2024 Tony Awards Predictions: What Should Win, and What Will Win?

It’s a Tony Awards musical mystery. No one musical seems an obvious winner at Sunday night’s Tony Awards. Alicia Keys’ musical Hell’s Kitchen has the most nominations (13), while The Outsiders, based on S.E. Hinton’s classic 1967 novel, picked up 12 nominations.The top play contender is clearer. David Adjmi’s critically adored play Stereophonic, about a

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It’s a Tony Awards musical mystery. No one musical seems an obvious winner at Sunday night’s Tony Awards. Alicia Keys’ musical Hell’s Kitchen has the most nominations (13), while The Outsiders, based on S.E. Hinton’s classic 1967 novel, picked up 12 nominations.

The top play contender is clearer. David Adjmi’s critically adored play Stereophonic, about a 1970s band rehearsing and combusting in an atmospherically rendered recording studio, leads the play category by a deserved country mile, picking up 13 nominations. It has also—hooray—been granted a performing spot at the show, going out live on CBS at 8pm ET, having initially been denied one.

In a boisterously packed season of show openings, one notable snub was for movie star Steve Carell, locked out of the Best Actor Play category for his title role in Uncle Vanya—his co-star William Jackson Harper beat him to the nomination instead. (Danny DeVito was also snubbed for his role in the poorly received I Need That.) Also nominated were Leslie Odom Jr. for Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch, Succession star Jeremy Strong for An Enemy of the People, Liev Schreiber for Doubt, and Michael Stuhlbarg for Patriots.

The Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play category is a vibrant list of boldface names: Sarah Paulson for Appropriate (her first Tony nomination), Rachel McAdams (Mary Jane), Jessica Lange (Mother Play), Betsy Aidem (Prayer for the French Republic), and Amy Ryan for Doubt: A Parable. (Despite its strong showing in the acting categories, Doubt was locked out of the Best Play Revival category alongside a similarly unloved Uncle Vanya.)

In the highly contested Best Musical category, where 15 productions were vying for nominations, the five productions nominated were: Hell’s Kitchen, Water for Elephants, The Outsiders, Illinoise, and Suffs. Locked out were shows including Lempicka, Days of Wine and Roses, The Notebook, Here Lies Love, Back to the Future: The Musical, and The Heart of Rock and Roll.

The highly favored Stereophonic was nominated for Best Play, alongside Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Prayer for the French Republic, Mary Jane, and Mother Play, while Patriots was locked out. Five of the seven actors from Stereophonic were honored in the featured actor categories.

Below, The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman and Kevin Fallon discuss what should win, and what will win.

Tim: Kevin, it’s time! Tonys time! We can talk about it all: Jessica Lange’s disco dancing, just Jessica Lange on stage acting as Jessica Lange! The Outsiders, in which I just sat thinking, “You want to leave Tulsa? Leave Tulsa!” Hell’s Kitchen, with Kecia Lewis shaking the theater to its foundations, and yet the stupidest riot ever seen on stage. The onward charge of the masterful Stereophonic. The amazing acrobats meets crappy model elephant in Water for Elephants. Suffs—transformed from its drab and dreary Public incarnation to a still-earnest Broadway firecracker. And the divine Merrily We Roll Along, which I was so enchanted by at New York Theater Workshop, then worried about its transfer to Broadway (what if it lost something?), but Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez just had the best, emotionally wringing chemistry on both stages. How was your season?

Kevin: I don’t want to sound like I’m in an emotionally fragile state, but what struck me this season is that… I cried so much? You mentioned Jessica Lange, and that performance, plus from her two titan co-nominees Sarah Paulson (for Appropriate) and Rachel McAdams (for Mary Jane) just devastated me. The pure emotion in the incredible vocals of Hell’s Kitchen and The Outsiders gutted me. The dancing in Illinoise. Every part of the impeccable Merrily We Roll Along. It was a really emotional season for me. And then there’s Stereophonic, which didn’t leave me crying, but left me spellbound. What an achievement. That has to be the big Tony winner of this year, right?

Tim: I totally agree. OK, big breaths, drink of choice beside us all, let’s get into it.

