Tim Teeman: Well, here we are, my friend: the 75th Tony Awards this Sunday night (8 p.m. ET on CBS), the first proper one celebrating Broadway’s return after two-plus years of pandemic, and categories stuffed with competition. First of all, how was it for you generally? I enjoyed being back in the theater hugely, from those first, tentative nervous performances of how-will-this work, and will people be OK with all the vaccine and mask requirements? And now, it’s not unusual at all to see the signs asking for that, the mask-patrollers during performances… the show went on.
Kevin Fallon: A little treat for the readers, just because I find it so adorable: The very last production we saw pre-pandemic was a preview of SIX: The Musical, I believe the day before Broadway shut down. We loved it. What a source of joy at the height of paranoia and panic and all of the horribleness that was to come. And then the first show we saw together once theaters reopened was Six again. It was perhaps even more euphoric, given the circumstances. What a special bookend for us.
Tim: It really was. It felt very special being there with you, given that final performance, which I remember featured us looking quizzically around the not-full rows at, and wondering what was happening, and what was beginning. Also visible in these categories and on stage: the beginning of a fruition of demands for change and diversity that followed George Floyd’s death; Broadway, as with many other institutions, has been examining itself on stage and off. An ongoing process.
Kevin: It was an interesting year in that regard. So much of the work resounded more, felt important, especially given what it took to pull it off. I can’t remember a time when there were so many productions by and featuring Black artists and creatives, and it made this season more gratifying than ever. At the same time, the larks felt just that more nice, too, after the last few years. A fizzy revival like Plaza Suite, which was far from perfect, went down like a good glass of bubbly. The not-very-good revival of Funny Girl was still a blast to sit through, basking in the enthusiasm of the audience. Everything, every emotion, just felt more heightened.
Tim: And still does? Funny Girl, for all its many faults (that awful, doomy, useless tower on stage offended way more than any performance), really had that vibe of expectation. Broadway itself may not be back at pre-pandemic grosses, but like the city it is in, it is kind of back, kind of navigating a way through, although Omicron showed how unexpected outbreaks can suddenly derail things. As for the Tonys, I am expecting a show that’s colorful and fizzy and starry, as well as one emphatically celebrating all those who brought theater back and desire to foreground diversity on stage too.
Kevin: I am thrilled that the extraordinarily talented Ariana DeBose is hosting. My sincerest hope is that they scrap the thing they usually do where they try to pitch the show to a mainstream, uninterested audience that doesn’t care about musical theater and just let it be an unapologetically nerdy show celebrating Broadway. I heard that Bernadette Peters is performing, so that’s already a good sign.
Tim: Who’s missing from the categories we’d like to have seen recognized? For me: it is outrageous that Austin Pendleton is not nominated for playing Mr. Oldfield in The Minutes. His comedy, his out-of-the-blue announcements, his obsession with car-parking spaces, are all so deliciously comedic. You watch his movements; his speech totally governs the pace of the play for minutes on end. And I know this makes me alone, but I loved The Little Prince and all its oh-la-la, odd whimsy, with the little prince dancing around, and the desert, and the pilot. My fellow critics queued up to slap it around the face with a wet kipper. I was enchanted. No apologies, no shame.
Kevin: I am DISTRAUGHT that my beloved Debra Messing did not get nominated for Birthday Candles. Not because she necessarily deserved it—by the end she was going, confusingly, full Mrs. Doubtfire, but because a DebMess Tony season would have been a pop-culture moment. And on the thread of Kevin’s Favorite Actresses From Early Aughts Comedies, I do think Sarah Jessica Parker, jokes aside, was comedically brilliant in Plaza Suite. It’s a production that needed an incandescent star, and she radiated charm to the rafters, and then some. She gave me Carol Burnett vibes, and I wish she had gotten a Tony nod.
Tim: OK, on with the show. Daily Beast reviews of every nominated show, and profiles of some nominees are linked to below.
Tim: I gave positive reviews to all these plays, but my standout just for the scale and wonder and clarity of it is The Lehman Trilogy, the history of the financial institution, beginning to end and endlessly lyrical, gorgeous, and dense, and I loved all the performances too. I was just so enveloped and entranced—and this after really disliking it at the Park Avenue Armory. A conventional staging actually helped it.
