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“Hamilton” Poised To Take Over The Tonys


by Michael Paulson, reposted from New York Times (here)

SPOILER alert: “Hamilton” is going to win the Tony Award for best new musical on Sunday night.

But you already knew that. So let me tell you some things you might not realize.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is going to have a great night, but he’s not likely to win a Tony for his acting.

“Hamilton” is not likely to set a record for the most Tonys won, although it still has a long-shot chance to tie the record 12 won by “The Producers” in 2001.

And, after a diverse season for Broadway, it looks as if black actors could sweep all four awards for performances in musicals.

How do I know all this? Every year, The New York Times theater desk interviews Tony voters to inform a story predicting the winners. And this year, we decided to up our game: We partnered with the News Surveys team at The Times and our friends at the Siena College Research Institute to sample the 846 Tony voters.
In early June, The New York Times and Siena College conducted a survey of Tony Award voters. Michael Paulson, a New York Times theater reporter, invited randomly selected voters to participate in the online survey that included questions about some of their vote choices and their opinions on issues facing Broadway.
In all, we heard from 171 — a much bigger sample than ever before — and asked them not only who they favored in the top races but also how they are feeling about Broadway and its challenges, including the high prices for “Hamilton” tickets.

We only asked about the best shows and the best performances, so if what keeps you up at night is the race for best lighting design, I’m afraid you have a few sleepless nights remaining. And, of course, our sample is imperfect in multiple ways, so you’ll have to wait until Sunday (8 p.m. Eastern on CBS) for the real results. But here’s what we think you’re likely to see:

BURR VS. HAMILTON, AGAIN: Tony voters really, really, really love “Hamilton,” but in the battle for best leading actor in a musical, they prefer Leslie Odom Jr., the actor portraying Aaron Burr, over Mr. Miranda, who plays the title character.

There’s a historical quirkiness to this — Burr, of course, was the nominal victor of the 1804 duel in which he killed Hamilton, but, as the musical proclaims, that victory made him a villain. Mr. Miranda is widely admired as a genius and a visionary, and every “Hamilton” win on Sunday will be attributable to his creative powers, but the voters appear to have concluded that Mr. Odom’s charismatic incarnation of one of American history’s best-known bad guys and his razzle-dazzle delivery of the showstopper “The Room Where It Happens” have earned him the acting award.
Mr. Odom is likely to be one of three “Hamilton” performers who win acting awards on Sunday: Renée Elise Goldsberry, whose rapped/sung deconstruction of a wedding toast (“Satisfied”) was arguably the most ingenious moment of the theatrical season, looks likely to win as best featured actress for her portrayal of Angelica Schuyler, while Daveed Diggs is likely to win the best featured actor Tony for his knowingly witty portrayals of two important historical figures: Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.

‘PURPLE’ REIGN: The last season was excellent for musical revivals, but one stands out for Tony voters: “The Color Purple.” And Cynthia Erivo, a 29-year-old British actress making her Broadway debut in the show, is not only a critical darling but also the strong favorite to take home the Tony for best leading actress in a musical. Ms. Erivo would be the second actress to win a Tony award for playing Celie; in 2006, LaChanze won for her work in the original production. This would also be the only acting category (in a musical) not won by “Hamilton.”

It was a very strong year for musical actresses, with memorable performances by Laura Benanti in “She Loves Me,” Carmen Cusack in “Bright Star,” Jessie Mueller in “Waitress” and Phillipa Soo in “Hamilton” — but Ms. Erivo’s onstage transformation from sexually abused girl to confident woman, and her tear-the-roof-off voice, which routinely prompts mid-act standing ovations, has blown away even her competitors. (“GIVE @CynthiaEriVo ALL THE AWARDS, IMMEDIATELY,” Ms. Benanti tweeted after seeing the show on May 29.)
WHAT ABOUT THE PLAYS? It was a good season for the power producer Scott Rudin, who brought five shows to Broadway, all of which were nominated for Tony awards. And it looks like two of his plays will win: “The Humans,” as best new play, and “A View From the Bridge,” as best revival. Both are notable Broadway debuts: “The Humans” is the first Broadway play written by Stephen Karam, a 36-year-old American playwright, and “A View From the Bridge,” by Arthur Miller, is directed by Ivo van Hove, a vaunted Belgian director, making a big move into the mainstream. “The Humans” is also likely to win featured acting awards for two admired and veteran stage performers, Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell, who play a married couple stressed by job loss, elder care and a challenge to their relationship.

TOO CLOSE TO CALL: Two treasured American performers, Frank Langella and Jessica Lange, are in tight races. Mr. Langella, who has already won three Tony Awards, for “Seascape,” “Fortune’s Fool” and “Frost/Nixon,” could win a fourth for his portrayal of a Frenchman with dementia in Florian Zeller’s “The Father.” But there is also significant support for Mark Strong, a British actor who made his Broadway debut in one of the great American stage roles: Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman with an unhealthy fixation on his niece, in “A View From the Bridge.”

Ms. Lange, a two-time Oscar winner, has a slight edge in her bid for a first Tony, for her portrayal of the morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” But she could be upset by Lupita Nyong’o, also an Oscar winner, making her Broadway debut as a girl captured by a Liberian warlord in “Eclipsed.”

BEYOND THE HORSE RACE: The voters are all closely connected to the theater industry — they become voters as members of the Broadway League, which represents producers; the American Theater Wing; Actors’ Equity; and other groups made up of designers, directors, critics and more. So perhaps it’s not surprising that when we asked how they think Broadway is doing, they gave positive responses: 71 percent said Broadway is heading in the right direction; 61 percent said the variety of shows this past season was better than in previous seasons, and 59 percent said the quality of shows had improved.

BIG PROBLEMS: It wasn’t, however, all happiness and joy. We asked the voters about the challenges facing Broadway. A whopping 91 percent thought high ticket prices were a serious problem, and a plurality (43 percent) said they thought that issue was the biggest problem facing Broadway. (Note that we surveyed voters before “Hamilton” announced that it was raising its top premium price to $849.) But there was also concern about other issues: A majority thought the dependence on celebrities, the lack of audience for plays, the lack of audience for new work and congestion in Times Square were also serious problems.

ABOUT THOSE ‘HAMILTON’ TICKETS: A majority of Tony voters (58 percent) favored government action to restrict the ticket reselling that has driven up the price, but a slight majority (51 percent) also thought the producers of “Hamilton” need to do more to limit the reselling of tickets to that show.

SO WHY WON’T ‘HAMILTON’ SET A RECORD? It has 16 nominations, but that includes three nominees for best featured actor and two for best leading actor. It can win only one in each category, so that means 13 possible wins, and it looks like it’s not going to win best leading actress, so that means a maximum of 12. Will it win 12? We don’t know — the nominations include a number of design categories that are highly competitive, and we did not query voters about those categories, among others. Watch with us Sunday — we’ll have all the news, photos and commentary at

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