Stereophonic

‘Stereophonic’

Chelcie Parry

Best New Play

Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Mary Jane

Mother Play

Prayer for the French Republic

Stereophonic

Tim: Here’s a story. I saw the off-Broadway production of Stereophonic the same day as Here We Are, the “final” Sondheim musical—Stereophonic in the afternoon, Here We Are in the evening. At the beginning of that day, all the anticipation was focused on the latter—what would be the master’s final words to the world be? But at the end of the day, the thing that my friend Michael and I were speaking about in rapt tones was Stereophonic. Over three hours long, meandering, dense, it is the tale of a ’70s band as they make an album, but really fall apart, and somehow stay together to “finish the hat.” We see comedy, drug-taking, music-making, a lethally vile boyfriend torment and control his female partner, until she finally takes control. We see the best out-of-sight argument between them, and the show is a triumph of design and sound too. Grover the studio engineer played by Eli Gelb, is Broadway’s hottest hero of 2023-24.

I am alone in not being moved by Mary Jane, but what a performance, and what a set. Mother Play: a slightly unpunchy play sadly, but with Jessica Lange mesmerizing. I know it is autobiographical, and deeply felt, but as a work of art the production seemed very focused on itself, and less on communicating its characters’ lives to an audience. I enjoyed Prayer for the French Republic off- and on Broadway, but its didactics are not as impressive as its more piercing emotional core, which for me was most pronounced in the quieter past than the shoutier present. And I loved Jaja’s African Hair Braiding—funny, shocking, and beautifully written, acted, and designed. You’re right in that salon! Stereophonic must win (and I hope it wins most gongs that it is nominated for—it deserves to), but this is an impressive selection of plays that speaks to the impressive breadth of new plays on Broadway this season.

Kevin: This was actually an incredibly strong year for new plays, which is a point I wanted to make because I feel like any attention for the other nominees will be drowned out by the deafening buzz for Stereophonic. It’s not that Stereophonic doesn’t deserve the praise; I left that theater feeling like I had been electrocuted. It’s such a kinetic, charged, and alive piece of art. It’s also just so… cool. So often, Broadway plays can feel pedantic, or like work. Stereophonic is such a spectacular and transformative piece of rock and roll and romance that I only marginally loathed that it was so long—over three hours!—and that theater has some of the most uncomfortable seats in the Theater District.

But, my god, Mary Jane is one of the most powerful plays I’ve seen in ages, a visceral portrait of parenthood that was so profound because it was so quiet. Mother Play was quite the opposite—obvious in every thematic turn—and yet, sometimes, that’s what I crave: emotionally manipulate me; I’m ready and willing. I’m so glad Jaja’s African Hair Braiding was remembered. A play like that, so vivacious and so moving, deserves a celebration that Broadway historically deprives creators and performers of color. And Prayer for the French Republic couldn’t be timelier, with talons that grabbed me immediately and haven’t left since I saw it. It’s such a strong year, so I don’t want an inevitable Stereophonic sweep of the night to minimize what has been a brilliant season.

Hell's Kitchen

‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Joan Marcus

Best New Musical

Hell’s Kitchen

Illinoise

The Outsiders

Suffs

Water for Elephants

Kevin: For me, Suffs was the nominee that I was unmoved by, actually. I can see a situation where it wins. The producers behind it, coupled with its message suggest a robust potential as a touring and regional production. I adored Illinoise, which felt like I was watching something that, at risk of sounding trite, just felt “special.” My prediction, though, is that Hell’s Kitchen wins the Tony. I don’t think many of us expected to be so moved by a jukebox musical. I think it goes to show how undeniable a show can be when the vocals are that good. The singing in Hell’s Kitchen was other-worldly. It’s a show that is going to belt its way to a Tony win.

Tim: Well, go to any gathering of Broadway faithful, and watch the sparks fly and questioning faces furrow into creases as they consider Best New Musical. No one knows what is gonna win this; not one has broken out to obviously conquer. I am in a minority by being not that into The Outsiders. I know it’s found its audience, but it felt trite and overwrought to me (apart from that amazing slo-mo balletic fight). Also: Shucked made use of many tyres as props, The Outsiders has one, and it does nothing as good as Shucked!