Kevin: Also, because of its length—it’s long—and the reputation it had coming stateside, it felt like it was an event, which is something I desperately missed when Broadway was closed.
Tim: Having said that, Phylicia Rashad and the rest of the cast of Skeleton Crew beguiled me, and Uzo Aduba mercilessly terrorizing her staff in Clyde’s was both fun and then deeper as we got to know them all. It also made me desperate for a hero as soon as I got to the nearest deli. Hangmen I loved patchily. The writing is excellent, it just felt a bit leaden at moments. The Minutes was excellent, but sadly I am one of those for whom the ending clunked badly. It still infuriates me. And some of its characters, particularly women, were so poorly developed. I thought it might storm through as a late-season triumph, but I’m not sure it has.
Kevin: You’re not the only one. Sometimes I read reviews and talk to my theater-loving friends, and they all are on one page about something and I feel like I’m reading an entirely different book. That’s how I felt about The Minutes, which I very much didn’t like. But we are apparently two birds perched out on a limb with this one.
Tim: I so loved being there with you watching my choice of winner, Kevin. It has to be Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop—not just as an inevitable coronation following the Pulitzer, but just the thrill of seeing this Black queer musical excelling with such heart and power on Broadway. I love the story of the musical (it is based on the life of its creator, Michael R. Jackson), the staging, the wit and brilliance of not just the lead Jaquel Spivey but also the “Thoughts,” the background singers who are really scene-stealing leads in their own right. I loved sitting there, with people sharing, it felt, the same all-kinds-of feelings I had.
Kevin: I almost forgot what the feeling was like to be sitting in a theater and realize as the production is happening that, wow, I’m watching something really special. That feeling washed over me as if I had just cannonballed into a swimming pool watching A Strange Loop. It is so powerful, so funny, and the music is so good. The only thing better than watching it with you would have been watching it with Tyler Perry…
Tim: My feeling talking to Tony voters is that they feel the same, but there is also a lot of love for SIX, which as you saw we first saw days before the pandemic, which was due to have its opening night the very night Broadway closed. MJ, for all its songs too! But how that show utterly ignored all of Michael Jackson’s controversies and utterly skated over any questionable and dark elements of his life and personality torpedoed it for me.
Kevin: I have heard rumblings of Tony voters being hot on MJ in this category, which is absolutely wild to me. I’m trying to imagine a world where that confusingly boring and hokey Vegas production is thought of as more award-worthy than A Strange Loop, or SIX! SIX should absolutely be the first runner-up, should the winner not be able to perform its duties, in this category. It’s inventive. It’s a blast. It’s commercial. But, c’mon. A Strange Loop or cancel the Tonys forever.
Tim: And there is Girl from the North Country, the Bob Dylan/Depression-era thing which a lot of people loved; and Mr. Saturday Night, which I found charming and sweet, and not really a musical so I have no idea why it is called one. Go see it on a Sunday afternoon after two glasses of red wine.
Kevin: Fine, I’ll accept that dare.
Tim: And then, Paradise Square, an overlong, insane musical, with race and politics and 600 other things all going on set in Civil War-era New York. It didn’t work for me until Joaquina Kalukango’s “Let It Burn,” which would deservedly win her the Tony, and which blew the audience up. Standing ovations, show stopped. I hope she performs it on Sunday, though nothing beats seeing her do it—even if it means sitting through nearly 3 hours of Paradise Square to get there.
Best Revival of a Play
Kevin: This is a really strong category, in my opinion, except for the play that, I think, sort of mystified us both. American Buffalo—David Mamet’s play about men being very-men in a junk shop–seemed to be circling around some good ideas, but instead of landing any, it kind just flung out into space and flailed around, for me.
I have a hard time deciding between How I Learned to Drive, which was such a spectacular showcase for its stars and I think excavated new layers in its subject matter being revived after so many years have passed. That’s true, too, of Take Me Out, which reliably made headlines over its nudity and shower scenes, but it is a powder-keg of complicated ideas surrounding masculinity and sexuality. I think I go with it, because it felt like a capital-P Production. But it’s a hard choice.
