Saturday, June 4, 2016

On Tonys Night / Gonna Be a Fight / With 'Hamilton' in for a Staggering Sixteen / Yet It Won't Achieve a Feat Never Before Seen

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones in "Hamilton." Photo by Joan Marcus.


you just hate a foregone conclusion? There's no room for surprises when the outcome is inevitable.

Since it began its hot-ticket run, transferring from The Public Theatre last July,"Hamilton" has been the anointed, all-around Tony winner. Its inevitable rise to the top of the list started way back at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009 when its auteur, Lin-Manuel Miranda, rapped excerpts from the musical in the works.

"Hamilton," based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father and the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, is expected to win and win big come the “70th Annual Tony Awards.

The ceremony, hosted by British actor-comedian and Tony winner James Corden, will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. from the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Truth be told, this reviewer has also been party to the boosterism behind "Hamilton." I first became enamored with the musical during L-MM's American Songbook appearance in 2012 and have called it a "Perfect 10!" on several occasions.

The adoration was nearly universal. Earlier this spring, "Hamilton" won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Broadway production has also received an unprecedented number of Tony nominations this year. It sets the record at 16.

My history with predicting Tony winners has been spotty over the years, but that won’t discourage me from prognosticating about the 2016 Tonys from a "Hamilton-"centirc point of view, starting with the ones that I expect "Hamilton" to lose.

Word on the street is that the most beautifully lit show on Broadway is ”Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.” That’s no exaggeration. So, the Tony for Best Lighting Design of A Musical will go to the team of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.

Adrienne Warren and company perform "I'm Just Wild About Harry" in "Shuffle Along ..." Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

David Korins’ sets for "Hamilton" tell their story with a spare simplicity. Best Scenic Design of a Musical, however, should go to David Rockwell for his solidly whimsical and inventive sets for "She Loves Me." DR's designs have a dollhouse quality that add to the effervescence of the show.

Andrew Blankenbuehler puts the 1776ers through some moves, but choreography is not entirely the point in "Hamilton" the way, say, Sergio Trujillo's congas are in "On Your Feet." Meanwhile, the expressive tapping of "Shuffle Along ..." is vital to its plot. Consequently, Best Choreography will go to Savion Glover because the dancing is such an essential element in moving the story along in "Shuffle Along …"

Orchestration is a little outside my wheelhouse, but let's assume that it, too, goes to "Shuffle Along ...," a hybrid of a 1921 show put in a new context. The Best Orchestrations winner, in this case, is Daryl Waters, because of all the complexity the music handles.

As for Best Direction of a Musical, John Doyle's helming of "The Color Purple" has all the buzz, nearly guaranteeing him a win. Inevitable.

Carleigh Bettiol, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Anthony Ramos in "Hamilton." Photo by Joan Marcus.

Likewise, it seems inevitable that "The Color Purple" will deliver a winner in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical category. British singer-songwriter-actress Cynthia Erivo has taken Broadway by storm in this revival. She is placed in contention with some old Broadway hands, too.

Phillipa Soo, in her first Broadway role as Alexander Hamilton's wife in “Hamilton,” is not one of them, of course. For now, she will remain a Tony nominee.

Then there are the Tony categories in which "Hamilton" is likely, even very likely, to win.

With three in the running in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical category, "Hamilton" has a better than even chance of walking away with a Tony. My money is on Jonathan Groff, though he left the show in April to work on a new Netflix series. He was an audience favorite as King George.

Less of a shoo-in for “Hamilton” is the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical category. The competition includes a charming Zachary Levi in "She Loves Me" and a charismatic Alex Brightman in "School of Rock – The Musical."

With L-MM and Leslie Odom, Jr., contending, however, "Hamilton" has a good chance here. LO,Jr. plays Hamilton's rival and frenemy, Aaron Burr, and is more likely of the two actors to emerge victorious.

Though Renée Elise Goldsberry most assuredly faces the stiffest competition from Adrienne Warren ("Shuffle Along ...") in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical category, she is likely to sail ahead for her role as the excellent and savvy Angelica Schuyler in "Hamilton."

Red coats, blue coats, high-bodiced dresses, tri-cornered hats will likely yield Paul Tazewell an award for Best Costume Design of a Musical (“Hamilton”).

Now for the three sure "Hamilton” wins:Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre.

L-MM's genius had been awarded often before now. In 2008, he won with "In The Heights," with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, which was that year's best musical.

Is "Hamilton" really the best musical of 2016. You bet. It is, in fact, the Best Musical of the decade. It is iconic like "Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miz," "Rent" and "Chorus Line." It will have a very long run and will be a memorable musical drama.

Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson in "The Color Purple. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

As for breaking records, "Hamilton" falls a little short; it will go home with around seven Tonys, matching the number won by a revival of "South Pacific" in 2008. The record number of wins is held by "The Producers" with 12 in 2001.

In closing, in the spirit of “Hamilton”:
Nominated for sixteen
A feat never before seen

"Hamilton" is sure to win
How can it not with Lin

L-M, you'll take Tony home for your mantle
To your story, nothing holds a candle

It's The BEST in show
The score and lyrics glow

Will Tony make "Ham" a Barmitzvah boy
It'll take just 13 the record to destroy

No, "Hamilton" will get its shot
With seven, it still stays hot

So "Hamilton" walks away with only seven
Not the record-tying one plus eleven

Or the record-breaker, lucky thirteen
Broke the mold it did, getting sweet sixteen

Visit to learn more about the Tony Awards.

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