Kevin: But the fight scene! That fight scene is probably one of the moments from this season that I’ll remember years from now.

Tim: It was great, but still, sorry, I was ready for everyone to leave Tulsa after 10 minutes. Water For Elephants featured amazing acrobats, a terrible model elephant with fluttering eyelashes, and a strange story which featured people getting thrown off bridges. Wild! Illinoise: amazing dancing, great music, but a story that jerkily toggled between love triangle and people telling yawny stories beside a campfire. Alicia Keys’ Hell’s Kitchen felt drab and undercooked at the Public Theater, then was transformed to the best stage-fizzing, bang and whoosh-filled wall of sound on Broadway. But that end of act one riot—c’mon?! My choice may not win, but no matter: Shaina Taub’s Suffs, like Hell’s Kitchen, began life as a not-great production at the Public. On Broadway, it came delightfully alive, and professed its earnestness so much more engagingly. It’s a political musical, asking successfully that you give a damn not just about women’s suffrage, but about the intricacies of campaigning and advocacy. And then setting all that to music. Perhaps I also want to see Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai get up to accept the gong.

Appropriate

‘Appropriate.’

Joan Marcus

Best Revival of a Play

Appropriate

An Enemy of the People

Purlie Victorious

Tim: As you can see above, I loved all three of these for very different reasons. My ultimate winner—and it’s tough—is Appropriate, because of the sheer energy of argument in it. Led by Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll, it asks a number of tricky questions about race, reckoning, and responsibility. The rollicking racism satire Purlie Victorious must return to us again soon after this excellent production, and Kara Young must win all the awards—her role required so many dramatic registers, and Young’s presence is such that, whatever she is doing, she is commanding the stage. Jeremy Strong was excellent in An Enemy of the People—a production made so much more immediate by being performed in the round at Circle in the Square, so “we” became an extension of the townspeople. And then the actors had to deal with real-life protesters. Even with a bad play, Circle in the Square is a thrill—and this was a good play.

Kevin: This is an easy category for me: Appropriate is the kind of play where watching it becomes a full-body experience. I was leaning in to listen more intently, jumping back in surprise at the twists, and just felt myself vibrating along to the incredible performances. Like you said, Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll are amazing in this, but I was struck by how the entire ensemble is given award-worthy moments through the play. We’re all rightfully fawning over the cast of Stereophonic and how they make the case for a Best Ensemble Tony award. I’d say that the cast of Appropriate makes as worthy an argument.

Merrily We Roll Along

‘Merrily We Roll Along’

Matthew Murphy

Best Revival of a Musical

Cabaret

Gutenberg The Musical!

Merrily We Roll Along

The Who’s Tommy

Tim: Sorry to all other competitors here, but this is a Merrily We Roll Along lock—purely down to the beautifully scored, beautifully acted, engagingly-everything trio of Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez, and Daniel Radcliffe. You buy the friendships-in-freefall because of the gorgeous chemistry of these three. Of the others: unlike other critics, I enjoyed Cabaret, though found the insistent food and drink selling—charcuterie, anyone?—as we watched Nazism rise a weird theatrical conceit. Eddie Redmayne contorted himself impressively as the Emcee. Ali-Louis Bourzgui is so good in title role of Tommy—and the production a proudly ear-bleeding wall of sound and dazzling visuals. Kevin, you and I had such fun at Gutenberg, and this was because it was silly, quick, brainy, dumb, and with that lovely special guest conceit to save the show every night. It also knew just when to stop.

Kevin: This is the category that annoys me on principle. Every season, musical revivals become the most unreachable productions. Starry casts and splashy productions command the highest ticket prices. People were shelling out astronomical numbers to see Daniel Radcliffe in Merrily or Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad reunite in Gutenberg! I recently had a friend visit who wanted to see Cabaret, and when I searched for tickets, there was nothing under $300 available. It’s gotten out of control. Are any of these shows worth that? The one that will win this category, Merrily, just may be.