Tim: Yes, this is absolutely a tough choice. For me, Take Me Out is immaculate, and a blast to watch—funny, provocative, dense, and surprising; and sadly still relevant 20 years since it was first performed in what it is saying about masculinity and sexuality. I loved for colored girls… too—a classic precisely reimagined, with some standout performances. Trouble in Mind was written in 1955 by Alice Childress, focusing on racism in theater. It felt depressingly fresh and current; LaChanze shone hard in the title role. American Buffalo you and I saw together—it confused and irritated me. A lot of male energy just being spent and spluttered. The reason How I Learned to Drive is my winner is that the two lead performances, that story, poleaxed me. It was such a visceral piece of theater. I am not sure it will win, but its impact means it is my winner.
Best Revival of a Musical
Kevin: It bothers me so much when people say ridiculous things about why awards bodies reward undeserving things and ignore the clearly superior one, like it’s a tradition instead of a liability. So the whole, “Well, you know, Caroline, or Change closed so long ago so voters aren’t going to go for it,” excuse like it’s a universal truth and not an outrage bothers me so much. Company is going to win this, and it’s a good production, with the poignancy of Stephen Sondheim’s passing making a Tony victory seem like a worthy “moment.” But the politics of why it will win just irks me.
Tim: Yes, the rearview mirror reasoning is grating, but Company is my winner here because it felt like the better show—in fluency and content, and feel. Caroline, or Change was a lovely production, and in some ways, it’s always ridiculous to compare and vote one over another, but Company was a multi-toned feast. Unlike other critics, I loved all its changes from the original, all its switches, and the performances of Jennifer Simard, Katrina Lenk, Matt Doyle, Claybourne Elder, and yes… !!!PATTI!!!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
David Threlfall, Hangmen
Tim: The question is, do the Lehman guys cancel each other out? Some say yes, and in the last few days I have spoken to folks saying one does stand out—and then mentions the name of their standout (which have been different!). David Morse was a terrifying, brilliant abuser in Drive. Sam Rockwell was the best thing in American Buffalo, and scared us all sitting near the stage when he starts wrecking stuff. David Threlfall is bluff and comic and a little scary in Hangmen. And Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s one-man Lackawanna Blues was a tour de force of multiple characters from his past. The buzz is that Ruben SH may win this; my personal choice is David Morse. I think I breathed during his performance, but cannot confirm that.
Kevin: I don’t know how you choose between the three Lehman Trilogy leads, but luckily I, personally, don’t have to. David Morse is just that damn good in How I Learned to Drive.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive
Kevin: I have never in my life seen a performance like what Deirdre O’Connell pulls off in Dana H. She’s lip-synching along to a recording, but it’s not pantomime. Weirdly, I’ve rarely seen something so visceral, as if the gimmick does the opposite and just strips the artifice to something amazingly raw. This is such a competitive category. Ruth Negga was so carnal and surprising in Macbeth. LaChanze and Gabby Beans would win Tonys in any other year. But Mary-Louise Parker gives what I truly believe is one of the great stage performances of all time in How I Learned to Drive. She won the Tony last year. Who cares? Give it to her again.
Tim: Do you remember sitting there watching that, Kevin? And blinking outside again, and finally breathing. I feel the same about Mary-Louise’s performance. I was also pretty blown away by Gabby Beans who holds, shepherds, anchors, and animates The Skin of Our Teeth. LaChanze brings a past text with present resonance beautifully back to life in Trouble in Mind.
Ruth Negga gave Shakespeare a blessedly clarifying read in a Macbeth that was determined to upend and puzzle in so many other ways. It’s beyond hard to choose among these performers. But my winner is Deirdre O’Connell; her lip-synching to the real Dana H.’s kidnapping, abuse, and rape was an utterly original tour de force. I was fortunate enough to see it off-Broadway and on. I would love to see her rewarded for it.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night
Myles Frost, MJ
Hugh Jackman, The Music Man
Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop
Tim: Jaquel Spivey, all the way. A Strange Loop puts a Black queer man, and a Black queer man full of issues, emotion, story, and heart and demands that the audience meet him where he is. No hand-holding, no compromising. I saw Myles Frost doing a lot during MJ, but it didn’t land with me, and the myopic, non-interrogating script gave him nothing to do but X-Factor his way through the song and dance.
