2023 Tony Awards nomination predictions: The Musicals – Expect ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ to score
Theater lovers, we did the thing: We made it through another theatrical season of musicals, comedies, and plenty of drama! From the nastiness erupting in the press around the musicals KPOP, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bad Cinderella, and the Roundabout’s all-female revival of 1776 – not to mention the drama that continued to follow last season’s revival of Funny Girl – it’s been a long road, but we’re finally in sight of the 2023 Tony Awards.
The musicals of this season took us on quite a journey themselves, from Arthurian England to the American Constitutional Convention to a Victorian-era London pie shop to a 1920s art deco hotel to a 1970s rock band tour bus to a present-day Midwestern town surrounded by cornfield. Time will tell if any of these productions will become the new Phantom of the Opera, just closed as the longest-running show in Broadway history after 35 years at the Majestic Theatre (although we’re pretty sure that Sir Andrew’s most recent venture won’t), but which of them have what it takes to be Tony winners? Let’s break down the top categories in advance of the announcement of this year’s nominees.
It’s the oldest story in the Tonys book: A piece of star-powered, crowd-pleasing, highly-choreographed musical comedy spectacle versus the upstart Off-Broadway transfer with a thrilling lead performance that gets everyone emotional. It’s been the narrative for many a season on the Great White Way, and it will likely rear its ugly head again this year in the form of Some Like It Hot (Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s tap-happy adaptation of the classic Billy Wilder film) and Kimberly Akimbo (Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire’s musical adaptation of his 2001 play with music by Tony winner Jeanine Tesori, which won the trifecta of the Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical last year). After that it gets tough, with seven other shows competing for three slots. Given its early closing date and ensuing controversy, KPOP can safely be counted out – quite unfortunately given its quality (at least in its original Off Broadway incarnation) and the overall lack of Asian representation on Broadway. The savage reviews likely killed any hope for Cameron Crowe’s adaptation of his hit film Almost Famous, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bad Cinderella (that modifier added to the title for Broadway really did tell us everything). This leaves us with four shows that pretty much encapsulate the current landscape of Broadway musicals: A jukebox biomusical (A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical), a youth-focused jukebox musical from across the pond (& Juliet), a classic film adaptation from two Broadway luminaries collaborating for the first time (New York, New York, with Lin-Manuel Miranda writing lyrics for new John Kander songs to go with those Kander wrote for the film with the dearly departed Fred Ebb), and a pun-filled small-scale musical about corn (Shucked). & Juliet has gotten the best reviews of the bunch, and the down-home charms of Shucked, though corny to some, will delight others. New York, New York, the last musical to open this season, didn’t get the best reviews, but we have a hunch the audience may disagree with critics and give the Big Apple tourism musical a boost over a show with a built-in audience like A Beautiful Noise.
- Some Like It Hot
- Kimberly Akimbo
- & Juliet
- New York, New York
Alt. A Beautiful Noise
Best Revival of a Musical
Given that there were six musical revivals this season, there will be no more than four nominees in this category, and it’s sadly somewhat easy to figure out which two productions will be on the outside looking in. Manhattan has been buzzing about Thomas Kail’s Sweeney Todd revival ever since it was announced, and the reviews were glowing. In any other season, it would be an almost uncontested frontrunner, but in this one, the maximalist macabre musical needs to go up against two much-loved transfers from City Center’s Encores! Program: the minimalist Into the Woods that enchanted the city during the winter and is now charming the nation on tour and the powerful Parade starring up-and-comers Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond. If those three are locks, then consider the long in-development revival of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ a soft lock, if only because Bartlett Sher and Lincoln Center Theatre remain a dynamic duo even though their recent Camelot, with book revisions by Aaron Sorkin, did not get good reviews. It’s possible that some voters reject Fosse’s opening monologue that “the viewing of too many musical comedies with sentimental and over-romantic plots may cause serious and sometimes incurable damage to the playgoer and the critics’ standards,” and give the nod to the conventional book musical, but we wouldn’t bet on it.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Into The Woods
- Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
Best Book of a Musical
It can be very easy, and incredibly tempting, to just copy and paste the nominees for Best Musical here, and sadly for Oscar winner Emerald Fennell, that seems to be what’s going to happen here. Some Like It Hot and Kimberly Akimbo will battle it out for the win, while Shucked will ride its corniness to a nomination with ease. If David West Read’s book for & Juliet could make the NY Times’s noted jukebox musical hater Jesse Green praise the imaginative, feminist Shakespeare rewrite to high heavens, then it should easily win over the nominating committee. That show’s deft updating of a classic probably spelled doom for Bad Cinderella long before it opened, but Fennell’s book has always been one of the show’s more divisive elements, so a nomination here would be a bit of a shocker. For the last slot, Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten’s theatrical therapy session for Neil Diamond probably has a slight edge over the more poorly reviewed New York, New York, but neither would be a surprise.