Michael Stuhlbarg

Michael Stuhlbarg in ‘Patriots’

Matthew Murphy

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

William Jackson Harper, Uncle Vanya

Leslie Odom Jr., Purlie Victorious

Liev Schreiber, Doubt

Jeremy Strong, An Enemy of the People

Michael Stuhlbarg, Patriots

Kevin: What’s funny to me about this category is that the actor who gave the performance of the season, William Jackson Harper, is in it, but for a different show. Alas, Primary Trust ran off-Broadway, but Harper being nominated for Uncle Vanya instead is a worthy consolation prize. It would be great to see him as an acknowledgement of his entire body of work this season, but I think an actor as respected as Michael Stuhlbarg in a role that takes on Putin is going to be irresistible to voters.

Tim: This is an intriguing category, Kevin. William Jackson Harper’s character in Vanya is the engine of the play; he is the guide to the audience, and a brilliant emotional translator of his character too. You are so right about Primary Trust—it was my play of the year, on or off Broadway last year—a deserved Pulitzer winner—and his performance was stunning. Leslie Odom Jr. ate the entire stage at Purlie Victorious, piloting the play’s comedy and furious moral and satirical centers. Liev Schreiber was a great did-he-or-didn’t he priest in Doubt, with both a grave sincerity and menacing ambiguity floating around him. Jeremy Strong played the lead in Enemy with a confident and surprisingly unconflicted flair, while Michael Stuhlbarg, as Boris Berezovsky, was a kinetic ball of ego and frailty in Patriots. It’s a hard choice—for me, Harper crests it. But there is no “bad” victor here.

Mary Jane

‘Mary Jane’

Matthew Murphy

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

Betsy Aidem, Prayer for the French Republic

Jessica Lange, Mother Play

Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane

Sarah Paulson, Appropriate

Amy Ryan, Doubt: A Parable

Tim: Now, for me, this is between Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. If the measure of a powerful performance is “I can’t take my eyes off this person,” “I can’t believe they said that,” “I can’t believe they did that,” then both these actors delivered differently spellbinding performances—Paulson for her vinegary, furious insults and attempted control of family, and Lange for steely-meets-fluttering maternal presence. Rachel McAdams’ and Betsy Aidem’s differently wrenching performances won plaudits, and Amy Ryan stood in for Tyne Daly at the last minute as the morally rigid nun in Doubt—and aced it. For me, it’s Paulson by a nose, just for the meat of that performance.

Kevin: It’s so nice of the Tonys to decide that there is going to be a five-way tie in this category. I don’t know how a voter decides this one. I would have to abstain. Even while writing this little blurb, I changed my mind who I’d vote for three times. Paulson and Lange are undeniable in their roles. My god, even just remembering that 12-minute silent sequence Lange does gives me chills. But there is something so gorgeously grounded about McAdams’ performance in Mary Jane that has stayed with me since I saw the play. She is alive in every moment and takes that audience with her, so at the production’s most heartbreaking scenes, you just shatter.

Days of Wine and Roses

‘Days of Wine and Roses’

Joan Marcus

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

Brody Grant, The Outsiders

Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along

Dorian Harewood, The Notebook

Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses

Eddie Redmayne, Cabaret

Kevin: I have been a Jonathan Groff superfan since Spring Awakening, when the little-show-that-could was giving NYU students like me free tickets to fill seats. Merrily, whose success this production will be theater legend for the rest of time, wouldn’t work if Groff didn’t find the charms and relatability he does in a character that would otherwise be irredeemably vile. It turns out my investment in Groff’s career has paid off, because there’s never been a performance so deserving of a Tony by an actor so worthy of the accolades he’s getting.

Tim: Again, I am in a minority in just not feeling The Outsiders, which for me is this season’s biggest whineathon. For me, Jonathan Groff has never been better than in Merrily, but—and maybe this is the character and not him—I felt not as close or involved with his performance as Radcliffe and Mendez. I adored Dorian Harewood’s tender command in The Notebook; he and Maryann Plunkett are the true emotional heart of the show, and deserve their nominations, and I’m that rare thing—a New York critic who liked Cabaret, particularly Eddie Redmayne’s snarling, twisty, turny Emcee. But my winner is Brian d’Arcy James. Days of Wine Roses featured ugly subject matter performed with brave disregard for their own looks and charm by him and Kelli O’Hara. It was masterful. I fear voters will think it too long ago, and not as showy as the others. But his was a standout performance.