Kevin: Even the people who (rightly) saw MJ for what it was, which was a lazy and unimaginative—and dare I say, problematic—pitch to tourists who, frankly, deserve better, have qualified their pans by praising its star, Myles Frost. I’m baffled! I thought Frost had no stage presence, which is a bit of liability while playing someone considered to be the greatest entertainer of his time. Jaquel Spivey, in my opinion, is lightyears more impressive in A Strange Loop, in a role that is, in its own way, equally demanding to the King of Pop. The difference is he brings emotion and heart—and heartbreak—to the performance. A real Star Is Born moment for me.
Tim: A friend loves Rob McClure, and I applaud the actor’s ferocious energy, but I found Mrs. Doubtfire an absolute drag (pun intended if you must). The costume changes seemed a blowhard hassle, everyone seemed on a turntable spinning far too fast, and essentially his wife is seen as a bitch because she wants her husband to grow up and likes things being organized. Charmless and grating, the whole thing. I really liked the easy charm of Billy Crystal, but I have no idea why this restrained sweetness is being honored here. And think I saw Hugh Jackman being great in another musical starring Hugh Jackman playing straight to the audience, instead of to his fellow company of actors in The Music Man, which is allegedly being performed around him. One hopes it isn’t getting in his way!
Kevin: Re Mrs. Doubtfire… the sooner they stop thinking a man dressing as a woman is all you need to greenlight a multi-million dollar musical, the better, Billy Crystal is Billy Crystal, and Hugh Jackman deserves all the credit in the world for bringing enthusiasm and, more importantly, the money back to Broadway. My confusion is that Harold Hill seems like a role so well-suited to Hugh Jackman that casting him almost felt boring, but in the end, he actually seemed miscast—or, at the very least, wasn’t pulling it off.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Sharon D Clarke, Caroline, or Change
Carmen Cusack, Flying Over Sunset
Sutton Foster, The Music Man
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square
Mare Winningham, Girl from The North Country
Kevin: In my opinion, Sutton Foster is a treasure and she proved that again with The Music Man. I love that she routinely does things that seem just so not in her wheelhouse, and then absolutely nails it. Everyone thought the bawdy Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes was an ill fit, and then she was so good she won the Tony. People thought Marion’s vocal range in The Music Man didn’t match her voice, but she made the songs her own and was undeniably the best part of that production. I wouldn’t hate it if she won here, except that this award should obviously go to Sharon D. Clarke.
I keep saying things like, “I can’t imagine how a voter would see this performance and not vote for it,” but that’s precisely what the Tonys are known for: Not voting for the best performance. Specifically when that performance is as Caroline Thibodeaux in Caroline, Or Change. Tonya Pinkins was robbed—the rare correct usage of that award-season cliché—when Idina Menzel won for Wicked. (If you were going to give the trophy to Oz, it should have been Chenoweth!). And if Sharon D Clarke loses here for the revival, in what is a very weak category in my opinion, then it’s the rare case of burglars returning to the scene of the crime.
Tim: Yes, I loved Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, or Change. She was a vital anchor and pivot; and Clarke gives such a passionate, rousing, chest cavity-hitting performance. Carmen Cusack gave a lovely performance in Flying Over Sunset also—but all of the characters got lost in this mad, odd show. Sutton Foster is the heart of The Music Man, not Hugh Jackman, but the performance left socks not blown off.
