Role in a Play

This is one of the tougher races to predict, because while there have been some great performances, no one seems like an absolute lock for a nomination nor is there a clear front runner to win.  But let's break it down. Some of these are pending Tony eligibility. 

Locks

None right now. 

Probable Nominees

  • Jayne Houdyshell - The Humans
  • Sarah Steele - The Humans
  • Saoirse Ronan - The Crucible
  • Julie White - Sylvia
  • Judith Light - Therese Raquin

On the Bubble

  • Tracee Chimo - Noises Off! 
  • Megan Hilty - Noises Off!
  • Phoebe Fox - A View from the Bridge

The closest thing to a lock for a nomination in this category would probably be Saoirse Ronan. After that I believe one of the cast members from The Humans will also get a nod but I'm not seeing multiple nominations for either show in this category. Initially I had both Eve Best and Kelly Reilly from Old Times here but they would be considered in the lead actress category. 

While neither Sylvia or Therese Raquin seemed to have made an impression, both White and Light were very well received in their roles which could get them in. 

As for the bubble, it's very possible one of these actresses will land a nod but only one. My guess? It should be Phoebe Fox. 

As for some names not on here? I would surprised if anyone else from Eclipsed will be nominated other than Lupita Nyong'o. 

Possible nominees from shows yet to open would be Colby Minifie from Long Day's Journey into Night and Kathryn Erbe from The Father

The Case for a Best Adaptation Tony Award

Aaron Netsky

A little over a month ago, I read an article on this site about how completely original musicals should not be held up above musicals based on pre-existing material, and I do not disagree. It did, though, renew my own thinking on the matter of original vs. adapted musicals, and also plays, which are not as frequently based on other works, but sometimes are. I wouldn’t trade Fun Home or Hands on a Hardbody for the world, but there is something thrilling about an In the Heights or a Curtains.

I like to read or view the pre-existing material of adapted musicals so that I can see how the transition was made, but I also love to see a completely original story unfold before me, for the first time anywhere, as a musical. There is room for both, but there should be distinct ways of recognizing them. In short, there should be Adapted Play and Adapted Book of a Musical categories in the Tonys and other theatre awards.

In that sense, they should be more like the Oscars, which has awards for Adapted and Original Screenplays. Several screenwriters have won both, including Joel and Ethan Cohen, and well-known Broadway writers Horton Foote and Alan Jay Lerner. At this time when Tony categories are being omitted from the telecast and retired all together, why should we add new ones? Incentive and insurance. Maybe there aren’t enough new plays or musicals in a season of these types to fill two categories, but perhaps the increased likelihood of a reward because of split competition would encourage an increase in entries.

Producers and writers of completely original material wouldn’t have to worry about competition with perhaps more popular/financially successful adapted productions, and producers and writers of musicals and plays adapted from popular properties wouldn’t have to worry about competition from wholly original works that industry insiders may favor for their originality, as Caleigh Derreberry’s article fears.

There is no need to worry about the score category. While a score might certainly be adapted for a musical, which is part of the process of creating jukebox musicals, it’s not the same as adapting spoken dialogue scenes, which are essentially the same in books, screenplays, and stage works. And while “Eye of the Tiger” may appear in the Rocky musical, most of the songs are written specifically for the stage production, which is already part of the qualifications for the Original Score Tony category. Coming up with an original story and dialogue that has never been exchanged in any form is different than putting a new spin on pre-existing material, just like writing songs to serve the story and dialogue is a distinctly creative process. Acknowledgement of these things at an official level, like distinct categories of Tony Awards, is perfectly fair.

Perhaps there is worry that one will become more prestigious than the other, namely the original category. That may well happen, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the movie industry. There may also be some tough calls as far as which is which, especially where historically based material is concerned. That call is for the Tony committee to make. Tony Kushner was nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category for his work on Lincoln, and there was controversy. Lin-Manuel Miranda won’t have to face that kind of thing for Hamilton, since there is only one Book of a Musical category this time around, but he’d probably just win both anyway.