Hell's Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen’

Joan Marcus

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

Eden Espinosa, Lempicka

Maleah Joi Moon, Hell’s Kitchen

Kelli O’Hara, Days of Wine and Roses

Maryann Plunkett, The Notebook

Gayle Rankin, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

Tim: Well, this is just as thorny as the male category; plenty of different standouts, with maybe a bit more hype and excitement around Maleah Joi Moon, who really does deliver a blistering Broadway debut performance. I am a fully signed-up Lempicka fan, so yay for Eden Espinosa, and Kelli O’Hara (as Brian d’Arcy James had done) gave a remarkably vanity-shattering performance in Days of Wine and Roses. Maryann Plunkett’s performance, like Dorian Harewood’s, gave The Notebook a much-needed anchor. Gayle Rankin’s performance as Sally Bowles wasn’t for everyone; I loved its confrontation and edge. So, my winner is Kelli O’Hara, but I think Maleah Joi Moon will win on the night.

Kevin: When I saw Hell’s Kitchen, my jaw dropped every time Maleah Joi Moon was on stage, which meant my jaw was doing a lot of dropping because she almost never left. It’s her Broadway debut, and it almost is as if she was genetically engineered to be on stage. You can’t look away from her. Her vocals, her dancing, her delicate acting: She is a force. I thought “that is a star” after her first number. She deserves this award.

Stereophonic

‘Stereophonic’

Chelcie Parry

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

Will Brill, Stereophonic

Eli Gelb, Stereophonic

Jim Parsons, Mother Play

Tom Pecinka, Stereophonic

Corey Stoll, Appropriate

Tim: Stereophonic wins three deserved nominations here; Brill for his snake-hipped drunken naughtiness, Gelb for his cute, mollifying, and then firm hand of control as a put-upon studio manager; and Pecinka, who in Stereophonic’s move to Broadway, has really raised the nastiness of his lead singer/boyfriend. Jim Parsons’ performance in Mother Play is waspishly light, while Corey Stoll is brilliant as Sarah Paulson’s put-upon brother in Appropriate—until he explodes. My joint winners: Gelb—he’s so good, I want to make ‘Liberate Grover’ T-shirts—and Pecinka for making me loathe a stage character so viscerally.

Kevin: For me, the heart and soul of Stereophonic is Gelb’s studio manager. A solar system of egos and vices orbit around him, and he’s not only the person who wrangles them into the music magic the band creates, but a narrative that works in this play. I think voters will be tempted by Parsons’ showy performance in Mother Play, which didn’t entirely work for me, and, assuming the Stereophonic lads cancel each other out, I think the win goes to Stoll. He’s given a meaty role in Appropriate, which was the buzz of Broadway during its run. Also, forgive me for saying, he really filled out those sweatpants. Give a trophy for that.

Stereophonic

‘Stereophonic’

Chelcie Parry

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

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Doubt

Juliana Canfield, Stereophonic

Celia Kenan-Bolger, Mother Play

Sarah Pidgeon, Stereophonic

Kara Young, Purlie Victorious

Kevin: Sarah Pidgeon trying to hit that high note was one of the most exhilarating sequences of the year. Celia Kenan-Bolger is wonderful as ever, giving a really moving performance in Mother Play, and, my word, it’s past time for Kara Young to be a Tony winner. But when Pidgeon hit that note, she won the Tony.

Tim: This is a GREAT set of performances. Quincy Tyler Bernstine stills the heart in Doubt, putting our perception of the dueling between the leads in fresh, well, doubt; Juliana Canfield is a deceptively mellow foil in Stereophonic; Celia Keenan-Bolger provides an intelligent and layered performance as Jessica Lange’s daughter; Kara Young was tremendous in Purlie, commanding the stage with her comic turns; and Sarah Pidgeon sings beautifully, and endures coercive control, at the hands of her boyfriend in Stereophonic. I cannot choose between Young and Pidgeon. What, I have to? OK, it’s Pidgeon, but only by a centimeter.