Kevin, go see Girl from the North Country! (I know you won’t.) Mare Winningham is hugely popular, but I’m not sure this is a winning role. Joaquina Kalukango is getting all the pre-buzz for the performance-halting “Let It Burn” in the loopy and off-the-tracks Paradise Square. Is that song, and audiences’ responses to it, enough for a Tony? Maybe. I would be happy with that, but I think Sharon D Clarke’s performance has so many nuances and modulations, my choice would be for her.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Alfie Allen, Hangmen
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s
Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out
Tim: I loved Ron Cephas Jones in Clyde’s. Wisdom, strength, and a man who knows how to craft a good sandwich: what more could one ask for? Three more nominees in one category, this time Take Me Out. Will they cancel each other out? Maybe. This would be a shame. For me, Michael Oberholtzer gives an astonishing, scary performance as the bigoted baseball player, and deserves this win. However, the pre-buzz is around Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and also deservedly so. I love him playing the lawyer in the show whose love of baseball, and whose other desires, are awakened—it’s a lovely many-shaded performance, and it may well win. I would just prefer Oberholtzer for giving us the season’s most seethingly crazy bad guy. But Jesse TF is a star, so maybe it’s his. Jesse Williams’ performance is OK, but too much of a blank slate for me. Alfie Allen’s performance was insinuating and softly malign, Chuck Cooper was venerable in Trouble in Mind. But go, go Michael O!
Kevin: Jesse Williams has the marquee role in Take Me Out, and he’s totally fine in it—and probably benefitting from a surge of press after those nude leaks. (Tim, it’s totally inappropriate to articulate what we are both thinking about when it comes to Williams and that scene, but I feel I just need to acknowledge that we are both thinking about it.) Michael Oberholtzer gets the more explosive material, and the way he wrangles with it is captivatingly messy. Call me basic, but I just swooned over Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s performance. He nailed both the romanticism and the self-loathing, and grounded a role that could become very cheesy had he not made it so endearing and poignant. I hope the trio doesn’t split votes, because that would hurt Ferguson’s chances.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Uzo Aduba, Clyde’s
Rachel Dratch, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew
Julie White, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kara Young, Clyde’s
Kevin: Rachel Dratch and Julie White are so funny in POTUS, but I’m not sure I would consider either Tony-winning worthy performances. (Tony-nominee worthy, for sure!) Uzo Aduba is remarkable in Clyde’s, but there’s a reason Phylicia Rashad is Phylicia Rashad. Even with the discomfort over some of her public statements over former co-star Bill Cosby, I think voters won’t resist rewarding a legend for another towering performance.
Tim: Uzo Aduba was such a great villain with a very buried twinkle in Clyde’s. Kara Young in Clyde’s may emerge as a winner here, especially after the story, reported in the New York Times, about her dad serving at the nominees’ lunch. People loved her in the show, and that story may have earned a few more smiles and ticks in boxes. Kenita R. Miller’s monologue about her children being abused and murdered in for colored girls… was stunning. I liked the POTUS performances, but agree, not really Tony-winning. But my winner is Phylicia Rashad—she gave the heart of Skeleton Crew even more heart.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Matt Doyle, Company
Sidney DuPont, Paradise Square
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
A.J. Shively, Paradise Square
Tim: I really like that John-Andrew Morrison has a nomination for playing Usher’s mom so beautifully in A Strange Loop. And Jared Grimes deserves thanks from every audience member that goes to see the frazzled oddness of Funny Girl for his stunning tap routines. But Matt Doyle is my hoped-for winner here. His “Not Getting Married Today” in Company is just award-winning—mega-energy, mega-comedy, and a fully gay, fully fabulous co-option of a famous standard.
Kevin: I don’t know how you choose between the Strange Loop Thoughts as the one performer to nominate in this category, but they’re all so excellent that recognition for any of them is recognition for that whole ensemble. Jared Grimes was a jolt of greatness in the sleepy Funny Girl revival, so much so, however, that it almost was as if he was a part of an entirely different production—one I’d much rather see.
As a gay musical theater-lover, you grow up obsessing over and singing the numbers that are the best in every show—and they’re always female roles that you’d never, ever get to play. So it was wish fulfillment by proxy to watch Matt Doyle get to perform “Not Getting Married Today” in Company, one of the greatest comedic musical theater set pieces ever, and absolutely nail it. It might be an obvious vote, but it’s the right one.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl from The North Country
Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
L Morgan Lee, A Strange Loop
Patti LuPone, Company
Jennifer Simard, Company
Kevin: L Morgan Lee’s nomination here is historic for the LGBT community. In other ways, Shoshana Bean’s nomination here is also historic for the LGBT community. Those who know, know! And Jayne Houdyshell’s nomination here I’m choosing to rewrite in history as the Oscar nomination she deserved for The Humans instead. And The Girl From North Country is a show that I’m just going to take everyone’s word that actually exists, because I definitely did not see it nor was I ever moved to.
