2023 Tony Awards slugfest: 22 productions vie for places in Play races [WATCH]
When surveying the outstanding crop of plays this Broadway season and attempting to make early guesses as to which ones will snag Tony nominations, I can only sum it up as “absolutely insane.” Luckily, trusted Gold Derby contributor David Buchanan joins me in a new video slugfest to hash out all the possibilities.
Though he concurs that this intensely crowded field is difficult to pare down. A whopping 17 new plays and 5 revivals will compete for top honors at the 2023 Tony Awards. Watch the full video above to find out which plays David and I believe will make the cut before logging your own predictions.
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David and I begin the conversation as a united front, both picking Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” as the current frontrunner for Best Play. It’s a positively massive success with both critics and audiences and offers a hauntingly poignant look at a Jewish family as they attempt to survive the rise of Nazism. It breaks box office records and delivers an emotional wallop? Ok, that’s an easy call, but from there things immediately become muddy.
SEE Tom Stoppard could break his own Tony Awards record with ‘Leopoldstadt’
We both think the lavish (and Olivier Award-winning) stagecraft of “Life of Pi” make it a good bet for a nomination. But there are three Pulitzer Prize winners this season to steal focus: “Cost of Living,” “Fat Ham,” and “Between Riverside and Crazy.” David believes all of them will make the cut, but I think one of them might miss out in favor of “Ain’t No Mo’.” Writer and star Jordan E. Cooper launched a massive “save the show” social media campaign after a closing notice was posted. Suddenly major stars like RuPaul and Jennifer Hudson were buying out performances and managed to extend the run by a week. This is one of the biggest stories of the entire season, and I have to think voters will reward Cooper’s efforts somewhere.
We are both wary of what is yet to come. Plays that have yet to open this season include the London transfer “Prima Facie” with Jodie Comer, “Good Night, Oscar” with Sean Hayes as Oscar Levant, and the much-anticipated Broadway bow of “The Thanksgiving Play.” One or all of these plays could turn into major players in the Tony race.
Best Revival of a Play has fewer overall contenders, but there is no shortage of excellence. With only five productions vying for attention, there will be just three nomination slots in this category. Though David is banking on a tie due to the quality of the field, leading to a fourth nominee. “The voting for the third slot, in my estimation, is going to be very tight,” he asserts.
Since the starry remounting of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” is the only revival I feel completely safe predicting, I certainly see his point. While we both think “Death of a Salesman” makes the cut, David rounds out his trio with “Topdog/Underdog” while I pick “A Doll’s House.” The former is a past Pulitzer winner and this latest production earned stellar reviews. The latter could be buoyed by the simple fact that it’s the only revival still running.
While “Ohio State Murders” doesn’t currently rank in our predictions, we can’t rule that one out either. The play is deemed a revival because it is considered a “classic,” but this is its first time being staged on the rialto. That means revered playwright Adrienne Kennedy will appear on the ballot, giving Tony nominators a chance to finally recognize this Theater Hall of Famer.
When it comes to deciding Lead Actor in a Play, I am ready to throw in the towel, lamenting that “I can’t even decide on who the frontrunner is.” Both David and I tentatively land on Wendell Pierce for his powerful interpretation of Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” From there we go in opposite directions.
David backs both Corey Hawkins and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II from “Topdog/Underdog,” Stephen McKinley Henderson for a career-defining performance in “Between Riverside and Crazy,” and wildcard Jeremy Pope in “The Collaboration.” “I’m going out on so many limbs in this category that the branch is going to break,” jokes David. I opt to fill out my roster with critical darling John David Washington in “The Piano Lesson,” Jefferson Mays for his shapeshifting solo version of “A Christmas Carol,” and the yet-to-be-seen, but highly anticipated Sean Hayes (“Good Night, Oscar”) and Marcel Spears (“Fat Ham”). Still, neither of us had room to include Olivier winner Hiran Abeysekera (“Life of Pi”) or Broadway mainstays Nathan Lane and Danny Burstein (“Pictures From Home”). What on earth do we do with all of these strong contenders? To pull from my least favorite song in “The King and I”: it’s a puzzlement.
SEE ‘Room’ indefinitely postpones Broadway outing, Tony races in flux
We feel much better about our predictions for Lead Actress in a Play. But that’s only because there are so few contenders, especially after the shockingly abrupt cancellation of “Room,” which took surefire nominee Adrienne Warren out of the race. So David and I both think the four nominees will be Jodie Comer (“Prima Facie”), Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”), Audra McDonald (“Ohio State Murders”), and Laura Linney (“Summer 1976”). The only slight hitch is any potential vote splitting between Linney and her equally loved costar Jessica Hecht. If support between these two Broadway vets is divided, it could carve a path for Zoe Wanamaker to score for her affecting turn in “Pictures From Home.”
Be sure to watch our full slugfest to hear our complete thoughts on every play category. This includes Featured Actress (where I am betting on underdog Crystal Lucas-Perry to prevail for her best-of-the-season monologue in “Ain’t No Mo’”), Featured Actor (where David and I struggle to determine whether the edge belongs to Samuel L. Jackson or one of the “Leopoldstadt” actors), and Best Director (I think Michael Arden could score for the wondrous physical production of “A Christmas Carol” while David believes Jamie Lloyd will return to the race for “A Doll’s House”).
PREDICT the 2023 Tony Award nominees through May 2
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2023 Tony Awards nominations prediction center is active! 23 plays jockey for Broadway's top honors
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