Merrily We Roll Along

‘Merrily We Roll Along’

Matthew Murphy

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

Roger Bart, Back to the Future

Joshua Boone, The Outsiders

Brandon Victor Dixon, Hell’s Kitchen

Sky Lakota-Lynch, The Outsiders

Daniel Radcliffe, Merrily We Roll Along

Steven Skybell, Cabaret

Tim: Sorry everyone, this is a deserved Daniel Radcliffe lock. He relishes every moment, particularly my favorite show-stopping number of the season, “Franklin Shepard, Inc.”

Kevin: If Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t win this, we march at dawn.

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

Shoshana Bean, Hell’s Kitchen

Amber Iman, Lempicka

Nikki M. James, Suffs

Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer, Monty Python’s Spamalot

Kecia Lewis, Hell’s Kitchen

Lindsay Mendez, Merrily We Roll Along

Bebe Neuwirth, Cabaret

Tim: This is most likely a Lindsay Mendez win, but what a category! Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer played the Lady of the Lake with relish, Shoshana Bean and Kecia Lewis deliver barnstorming songs in Hell’s Kitchen, Amber Iman stood out in Lempicka, and Nikki M. James shone in Suffs, while Bebe Neuwirth brings Cabaret’s frenetic energy to the best kind of reflective and moving pause.

Kevin: My suspicion is that Kecia Lewis takes this, because her big numbers in Hell’s Kitchen might as well have been retitled “The Tony Award-winning Songs.” It’s her co-star, Shoshana Bean, though, who I think should take this category. Her vocal gymnastics deserve a gold medal of their own, but I was struck by how tender, yet forceful her acting was. I assume Merrily will be the biggest musical winner of the evening, but this is the one category in which I think its most vulnerable.

Best Direction of a Play

Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic

Anne Kauffman, Mary Jane

Kenny Leon, Purlie Victorious

Lila Neugebauer, Appropriate

Whitney White, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Kevin: I would vote for Leon’s direction of Purlie Victorious in this category. (By the way, if you’re reading and haven’t seen it, the production was filmed for PBS.) But there’s no way that a show that is as lauded as Stereophonic doesn’t get rewarded with a Tony for its director.

Tim: This is such a tough category in the best way—all worthy nominees and winners. Anne Kauffman endowed Mary Jane with an unsettling stillness; Kenny Leon and Lila Neugebauer filled stages with bravura comedy and shocking confrontation; while Daniel Aukin and Whitney White took two very enclosed spaces and filled them to bursting with wit, tension, and big characters. For me, it’s an Aukin win, as Stereophonic is a true original, and he marshals three-plus hours with such a variety of moods and pacing.

Best Direction of a Musical

Maria Friedman, Merrily We Roll Along

Michael Greif, Hell’s Kitchen

Leigh Silverman, Suffs

Jessica Stone, Water for Elephants

Danya Taymor, The Outsiders

Tim: This is easy for me: I did love Michael Greif’s big Broadway bolt of energy for Hell’s Kitchen and Dayna Taymor’s moody grittiness of The Outsiders… but the winner here has to be Maria Friedman for the joyous, fluid, delicious meal that is Merrily.

Kevin: To turn one of musical theater’s most notorious flops to one of the biggest hits of the modern era? Maria Friedman doesn’t just deserve a Tony. She deserves sainthood.

The Outsiders

‘The Outsiders’

Rich Soublet II

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, Hell’s Kitchen

Shana Carroll and Jesse Robb, Water for Elephants

Rick and Jeff Kuperman, The Outsiders

Annie-B Parson, Here Lies Love

Justin Peck, Illinoise

Kevin: I swooned and sobbed over the dancing in Illinoise. To create emotion so powerful through movement is precisely why this category exists. I would be stunned if he doesn’t win—though I would give a special Tony for that Outsiders fight.

