BRUCE R. MILLER
There are two Michael Jacksons on Broadway this year.
One is the subject of a great dance musical, “MJ”. The other is the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of “A Strange Loop,” one of the most inventive shows in years.
There’s also a strong focus on life in the Midwest (see: “The Music Man”, “Girl From the North Country”) and a host of covers just aimed at outsiders (“Take Me Out”, “Funny Girl” and “Company”).
While the start of the season was tentative at best, it ended with enough shows to give the 75th Tony Awards full categories and strong competition.
Who will win? Smart money is on “Strange Loop”, “Company” and “Take Me Out”. But don’t discount “Six” and “The Music Man.” They don’t fill the theaters with masked patrons for nothing.
By category, here is the competition:
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While most plays are now closed, major inroads have been made with shows like “The Lehman Trilogy,” “The Minutes,” and “Hangmen.” Expect “Lehman,” a look at the rise and fall of Lehman Brothers, to win. Hangmans only slip in if voters like to have a drama that is still going on.
Simon Russell Beale of “The Lehman Trilogy” has an edge but could lose if David Morse (“How I Learned to Drive”) and co-star Mary-Louise Parker are considered as a whole.
Mary Louise Parker, “How I Learned to Drive.”
“Modern Family”‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the agent of a baseball star who comes out as gay in “Take Me Out.” Jesse Williams (who plays the athlete and whose much-talked-about nude scene) also falls into this category, but Ferguson has the flashier role.
BEST ACTRESS / GAME
It really is a toss-up. Phylicia Rashad (“Skeleton Crew”) has a history of excellence under her belt; Kenita R. Miller (“For Girls of Color”) caused a stir in an iconic show and Rachel Dratch (“POTUS”) took the stage for the first time in a role designed to command attention. Also in the category are Gutsy Instinct: Miller with Rashad hot on his trail.
“Take Me Out” and “How I Learned to Drive” are the two strongest entries. “Take Me Out” is a big hit. Give it to this show.
Extremely difficult, given that there are six nominees. It really comes down to “A Strange Loop” and “Six”. The first is inventive, new and clever. The latter is very marketable. Judging by past winners, “Strange Loop” wins.
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSIC
No sweating. Marianne Elliott’s genre-shifting “Company” is the most creative revival of the mix.
Hugh Jackman may have brought the crowds back with his “Music Man,” but the Tony will likely go to Jaquel Spivey, the recent college grad who galvanizes “A Strange Loop.” Behind the scenes: Myles Frost making an irresistible Michael Jackson in “MJ”.
Sharon D. Clarke wasn’t around long in “Caroline, or Change,” but her performance still lingers. It would be great to see Sutton Foster take a third for his refreshing version of Marian in “Music Man,” but she, like Jackman, may have to settle for sold-out houses every night. Spoiler: Joaquina Kalukango, “Paradise Square”.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR/MUSICAL
Matt Doyle, “Business”. Her tongue-twisting “Not Getting Married Today” is the highlight of a show full of them. “A Strange Loop” John-Andrew Morrison could be a spoiler.
BEST ACTRESS / FEATURED MUSIC
Patti LuPone, “Business”. She works as hard as ever and gets that “Ladies Who Lunch” show that, yes, inspires audiences to their feet. Out of chance: L. Morgan Lee, “A Strange Loop”.
The 75th Tony Awards airs Sunday on Paramount+ and CBS.