- Some Like It Hot
- Kimberly Akimbo
- & Juliet
- A Beautiful Noise
Alt. New York, New York
Best Original Score
Given that neither & Juliet nor A Beautiful Noise are eligible for this category, will their slots be filled by one of the season’s also-ran musicals or by plays? While it would be great if Helen Park and Max Vernon’s glossy, catchy score for KPOP was recognized, it’s really hard for shows that closed before the new year to get nominations, much less ones that played only seventeen performances and had numerous complaints about the sound. Sadly, that’s probably a lost cause. Almost Famous closed in early January without much love for Tom Kitt’s score, so that feels like a non-starter as well. Residual affection for The Phantom of the Opera no doubt has the theater community feeling some kind of way about Andrew Lloyd Webber at the moment, but no one really seems to like Bad Cinderella all that much, making a nomination for him unlikely, if still slightly in the realm of possibility. While the Tonys rarely nominate plays in this category unless they have to, our guess is that the final two slots will be taken by acclaimed plays that had prominent scores: Life of Pi and Leopoldstadt.
- Some Like It Hot
- Kimberly Akimbo
- Life of Pi
Alt. Bad Cinderella
Best Direction of a Musical
It feels like the revivals will take up the majority of the slots here, as Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Parade were some of the best reviewed – not to mention some of the most popular – shows of the season. Add in the top two Best Musical players (Some Like It Hot, with its masterful madcap tap dancing chase scene finale, and Kimberly Akimbo, with its intimate, touching drama and hearty comedy), and the category is all set. Can anyone else break through? If anyone can, it’s Broadway legend and multiple Tony winner Susan Stroman, for directing the last musical to open this season, New York, New York, but she’ll likely have to settle for a nomination for her choreography.
- Thomas Kail, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Michael Arden, Parade
- Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot
- Jessica Stone, Kimberly Akimbo
- Lear deBessonet, Into the Woods
Alt. Susan Stroman, New York, New York
Leading Actress in a Musical
Sorry to everyone else, but Victoria Clark has had this award sewn up ever since Kimberly Akimbo premiered Off Broadway in December of 2021. The Tony winner’s virtuosic performance as a young woman with a disease that causes her to age rapidly has been universally lauded as one of her best. Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford has audiences, critics, and her lauded co-star Josh Groban in stitches with her performance as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Likewise, Micaela Diamond has been stealing best-in-show notices from her superstar co-lead Ben Platt in the heartbreaking revival of Parade. From there, things get complicated. Sara Bareilles and Patina Miller received tremendous reviews for Into the Woods, but with the multiple all-star cast changes and the long-ago closing, will enough people remember them? Lorna Courtney has gotten excellent reviews for playing the titular role in & Juliet, as has Adrianna Hicks in the Marilyn Monroe role in Some Like it Hot. And then there is Philippa Soo, who has gotten great reviews for her beautifully sung, thoroughly modern take on Guenevere in the not-so-well-reviewed Camelot revival. We suspect that the combination of Soo’s rising star and the overall prestige of the Lincoln Center Theatre revival will give her an edge, and that love for Hicks’ show will push her over the top.
- Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo
- Annaleigh Ashford, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Micaela Diamond, Parade
- Philippa Soo, Camelot
- Adrianna Hicks, Some Like It Hot
Alt. Sara Bareilles, Into the Woods
Leading Actor in a Musical
Unlike the Oscars, the Tonys have no problem nominating two co-leads from the same show, and the double act from Some Like It Hot is a prime example. Tony winner Christian Borle will easily shuffle his way to yet another nomination in the Tony Curtis role, and the wildly talented J. Harrison Ghee should be the frontrunner for his explosive performance in the Jack Lemmon role. Josh Groban won’t need help from Sweeney Todd’s friends in order to secure a nomination given his powerful performance, nor will Ben Platt need a stay of execution for his tear-jerking Leo Frank in Parade. The last slot will likely come down to Brian D’Arcy James for his brilliant Baker in the early season’s Into The Woods and Will Swenson (aka Mr. Audra McDonald) for his all-out Neil Diamond in A Beautiful Noise. When in doubt, always side with the show that’s currently open.