As Derreberry writes, adapted musicals are some of the most important musicals in the history of musicals, but there is nothing wrong with giving a little push to the completely original stage work genre. Things need to be shaken up every so often, on Broadway as much as anywhere.

Aaron Netsky writes the 366 Days/366 Musicals blog at http://366days366musicals.tumblr.com, which features both completely original musicals and musicals based on pre-existing material, and loves them equally. 

Hamilton Doesn't Need Tonys To Validate Its Success

Chris Peterson

There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the news that Hamilton's producers are going to limit the amount of performances that Tony voters can get free tickets to see. 

While I'd like to believe this is an artistic, "We don't need Tonys" attitude behind the move, it's probably a money thing. Would you want to give away 1,400 free tickets to the hottest show on Broadway? Especially during the time of year when grosses get higher? 

I didn't think so. 

But while some are freaking out that Hamilton might not win every category, or even Best Musical, I would like to remind them that many works that we consider the greatest musicals of all time, didn't win the Tony for Best Musical either. 

The list is iconic, West Side Story, Gypsy, Follies, Pippin, Chicago. If we're talking more recent years, you could include Wicked and Next to Normal. In some cases, these musicals lost to far inferior work (Sorry Billy Eilliot). 

So if you're worried that Hamilton won't best thought of as one of the great works of our time if it doesn't win a Tony award, given the list above, I don't think that will be the case. 

If You Want to Change the Tonys, You Have to Watch the Tonys

Chris Peterson

Since the Tony Awards aired last week, there has been much criticism over how the ceremony was broadcast. While the criticism is well deserved, as I pointed out in a previous column, I can at least understand why CBS producers felt they could cut award presentations in favor of failed comedic bits and Josh Groban, it's because not enough of you are watching.

This year marked the lowest ratings for the Tony Awards telecast....ever. Only 6 Million viewers tuned in to see Fun Home win Best Musical.

When compared to the other "EGOT" awards shows over the past year, it looks like this:

Oscars - 36.6 Million 

Grammys - 25.3 Million

Emmys - 15.6 Million

Tonys - 6 Million

In truth, the Tonys also trail the Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards, MTV Music Video Awards, Billboard Music Awards and both County Music Award shows in viewers. The Tonys actually rank somewhere just above the Teen Choice Awards and the ESPYS.....the freaking ESPYS....

On Sunday, the Tonys barely had more viewers than “Dateline: My Kid Would Never Do That” and was blown away by a non-series decisive Game 2 of the NBA Finals. 

So with numbers like these, CBS becomes fully justified in taking whatever creative liberties they want in order to salvage some sort of profit. The only away to stop this from happening? You have to watch the show. I'm not talking about on Youtube the next day, I'm talking about sitting down at 8 pm on the first weekend in June for three hours and watch the entire ceremony. 

In all honesty, I'm not that surprised by the numbers. This past season on Broadway was the year of critical darlings rather than blockbuster, transcending pop culture shows. And without an A-List host, the average viewer is certainly not going to tune in. 

But what's even more troubling is that, given the slate of shows next year, I don't see this problem getting any better. 

Hamilton is going to be the talk of the town this coming season, but will its likely Tony dominance lure enough viewers? We will see.

But Hamilton can't do it alone. The ceremony needs a great "trend-worthy" host as well. If I had to guess who CBS will turn to next year, if not Hugh or NPH, it will be James Corden. He's already a CBS employee and actually has a Tony of his own. 

So if you're sick and tired of seeing the Tonys aired this way, watch the Tonys live. It's the only way the show will ever have the ratings pull to be able to dictate to the network how they want the show to be broadcast. If you don't then nothing will ever change and more historic moments will be seen on Youtube versus being seen live. 

