The 66th Annual Tony Awards telecast, hosted again by Neil Patrick Harris, will take place this Sunday, recognizing a season of diverse virtuoso work of both original material and revivals on Broadway this past year. Below, I offer my predictions in the play categories: Best Play: Nominees include Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park, already a Pulitzer Prize-winner; Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities; Rick Elice's Peter and the Starcatcher; and David Ives' Venus in Fur. All of these are transfers of shows that ran off-Broadway between early 2010 and early 2011, and of the four, Cities seemed to have the most momentum early on, though that may have given way to Clybourne. I'm partial to Norris' work, which penetrates a bit more deeply in its look at the differences between the things adults say and the things they believe. It should be noted though, that Cities is the only truly original work of this quartet: the other three all derive in some way from a previously existing work. Will win: Clybourne Park Should win: Clybourne Park Should have been nominated: One Man, Two Guvnors Best Direction of a Play: Nominees include Nicholas Hytner (Guvnors), Pam MacKinnon (Clybourne), Mike Nichols (Salesman), and the team of Roger Rees and Alex Timbers (Starcatcher). Look for eight-time Tony-winner Nichols to add to his haul. I didn't think Salesman was a flawless revival as many others did, but the man is Broadway and Hollywood royalty. He's had an incomparable career of creative highs and mounted the most exciting event of the season. Regardless of what people thought of Salesman, they kept talking about it. Will win: Nichols Should win: Hytner Should have been nominated: Joe Mantello, Other Desert Cities Best Leading Actor in a Play: Nominees include James Corden (Guvnors), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Salesman), James Earl Jones (Gore Vidal's The Best Man), Frank Langella (Man and Boy, and John Lithgow (The Columnist). This is really a two-man race between the two as-yet un-Tonyed performers, Corden and Hoffman. For me, Corden's performance was far more alive than Hoffman's dedicated but taciturn one, but Hoffman, an Oscar-winner, is a bigger star in a bigger event (one which will also claim the Best Play Revival category). Corden, meanwhile has one the Drama Desk and Outer Critics' Circle Award, making this category somewhat tough to call. Still, I'll give the edge to Hoffman. Will win: Hoffman Should win: Corden Should have been nominated: John Larroquette, Best Man Best Leading Actress in a Play: Nominees include Nina Arianda (Venus), Tracie Bennett (End of the Rainbow), Stockard Channing (Cities), Linda Lavin (The Lyons), and Cynthia Nixon (Wit), the last three of whom also have Tonys. Don't count out Lavin's masterfully lacerating turn, but this race looks like a dead heat between Arianda's audacious work and Bennett's go-for-broke Judy Garland portrayal. Like Corden, Bennett has also won the pre-Tony industry awards, but unlike him, I give her the edge. She gets to sing, scream, cry, play drunk and drugged, and, lest we forget, played Judy Garland. Sometimes more is more. Will win: Bennett Should win: Bennett Should have been nominated: Jennifer Lim, Chinglish Best Featured Actor in a Play: Nominees include Christian Borle (Starcatcher), Michael Cumpsty (Rainbow), Tom Edden (Guvnors), Andrew Garfield (Salesman), and Jeremy Shamos (Clybourne). All of these guys did great stuff here, but the ones with the most hype are the ones likeliest to walk away with the trophy, and that would be Borle and Garfield. The latter polarized audiences; some loved his turn as Biff, while other thought he was miscast and a physical mismatch. With his new Spider-Man movie about to hit theaters, Garfield is, in essence, the bigger star of the two, but Borle is a bigger presence within the community, and his work on Smash and aggressive publicity campaign have raised his profile. Look for him to squeeze past Garfield for his excellent turn in the physically demanding Starcatcher. Will win: Borle Should win: Borle Should have been nominated: Finn Wittrock, Salesman Best Featured Actress in a Play: Nominees include Linda Emond (Salesman), Spencer Kayden (Don't Dress for Dinner), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Starcatcher), Judith Light (Cities), and Condola Rashad (Stick Fly). There are small cadres of support for the talented Emond, Kayden, and Keenan-Bolger but this is Light's race to lose after her nominated work last year in Lombardi. Here, she plays another alcoholic, but the similarities end there. Light finds all sorts of justification and nuance to Baitz's play, raising the production to a higher level than the play itself rests on. Now that's award-worthy. Will win: Light Should win: Light Should have been nominated: no one
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