Jennifer Simard is the secret weapon of Company. I’m so glad she got nominated because she gives the kind of performance that could go under-appreciated even though it is the lynchpin in what makes a production elevate from serviceable to fantastic. But, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s Patti. It was always going to be Patti. You don’t have Patti LuPone do “Ladies Who Lunch” on Broadway and not give her a Tony Award. What would be the point of this entire endeavor if we let that happen?
Tim: Haha, and here we shall disagree my lovely friend, and not (for the first time) I risk mass gay wrath. I adore La Patti, I adored this Company, I adored Patti in this Company. But L Morgan Lee is distinctive and impressive in A Strange Loop, and her history-making status as the first openly trans actress to be nominated makes this a moment that I hope will be properly recognized and rewarded. Jennifer Simard was fantastic in Company, kicking off the production with such comedy. Jeannette and Jayne: super both, but not quite rising to the award level. I have fingers crossed for L Morgan Lee!
Best Direction of a Play
Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Skin of Our Teeth
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy
Neil Pepe, American Buffalo
Les Waters, Dana H.
Tim: I really wish Dana H. would win this. It was a stunning production, but a frozen-motion one. Les Waters and Deirdre O’Connell and their tech teams produced something stunning by lip-synching and sitting still. The other productions have movement and flash. The Lehman Trilogy was fascinating and tricky, The Skin of Our Teeth was epic and colorful, for colored girls… was intimate and moving. And American Buffalo, well, it happened… This is between The Lehman Trilogy and Dana H. for me. I think it’s Lehman, for the sheer fluency and intrigue of it. But I have a sneaking hope Dana H. surprises us all.
Kevin: Again, so happy to see Dana H. recognized here. What a tricky thing to pull off. And, again, so confused to see American Buffalo here. The direction was the worst part of an already subpar production to me. Giving it to Sam Mendes seems appropriate, though Camille A. Brown winning here for her work on for colored girls… would be an invigorating surprise and a sign that Tony voters aren’t all so predictable.
Best Direction of a Musical
Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Marianne Elliott, Company
Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country
Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage, SIX: The Musical
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ
Kevin: It would be nice to reward Six in a major category, and I wouldn’t mind if it was here, although the show is basically just a staged concert. (Not a drag. It does what it does brilliantly.) I think Marianne Elliott’s direction of Company was really smart and fresh and modernized a show that I’ve seen be incredibly stale in lesser hands. The gender reversal wasn’t a stunt but actually pulled off in a way that enriched the material and found new poignancy—even if the lead performance didn’t measure up, in my opinion. (Why producers of this didn’t offer Anne Hathaway all the money in the world plus the moon and the stars to do this is beyond me.) But when a show like A Strange Loop comes around and totally reimagines what musical theater can be, you give its director a Tony.
Tim: SIX, reborn so stunningly after the pandemic, was my first choice for flash and brio. Then Marianne Elliott in Company reinvented traditional notions of staging so cleverly, and played with cubes, lights, and our visual perspective. MJ was a feast of a kind, but left me way emptier than my applauding audience-mates. And for all its brilliance, A Strange Loop feels quite static. The music and book stay in my mind for the latter, its movements and staging not so much. I want A Strange Loop to win all it can—but for me, this has to be Company for all its mischievous invention.
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Warren Carlyle, The Music Man
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, SIX: The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Paradise Square
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ
Kevin: My dear friend, Tim, this is where I bid you adieu. It’s not that I don’t care about these categories. It’s that I don’t feel that I’m enough of an expert in them to weigh in responsibly. And that is the reason I’m not writing blurbs for the rest of them, definitely not because I have an errand to run and not enough time.