Tim: I love this category for the variety: Justin Peck’s moving set of interrelationships and campfire storytelling; Annie-B Parson’s big disco craziness; Rick and Jeff Kuperman’s balletic fighting; Shana Carroll and Jesse Robb’s acrobatic athleticism; and—my winner—Camille A. Brown’s mix of so many styles and pumping beats to conjure New York. Peck might swing it though.

Best Orchestrations

Timo Andres, Illinoise

Tom Kitt and Adam Blackstone, Hell’s Kitchen

Will Butler and Justin Craig, Stereophonic

Justin Levine, Matt Hinkley and Jamestown Revival, The Outsiders

Jonathan Tunick, Merrily We Roll Along

Tim: Stereophonic is my pick again—the only thing missing is more music. But Tunick would be an equally worthy winner.

Kevin: It’s so delicious of me to think about the award for best orchestrations going to a play instead of a musical. Stereophonic absolutely deserves it.

Best Book of a Musical

Bekah Brunstetter, The Notebook

Kristoffer Diaz, Hell’s Kitchen

Rick Elice, Water for Elephants

Adam Rapp and Justin Levine, The Outsiders

Shaina Taub, Suffs

Tim: I have many strong feelings about the books of musicals—so often the music and songs can be great, but the narrative stitching all around it clunky or implausible, as has been the case all too often this year. Shaina Taub is the clear and obvious winner here for Suffs; her book is so chewy and witty, and downright informative, when it comes to characters and real history.

Kevin: One of the worst years in this category I can remember. For all the praise I’ve heaped on the performances, the book for Hell’s Kitchen is so, so bad. How is it nominated here? By default, I think Suffs wins. At least there’s something timely in its writing.

Mother Play

‘Mother Play’

Joan Marcus

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Will Butler, Stereophonic

Adam Guettel, Days of Wine and Roses

Jamestown Revival and Justin Levine, The Outsiders

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love

Shaina Taub, Suffs

Kevin: I’m dismayed that Here Lies Love was mostly forgotten by the Tonys. It was such a thrilling, unexpected production that was so long in the making. This would be the best category to reward it, but I suspect the Stereophonic wave is going to crash this category.

Tim: This is a great set of contenders—so many of this year’s Tonys are rewarding excellent work, tough choices are the best. I loved Guettel’s score for Days of Wine and Roses—the challenging compositions mirroring the material. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim served up delirious disco, Shaina Taub scored Suffs with the same ingenuity as her book. But, as you may have guessed, this is all about Stereophonic, and Will Butler deserves the win.

Best Scenic Design of a Play

dots, An Enemy of the People

dots, Appropriate

Derek McLane, Purlie Victorious

David Zinn, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

David Zinn, Stereophonic

Tim: It’s David Zinn’s studio in Stereophonic; I was obsessed by its size, specificity, and cushions off-Broadway, the same on Broadway (his hair salon in Jaja’s was just as impressive, brimming with detail). Honorable mentions for all the others: McLane’s clean, sculpted surfaces in Purlie; dots transformed Circle in the Square into the perfect forum for public debate in Enemy, and served up a haunted-vibed house of ill-feeling in Appropriate.

Kevin: The tree at the end of Appropriate makes a strong case here, but the recording studio in Stereophonic is already a piece of theater iconography. Of course it wins here.

Cabaret

‘Cabaret’

Marc Brenner

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

AMP featuring Tatiana Kahvegian, The Outsiders

Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, Hell’s Kitchen

Tim Hatley and Finn Ross, Back to the Future

Riccardo Hernández and Peter Nigrini, Lempicka

Takeshi Kata, Water for Elephants

David Korins, Here Lies Love

Tom Scutt, Cabaret

Kevin: For the thousands of dollars Cabaret asks ticket buyers to shell out, at least it makes the experience feel worth it from the moment you arrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if Water for Elephants, with its circus elements, takes this one. But because of that transportive experience, I think the win goes to Cabaret.

Tim: Many of these shows felt more like light and projection and effects shows, rather than being memorable for their design. In this sense, Tom Scutt’s transformation of space, and sense of atmosphere—the feeling of being transported—means that Cabaret is my winner.