- J. Harrison Ghee, Some Like It Hot
- Josh Groban, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Christian Borle, Some Like It Hot
- Ben Platt, Parade
- Will Swenson, A Beautiful Noise
Alt. Brian D’Arcy James, Into The Woods
Featured Actress in a Musical
Can Philippa Soo get two Tony nominations in one day? This incredibly rare feat has only been accomplished six times, but Soo would be the first to do it with both nominations in the Musical categories if she manages a Leading nomination for Camelot and a Featured nomination for Into The Woods. How likely is that? It’s tough to say, although she will likely have a harder time in this wide-open category, in part because Into The Woods closed so early in the season. If there’s a lock in this category, it’s probably Bonnie Milligan, who stops the show not just once, but twice in Kimberly Akimbo as the title character’s selfish grifter of an aunt. Her co-star Alli Mauzey is also in the running for her hilarious performance as Kimberly’s hypochondriac mother. Betsy Wolfe gives & Juliet much of its spunky identity as Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, pushing him to rewrite Romeo & Juliet because she’s offended by Juliet killing herself just because Romeo is dead, and processing their own marital issues in the process. Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles has a juicy part as the Beggar Woman in the acclaimed revival of Sweeney Todd, and her co-star Maria Bilbao has also gotten good notices for her Broadway debut as the beautiful Johanna. NaTasha Yvette Williams blows the house down as band leader Sweet Sue in Some Like It Hot. Robyn Hurder’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” has consistently been cited as a highlight of A Beautiful Noise, as has Bad Cinderella’s royal duet “I Know You” from Carolee Carmello and Grace McLean. Carmello has a second chance for a nomination in this category with her imperious John Dickinson in 1776, but that poorly-reviewed revival closed in early January and has plenty of internal competition, like Shawna Hamic’s uproarious Richard Henry Lee and Sara Porkalob’s villainous Edward Rutledge. Considering the controversy that bubbled up around the all-female revival (especially after Porkalob’s damning interview with Vulture), though, any nominations for it would be a surprise.
- Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo
- Betsy Wolfe, & Juliet
- Alli Mauzey, Kimberly Akimbo
- Robyn Hurder, A Beautiful Noise
- NaTasha Yvette Williams, Some Like It Hot
Alt. Philippa Soo, Into The Woods
Featured Actor in a Musical
If the Tonys wanted to be really cool, this is the category in which they could do it. In Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, Kolton Krouse takes on Ann Reinking’s legs-for-days solos to stupendous effect. While all the dancers in Broadway’s hardest working ensemble have their moment to shine, it’s Krouse who drops the most jaws, and a nomination would be well-deserved. But it’s unlikely, especially since in large ensemble shows like Dancin’, everyone has a different favorite. There’s also the gender binary issue, something that affects front-runner Alex Newell, whose “Independently Owned” regularly gets standing ovations at performances of Shucked, in which the non-binary actor (who chose to be submitted in this category because, “everyone who does acting is an actor. That is genderless.”) plays a cis female whiskey distiller. If nominated, they would be the first non-binary nominee in this category – a painful reminder that Newell was denied a nomination for their incredible Broadway debut in Once On This Island. If they miss again, the Nominating Committee should hang their heads in shame. Justin Cooley, who makes an impressive Broadway debut at nineteen as the object of Kimberly’s affection in Kimberly Akimbo, may steal all the thunder from his castmate and former Tony nominee Steven Boyer. Gaten Materazzo could do the same to his Sweeney Todd castmates due to his haunting “Not While I’m Around” with surefire nominee Annaleigh Ashford. Much like his co-star Philippa Soo, Jordan Donica got good enough reviews for his performance as Lancelot in Camelot to overcome the show’s more negative reception. There’s also the delightful scene-stealers Kevin Del Aguila as the lovestruck Osgood Fielding III in Some Like It Hot, Tony nominee Paulo Szot in & Juliet, and Kevin Cahoon in Shucked; not to mention the Into The Woods Princes, Tony winner Gavin Creel and Tony nominee Joshua Henry. We’re going with Cahoon, a classic “that guy from that thing” having his big moment, but wouldn’t be surprised if the love for Creel overcomes the early-season closing of Into The Woods.
- Alex Newell, Shucked
- Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo
- Gaten Materazzo, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Jordan Donica, Camelot
- Kevin Cahoon, Shucked
Alt. Kolton Krouse, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
Nominations for the 2023 Tony Awards will be announced on Tuesday, May 2, 2023 at 8:45 AM ET on the Tony Awards official YouTube page by Lea Michele and Tony Award winner Myles Frost. The 76th Annual Tony Awards will be hosted once again by Academy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose and air live from United Palace Theatre, in New York City, on Sunday, June 11, 2023 on CBS and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.