Trying to Make Sense of First Time Tony Winners and Repeat Nominees

Kasie Tiler Patlove

This past Sunday, I watched as Broadway beauty Kelli O’Hara took home her first tony for her performance as Anna in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, currently in its 4th Broadway revival at Lincoln Center. Although it was her first win, Ms. O’Hara is no stranger to the Great White Way or the Tonys. She has jokingly been named the “Leo DiCaprio of Broadway”. Out of her 10 Broadway Appearances, the powerful singer and actress has been nominated 6 times, all of which happened with each consecutive roles she has played in ‘05, ‘06, ‘08, ‘12, ‘14 and ‘15.  Having seen her as a top billing in The Bridges of Madison County, Nice Work If You Can Get it, and South Pacific, It can’t be denied that Ms. O’Hara is truly a storytelling aficionado. Her flourishing voice captures audiences and makes them hang on her every word.  So it was no surprise to viewers, industry professionals, or to Ms. O’Hara herself when she took home the coveted award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. But think about this: was Ms. O’Hara’s victory based solely on her performance in The King and I, or maybe did it have something to do with the incredible range and depth of roles she has played-and yet to be recognized for- over the past 10 years?

Helen Mirren’s performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the historical drama The Queen earned her a Golden Globe, Oscar, SAG, BAFTA and nine other awards for Best Actress in 2006. Clearly, the entire industry came to a consensus that her performance as the reigning Monarch was impeccable. So it was no surprised that her performance as Queen Elizabeth II would be just as appealing in this year’s The Audience, coincidentally written by Peter Morgan, the screenwriter of The Queen. Clearly Dame Mirren and Mr. Morgan are quite the team as Ms. Mirren took home her first Tony for Actress in a Lead role In a Play on Sunday evening. An interview with Dame Mirren states that although Morgan wrote both works, the stories and journeys Queen Elizabeth II are quite different. Regardless, the same question stands: Was Dame Mirren a tony recipient based on her performance in The Audience on Broadway, or could Tony voters have been influenced by her great success as the same character in The Audience n in London, and The Queen?

Jeanine Tesori surely has gotten her name in the theatrical history books; being half of the first all female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score for the groundbreaking musical Fun Home, an adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her experiences coming to terms with her sexuality. However, Ms. Tesori has been nominated four other times. Caroline, or Change, Shrek, Violet, and Thoroughly Modern Millie all received critical praise and various Drama Critic Circle awards an nominations. She has also written music for various animated sequels and trilogies. Taking home the Tony for Best Musical, Score, Direction, Lead Actor and Book; Fun Home is proven to be a masterpiece, much is owed to Ms. Tesori for her moving and unique score.  But again, is her Tony to commemorate all of the groundbreaking, intricate work she has done for Broadway since 2000? Or was Fun Home her golden ticket to the Tony?

The Tony’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” is a non competitive, honorary award given each year to an individual who “body of work” is to be celebrated. Recent winners include Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Alan Ayckbourn and this year’s Tommy Tune. However this award seems to recognize artists who are toward the end of their careers and have already won multiple competitive Tonys, unlike O’Hara, Mirren and Tesori, whose work is still thriving and have only received nominations.

Additionally, we can investigate artists whose work continues to be recognized with Tony wins year after year. Audra McDonald holds the most Tony Awards for any actress; having won 6 titles since 1994 (she’s only lost one tony she was nominated for, Marie Christine in 2000.  Sondheim has received 8 Tonys for his work as a composer and Hal Prince has 21 Tonys for his directing and producing endeavors.  How can we distinguish when someone’s achievements become worth of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” and not just a regular old Tony?
And what about the newcomers? 26 year old Alexander Sharp took home the Tony for Best Actor in a play- his first professional role and the youngest in his category! Or how about the 3 Billy Elliot’s who took home the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical back in 2008?  Surely their performances deserved, but these young men haven’t had the time to develop their careers.

They just gave some kick ass performances. 

So how do the voters decide? Do we accept the fact that people like O’Hara and Tesori eventually will get what they deserve when the timing is right? Or was their work not “exceptional” enough until this year? I would think it is nearly impossible to isolate a performer, composer, or director in the one show from that particular year. When we evaluate a performance, song, set design, we think about what the artist has done in the past, how they have improved on their past projects, and interpreted the work at hand. 

What do you think? Post in the comments below! Also, go watch Kelli O’Hara’s acceptance speech. It’s just amazing.