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dede Ayite, Appropriate

Dede Ayite, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Enver Chakartash, Stereophonic

Emilio Sosa, Purlie Victorious

David Zinn, An Enemy of the People

Tim: Dede Ayite for Jaja’s African Hair Braiding wins this for the color, energy, and specificity of each character feeling just so right, just a nudge beyond the believably, shaggily rendered 70s threads of Enver Chakartash’s Stereophonic.

Kevin: I want the Stereophonic costumes to be in my wardrobe immediately.

The Great Gatsby

‘The Great Gatsby’

Matthew Murphy

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Dede Ayite, Hell’s Kitchen

Linda Cho, The Great Gatsby

David Israel Reynoso, Water for Elephants

Tom Scutt, Cabaret

Paul Tazewell, Suffs

Tim: Well, The Great Gatsby deserves the win. Linda Cho’s costumes, like everything else in this bananas interpretation, had the luxe feel of a lot of money being well spent.

Kevin: The Great Gatsby wins this, obviously. It’s The Great Gatsby! Of course the costumes are going to be amazing. It’s the whole point.

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Isabella Byrd, Enemy of the People

Amith Chandrashaker, Prayer for the French Republic

Jiyoun Chang, Stereophonic

Jane Cox, Appropriate

Natasha Katz, Grey House

Kevin: I’m nervous about voters rubber-stamping Stereophonic in every category, because it really is Grey House that should win here.

Tim: This is a competitive category. Jane Cox’s lighting in Appropriate is a key character in the show as time and day and night pass; Jiyoun Chang’s lighting in Stereophonic makes the claustrophobic studio space into its own workplace wonderland. But Natasha Katz’s lighting for the (long ago) Grey House is my winner; it added to all the scares the play managed to serve up.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Brandon Stirling Baker, Illinoise

Isabella Byrd, Cabaret

Natasha Katz, Hell’s Kitchen

Bradley King and David Bengali, Water for Elephants

Brian MacDevitt and Hana S. Kim, The Outsiders

Tim: This is an easy choice for me: Isabella Byrd’s lighting for Cabaret signal glitzy showtime and imminent Nazi doom in so many intelligent and arresting ways—particularly her shafts of spotlight.

Kevin: I keep talking about the fight scene in The Outsiders. This is one category where it can be rewarded.

Best Sound Design of a Play

Justin Ellington and Stefania Bulbarella, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Leah Gelpe, Mary Jane

Tom Gibbons, Grey House

Bray Poor and Will Pickens, Appropriate

Ryan Rumery, Stereophonic

Kevin: Sound design is part of the plot of Stereophonic. Of course it wins here.

Tim: This has a clear-winner; Ryan Rumery has produced a stunning sound design for Stereophonic that moves the audience from studio to mixing desk in a blink. Sound is also key to one of the play’s most dramatic confrontations. We don’t see the characters, we hear them.

Best Sound Design of a Musical

M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, Here Lies Love

Kai Harada, Merrily We Roll Along

Nick Lidster, Cabaret

Gareth Owen, Hell’s Kitchen

Cody Spencer, The Outsiders

Tim: This is a tough, competitive category to call. Here Lies Love was stunning sound-wise, the audience was drenched in it. Merrily is a delicious sound circus. Nick Lidster’s sound adds to the evocative audience experience of Cabaret. Gareth Owen produces a WALL of sound that joyously batters the audience in Hell’s Kitchen. And much as I don’t get The Outsiders, it sounds emphatic and felt under Cody Spencer’s stewardship. Grrr. OK. Gareth Owen, for Hell’s Kitchen. You leave the theater with New York brimming from every pore, and it’s down to Owen. Kai Harada is right there on Owen’s heels, though.

Kevin: If this category was called “Most Sound,” then Hell’s Kitchen would win. Each big number felt like a tidal wave of sound crashing over me. The unique staging of Here Lies Love created a huge sound challenge that the production managed to overcome. But I think this category defaults to the best overall production of the year, and that’s Merrily.

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