Thoughts on the 2019 Tony Nominations

Although I earn my living selling residential real estate in New York City, my unpaid second job might be called “patron of the arts” as I absolutely love experiencing the rich cultural offerings that exist in this city. A particular passion is Broadway theatre – so much so that when I moved after decades living on the Upper East Side, I chose Midtown West in part because of the proximity to the Theatre District. I see so many shows that I am often asked my advice on what to see by those who know me. I go to shows to enjoy them, not to be a critic, and it is extremely rare for me to think after seeing something that I would have been better off staying home. That being said, I do end up forming opinions, and sometime pretty strong ones, so it is always enjoyable to weigh in on the Tony Award nominations.

Best Play
Choir Boy
The Ferryman
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
What the Constitution Means to Me

Best Play is overshadowed by the absence of the play many thought would vie with The Ferryman for the win but ended up not even being nominated: To Kill A Mockingbird. There is speculation that the snub was directed toward the producers for some of the controversy associated with the handling of rights, which I have no insider info about and won’t speculate upon. However, I will say that this has been an exceptionally strong year for new plays, and all five of these are excellent. However, there is only one I have seen twice: The Ferryman. Epic and yet somehow still intimate in scope, I found it extraordinary.

Best Musical
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
The Prom

A good year for new musicals. Although I enjoyed Beetlejuice I probably wouldn’t have included it (personally I would have added Head Over Heels which I adored). I think The Prom and Ain’t Too Proud both have a chance of winning, but if it were up to me there is no question that I would go with Hadestown. I’ve been telling people to go see it since before it opened, based on my experience when it was Off-Broadway several years ago. However, after time spent in Canadian and London productions, it came to Broadway in spectacular form and is my favorite musical since Hamilton. I’ve seen in three times in previews (once from balcony, once from mezzanine, once from orchestra) and already have a date to see it again this summer.

Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
The Boys in the Band
Burn This
Torch Song
The Waverly Gallery

A good year for play revivals. I would probably go with The Boys in the Band here, which was a limited engagement so no longer on Broadway but will be on Netflix with the entire cast from this revival, so keep an eye out for that.


Best Revival of a Musical
Kiss Me, Kate
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

This was a strange year in that only two musical revivals opened on Broadway this year, and both are nominated. They could not be more different: Kate was tweaked to make the story somewhat less offensive, but Oklahoma! was completely transformed without changing a single word or note. This version is divisive and seems to be a “love it or hate it” production since the tone and sound is so different from what some expect. I saw it at St. Ann’s and again on Broadway, and hope (and expect) it to win this category.


Best Book of a Musical
Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations, Dominique Morisseau
Beetlejuice, Scott Brown & Anthony King
Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom, Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin
Tootsie, Robert Horn

It’s possible Tootsie will win this category, but my vote would go to Hadestown.


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Be More Chill, Music & Lyrics: Joe Iconis
Beetlejuice, Music & Lyrics: Eddie Perfect
Hadestown, Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell
The Prom, Music: Matthew Sklar Lyrics: Chad Beguelin
To Kill a Mockingbird, Music: Adam Guettel
Tootsie, Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek

A few things to note in this category: TKAM was nominated for its incidental music in a play, very unusual. Also, this is the only nod to Be More Chill which has been a YouTube and Off-Broadway sensation but which has struggled to fit in on Broadway. I will be shocked if Mitchell doesn’t win this for Hadestown, and well deserved.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Paddy Considine, The Ferryman
Bryan Cranston, Network
Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird
Adam Driver, Burn This
Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

This is probably between Cranston and Daniels, and my guess is that Daniels will win. He has a difficult job playing Atticus, an iconic and yet paternalistic character while somehow also managing to signal an awareness of the paternalism. Cranston was the best part of Network, so it’s possible he could win. My sentimental favorite to win, though is Jeremy Pope in Choir Boy, a fantastic performance (and his Broadway debut!) that I will never forget.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Annette Bening, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman
Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet
Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton
Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

Such a tough category! I have no idea who will win here. It could go to May for her terrific performance, to Donnelly for reprising the role for which she won the Olivier, for Metcalf for once again showing that she commands the stage in any role she takes on, or Schreck (unlikely, but perhaps a way to signal approval for the play itself which will likely not win). Who would I vote for? Metcalf, for becoming Hillary – or at least Hillary as we imagine her – without in any way doing an impersonation.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice
Damon Daunno, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Santino Fontana, Tootsie

A solid group. I suspect Fontana might win this for his dual role of Michael/Dorothy in Tootsie (and it is impressive, in that even his singing voice is different as Dorothy). If I had a vote, it would be difficult, but I might go with Ashmanskas in The Prom.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom
Beth Leavel, The Prom
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

I suspect SJB has his one sewn up, not only for this role but for all the terrific work she has done over the years. I would probably vote for her, too, but it’s a tough category for me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Bertie Carvel, Ink
Robin de Jesús, The Boys in the Band
Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird
Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This
Benjamin Walker, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons

This might be the most competitive category this year – I can see any one of the five nominees winning. A difficult decision for me to cast my imaginary vote, but I will go with Glick in TKAM.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman
Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird
Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ruth Wilson, King Lear

I think this category is between Keenan-Bolger in TKAM and White in Gary, but I believe the two women in Gary might split the vote. I would go for Keenan-Bolger, as playing the iconic role of Scout, a child, as an adult has to be difficult and yet she was able to completely inhabit that role in a very natural way.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
André De Shields, Hadestown
Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie
Patrick Page, Hadestown
Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations

Such a tough category! Here is Jeremy Pope, being nominated in a musical category as well as best actor in a play, which is highly unusual. You have two pairs competing against each other in the same show. I think a major absence in this category is Patrick Vaill’s Jud in Oklahoma!, which I thought was exceptional. For me this comes down to two excellent performances in Hadestown by De Shields and Page. I would be thrilled with a tie, as both of them are absolutely riveting in the show. If I had to cast a vote, I would tip toward De Shields because he simply owns the stage with the smallest gestures  – when have you seen someone get applause for unbuttoning a jacket?


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Lilli Cooper, Tootsie
Amber Gray, Hadestown
Sarah Stiles, Tootsie
Ali Stroker, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Mary Testa, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

This is probably between Gray in Hadestown and Stroker in Oklahoma! Although both are wonderful performances, Gray’s is exceptional and arguably a leading role. I am hoping to see her win this one.

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, Ink
Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Five powerhouses of directing! All male, but hopefully the industry is slowing breaking down that monopoly. All five were masterfully directed, but my vote would go for Sher.

Best Direction of a Musical
Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

I suspect this category will come down to Chavkin for Hadestown or Fish for Oklahoma! I am hoping to see Chavkin win this – I thought she also deserved the win for Great Comet a few years ago.


The Tony Awards will be shown live on CBS Sunday, June 9th, starting at 8PM, and you can bet I will be watching! If you want to throw a Tony party, the official site has some fun downloads, including ballots to fill out, Tony Award bingo cards, and such (you can find that here). I’m interested in your opinions, too, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments or disagreements (!) and I’ll see you at the theatre . . .

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