2023 Tony Awards nomination predictions: The Plays – Leading actresses given short shrift this season
With seventeen new plays and six revivals eligible for Tony consideration this season, there’s a lot to wade through this year. And yet, in a strange turn of events, one of the evening’s marquee categories does not have not enough eligible contenders to make a full line-up of five nominees. How did this happen? Which category is it? And do comedies have any chance of competing with dramas this year? Let’s take a closer look:
Unlike with most musicals, most plays are set for limited runs, and the Tony nominating committee can have longer memories with plays that opened and closed early in the season than they almost always do for musicals. This means that early season triumphs like the biting satire Ain’t No Mo’ can’t be counted out entirely. While plays considered established “classics” are considered to be Revivals even when the play is making its Broadway debut, the definition of “classic” can only go so far, so sometimes you get Pulitzer Prize winners like Between Riverside and Crazy, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s still-timely multiple award winner from 2014, in this category instead of Best Play Revival. In fact, there are two other Pulitzer Prize winners eligible for the Tony for Best Play this year: Last year’s winner Fat Ham, and 2018 winner Cost of Living. Fat Ham, the raucous Hamlet update that had the city abuzz during its run at the Public last summer, is a surefire nominee here. It will likely battle it out for the top prize with Leopoldstadt, the latest masterpiece from Tom Stoppard, the third-most nominated playwright ever in this category. Leopoldstadt is also one of three Olivier Award winners that made their Broadway debut this season, alongside the dazzling design spectacle of Life of Pi and the dazzling performance spectacle of Jodie Comer in Prima Facie. Anthony McCarten could have managed the incredibly rare feat of getting nominated for both a musical and a play in the same year, but his Warhol-Basquiat play The Collaboration wasn’t very well-received. Comedy had a very good year on Broadway, with the British misfits from Mischief Theatre (the wacky wizards behind The Play That Goes Wrong, still making audiences laugh until they can’t breathe Off Broadway) finally bringing Peter Pan Goes Wrong across the pond and Second Stage Theater’s production of The Thanksgiving Play, the first play written by a Native American (Larissa FastHorse) to play on the Great White Way. Neither of those got the universal love from reviewers needed to secure a nomination here, though, so we’re suspecting that the Brits will have a very good nomination morning.
- Fat Ham
- Between Riverside and Crazy
- Life of Pi
- Prima Facie
Alt. Ain’t No Mo’
Best Revival of a Play
This year’s revivals mostly focused on African-American stories. We had a genuine legend (Adrienne Kennedy) receiving her first Broadway production, with Audra McDonald starring in Ohio State Murders. There was another legend (Suzan-Lori Parks) getting the type of revival that solidifies a great play as an enduring classic (Topdog/Underdog, with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Carey Hawkins), another August Wilson revival (The Piano Lesson, with Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, and Danielle Brooks) which will be turned into a film for Netflix, and a reimagining of Arthur Miller’s old warhorse Death of a Salesman casting its central family as African-American (led by Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke). With all those critically-acclaimed heavy-hitters, the fast-tracked Broadway transfer of Lorraine Hansberry’s indictment of progressive inertia The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, starring Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan, will likely find itself on the outside, given that its critical love was more for its stars than for the play itself. Given that Tony rules dictate that there must be at least nine eligible candidates in any category for there to be five nominees, there will only be four nominees in this category, and we fear the well-received but short-lived Ohio State Murders (which closed almost a month early) may get pushed out in favor of the minimalist new version of A Doll’s House starring Jessica Chastain.
- Death of a Salesman
- The Piano Lesson
- A Doll’s House
Alt. Ohio State Murders
Best Direction of a Play
Unlike on the musical side of things, this category feels like it will be dominated by new plays as opposed to revivals, with the heavyweights Leopoldstadt and Fat Ham sitting pretty for nominations here alongside the technical juggernaut Life of Pi. If any of the revivals are able to break in here, the most likely feels like Miranda Cromwell, for so thoroughly breathing new life into Death of a Salesman. Jamie Lloyd’s pared-down, scalpel-sharp excavation of A Doll’s House could also make the cut, although we’re hoping the nominating committee can find room for the inventively hilarious, seemingly-lo-fi theatrical wizardry on display in Peter Pan Goes Wrong, just as the Drama Desks and Outer Critics Circle did.
- Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt
- Saheem Ali, Fat Ham
- Max Webster, Life of Pi
- Miranda Cromwell, Death of a Salesman
- Jamie Lloyd, A Doll’s House
Alt. Adam Meggido, Peter Pan Goes Wrong
2023 Tony Awards nomination predictions: The Musicals – Expect ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’ to score
Actress in a Leading Role
Somehow, in all of the 23 plays that played on Broadway this season, there were only seven leading roles for women. Taking into account that two of them are in the same play (Summer, 1976), that means only about one-fifth of this season’s Broadway plays had leading roles for women. It’s not clear that this means anything in a larger sense for Broadway, but it’s certainly a strange anomaly, and as a consequence, there will only be four nominees in this category. While the award is almost certainly Jodie Comer’s to lose – she’s already won the Olivier Award for her performance in Prima Facie on the West End – she will face tough competition from Jessica Chastain (hungrier than ever for that EGOT) as Nora in Amy Herzog’s acclaimed new adaptation of Ibsen’s seminal A Doll’s House and Broadway’s favorite actress Audra McDonald for her stunning work in Ohio State Murders. As for that last slot, it’s a race between three of New York’s favorite actresses: Tony nominee Jessica Hecht and five-time Tony nominee Laura Linney (both for Summer, 1976) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Star Rachel Brosnahan, making a splashy return to Broadway as a star a decade after her debut in The Big Knife. Given that the reaction to Summer, 1976 has been almost completely even in praise for both actresses, it feels like a situation where either both of them get nominated or neither of them do, providing a perfect opening for Brosnahan, who got excellent reviews.
- Jodie Comer, Prima Facie
- Jessica Chastain, A Doll’s House
- Audra McDonald, Ohio State Murders
- Rachel Brosnahan, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window
Alt. Laura Linney, Summer, 1976
Actor in a Leading Role
Whenever Death of a Salesman gets revived, the actor playing Willy Loman always gets a Tony nomination, so Wendell Pierce is a lock for his shattering performance in this season’s revival. Tony voters are just as prone to Oscar and Emmy voters to give nominations to actors portraying real people, so Sean Hayes should show up here for his acclaimed performance as Oscar Levant even though Good Night, Oscar didn’t get the best reviews on the whole. Hiran Abeysekera won the Olivier Award for Life of Pi and could very well earn a nomination here, as could Fat Ham’s queer Black Hamlet, Marcel Spears. John David Washington received strong reviews for his Broadway debut in the uneven but successful revival of The Piano Lesson, as did Stephen MicKinley Henderson in the better-reviewed Between Riverside and Crazy. Just like with the leading actresses, Corey Hawkins and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II received such uniformly strong reviews for Topdog/Underdog that it’s hard to imagine only one of them getting nominated, which you would suspect to be able to say about The Collaboration, too. In that case, though, Jeremy Pope walked away with all the acclaim. With two Tony nominations under his belt already, Pope could be a spoiler here, as could Tony winner Nathan Lane in Pictures From Home, which is currently running but not very well-reviewed. The biggest wild card, though, is Tony winner Jefferson Mays for his performance in a one-man version of A Christmas Carol. The production may have only played for about two months at the end of 2022, but the masterful Mays memorably played fifty roles in it, a superhuman feat that would surely stick in the mind of nominating committee members… provided that they actually saw it last December.