Tim: Farewell, my friend! I’ll keep things brief, as one-sided conversations reasonably attract the attention of the folks in white coats. For me, this goes to The Music Man. I didn’t love the musical, but the company is superlative—and scenes like the book-tossing library scene stand out.
David Cullen, Company
Tom Curran, SIX: The Musical
Simon Hale, Girl From The North Country
Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ
Charlie Rosen, A Strange Loop
Tim: I hope for A Strange Loop, for inventiveness and originality, and somehow finding a way for music to become an intrinsic part of the story. But this might also be a category for the foot-tapping, hummability factor for SIX to shine.
Best Book of a Musical
Girl From The North Country, Conor McPherson
MJ, Lynn Nottage
Mr. Saturday Night, Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
Paradise Square, Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas & Larry Kirwan
A Strange Loop, Michael R. Jackson
Tim: A Strange Loop. I mean, c’mon, it won a Pulitzer, and the story is a true original.
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater
Flying Over Sunset Music: Tom Kitt Lyrics: Michael Korie
Mr. Saturday Night Music: Jason Robert Brown Lyrics: Amanda Green
Paradise Square Music: Jason Howland; Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Masi Asare
SIX: The Musical Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
A Strange Loop Music & Lyrics: Michael R. Jackson
Tim: For me, this is between SIX and A Strange Loop. Either would be a worthy winner, but I think SIX might win it on the strength of launching a thousand earworms.
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Michael Carnahan and Nicholas Hussong, Skeleton Crew
Es Devlin, The Lehman Trilogy
Anna Fleischle, Hangmen
Scott Pask, American Buffalo
Adam Rigg, The Skin of Our Teeth
Tim: That Atlantic City boardwalk and slide! On a damn stage! Adam Rigg, I hope wins it for The Skin of Our Teeth… but I think Es Devlin’s decorous cubes may prevail for The Lehman Trilogy.
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset
Bunny Christie, Company
Arnulfo Maldonado, A Strange Loop
Derek McLane and Peter Nigrini, MJ
Allen Moyer, Paradise Square
Tim: For me, Bunny Christie for all the dusky mystery and perspective-playing trickery for Company—and I liked all the moving letters.
Best Costume Design of a Play
Montana Levi Blanco, The Skin of Our Teeth
Sarafina Bush, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Emilio Sosa, Trouble in Mind
Jane Greenwood, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s
Tim: Jane Greenwood for Plaza Suite. To dress Sarah Jessica Parker must be a trip, and Jane Greenwood created wonderful, era-differentiated looks for her and Matthew Broderick.
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Fly Davis, Caroline, or Change
Toni-Leslie James, Paradise Square
William Ivey Long, Diana, The Musical
Santo Loquasto, The Music Man
Gabriella Slade, SIX: The Musical
Paul Tazewell, MJ
Tim: Gabriella Slade for the Tudor-meets-Britney brilliance of SIX.
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Joshua Carr, Hangmen
Jiyoun Chang, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Jon Clark, The Lehman Trilogy
Jane Cox, Macbeth
Yi Zhao, The Skin of Our Teeth
Tim: Jon Clark for The Lehman Trilogy, for helping make those cubes into time-spanning wonderlands.
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Neil Austin, Company
Tim Deiling, SIX: The Musical
Donald Holder, Paradise Square
Natasha Katz, MJ
Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset
Jen Schriever, A Strange Loop
Tim: Tim Deiling for SIX, who turns a Broadway stage into a bulb-pulsating rock concert.
Best Sound Design of a Play
Justin Ellington, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H.
Palmer Hefferan, The Skin of Our Teeth
Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy
Mikaal Sulaiman, Macbeth
Tim: Mikhail Fiksel for Dana H. The sound is the point of the play here, both in terms of curated tape recordings and Deirdre O’Connell lip-synching them, and the sounds of foreboding emanating from the stage.
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Simon Baker, Girl From The North Country
Paul Gatehouse, SIX: The Musical
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company
Drew Levy, A Strange Loop
Gareth Owen, MJ
Tim: Gareth Owen for MJ. Whatever else, this production was clear as a bell, and crisply executed.