- Wendell Pierce, Death of a Salesman
- Sean Hayes, Good Night, Oscar
- Stephen McKinley Henderson, Between Riverside and Crazy
- Marcel Spears, Fat Ham
- John David Washington, The Piano Lesson
Alt. Jefferson Mays, A Christmas Carol
Actress in a Featured Role
Before we talk about the front-runners, I would like to remind the nominating committee members that comedy is famously harder than drama, and wouldn’t it be lovely to see brilliant performances in comedies like Peter Pan Goes Wrong (Nancy Zamit) and The Thanksgiving Play (D’Arcy Carden and Katie Finneran) get nominated in addition to the comic relief performances in dramas which regularly get nominated in the Featured categories? It would, of course, but that does not seem to be the world we’re living in. In our world, the most likely nominee is surely Sharon D. Clarke, a Tony nominee last year for Caroline, Or Change who won the Olivier Award for this performance (albeit in the Lead category). Leopoldstadt is a massive ensemble with multiple deserving performances in both Featured categories, but one or two always end up rising to the top. In this case, that would be Faye Castelow and Clarke’s Caroline co-star Caissie Levy, but it’s worth noting that none of the women of Leopoldstadt have been nominated for any awards, only the men. Not even for the play’s West End run. Not that the other theatrical awards are ever great indicators of how the Tonys will go, but it’s an interesting pattern to note nonetheless. Danielle Brooks didn’t get many stand-out notices for The Piano Lesson, but the fact that she’s the one woman in the play helps her, especially since so many of the other likely nominees come from large ensembles with many scene-stealing parts. Nikki Crawford seems to be the critically agreed-upon standout of the supporting cast of Fat Ham, but will the nominating committee agree? Likewise Liza Colon-Zayas in Between Riverside and Crazy and Crystal Lucas-Perry in Ain’t No Mo’. Both of those plays were long-closed by the nominating period, as was Cost of Living, which featured well-reviewed performances from Katy Sullivan and Kara Young (nominated last year in this category for Clyde’s). This is one of the most up in the air categories this year, one that would be ripe for a comedic surprise.
- Sharon D. Clarke, Death of a Salesman
- Danielle Brooks, The Piano Lesson
- Nikki Crawford, Fat Ham
- Faye Castelow, Leopoldstadt
- Katy Sullivan, Cost of Living
Alt. Nancy Zamit, Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Actor in a Featured Role
It would be highly annoying if the one big nomination for the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong went to its one star cast member, but when that one star cast member is Tony winner (and former Tony Awards Show host) Neil Patrick Harris, one must consider the possibility that his name will overshadow the brilliant original company members Henry Shields and Henry Lewis, especially since, as with several plays this year, the ensemble of the show is so full of performances of consistent quality. That said, frontrunners do still emerge, and Leopoldstadt’s David Krumholz and Brandon Uranowitz have certainly done so. Arian Moayed held his own opposite likely nominee Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House, both onstage and in reviews. Jordan E. Cooper was a standout in his own play, Ain’t No Mo’, but that closed early in the season, as did Cost of Living, which may hurt that play’s standout David Zayas’s chances. Death of a Salesman was also relatively early in the season, but Tony winner André De Shields shouldn’t be counted out. Samuel L. Jackson lost standout notices in The Piano Lesson to Ray Fisher and Michael Potts. For those thinking that his name recognition could still lift him to a nomination, remember that he failed to receive a nomination for his portrayal of MLK in The Mountaintop. If anyone from Fat Ham makes it, the biggest standout in reviews seems to be Chris Herbie Holland, but most don’t name just one standout from that play’s ensemble.
- Arian Moayed, A Doll’s House
- Brandon Uranowitz, Leopoldstadt
- David Krumholtz, Leopoldstadt
- André De Shields, Death of a Salesman
- Chris Herbie Holland, Fat Ham
Alt. Samuel L. Jackson, The Piano Lesson
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. In a first, the Tonys will embrace live streaming by presenting The Tony Awards: Act One, a 90-minute pre-show of live and exclusive content, on Pluto TV on Sunday, June 11, 2023 beginning at 6:30 PM ET. The 76th Annual Tony Awards, which will be hosted once again by Academy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose, will air live from United Palace Theatre, in New York City, on Sunday, June 11, 2023 at 8 PM ET on CBS and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.