Envelope, Please 

Who will win at this year's Tony Awards?

The Tony Awards will be given out on Sunday, June 10. Let’s take a look at the field and handicap the potential winners.

The major play awards are pretty solid choices with Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize winning "Clybourne Park" – a contemporary twist to the gentrification plot of "A Raisin in the Sun" - adding a Tony to its trophy case, with the late Arthur Miller’s "Death of A Salesman" winning for Best Revival of a Play.

The best musical awards are a toss-up in my book, but I think Disney’s ability to purchase the best talent money can buy will make “Newsies” the choice over “Once,” in spite of the latter’s recent New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. It is interesting to note that both musicals are stage adaptations of popular movies. Even though it closed after a limited run, the brilliant revival of Sondheim’s “Follies,” which originated at the Kennedy Center in Washington, should edge out the still-running “Porgy and Bess” for best revival of a musical.

While the acting awards are always the most difficult to predict, my ballot has the eight Tonys in these categories going to artists from eight different productions. The third time’s the charm for best leading actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who will finally pick up a trophy for his Everyman portrayal of Willy Loman in “Salesman.” Until last Sunday, Nina Arianda (inexcusably snubbed last season for “Born Yesterday”) was my pick to win best leading actress for her arresting performance in “Venus in Fur,” but no longer. Tracie Bennett channels Judy Garland to win for “End of the Rainbow,” a show with an onstage orchestra and more vocal music than I have ever seen in a play.

Although Dubose Heyward’s original source material was entitled “Porgy,” Audra McDonald’s performance made this Gershwin revival all about Bess; she is a lock for best leading actress. It is a four-way race for best leading actor in a musical with Danny Burstein (“Follies”), Steve Kazee (“Once”) and Norm Lewis (“Porgy and Bess”) all worthy of recognition. It will be Jeremy Jordan, however, at the podium accepting for his portrayal of a teenage union activist in “Newsies,” his second leading role this season after the ill-fated (double pun intended) “Bonnie and Clyde,” a fact sure to sway Tony voters his way.

In the closest race of the night, television star Christian Borle (of NBC’s quirky back-stage trauma “Smash”) will edge out Andrew Garfield from “Death of a Salesman” for best featured actor in a play. Borle plays Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Rick Elice’s brilliant prequel to the beloved “Peter Pan” adapted from the Barry-Pearson novel. In a coin flip on the women’s side of the equation, critic’s darling Linda Edmond of “Salesman” might have to keep her seat while Judith Light rises to accept the best featured actress in a play award for her unforgettable performance in “Other Desert Cities,” quite a departure from her Tony-nominated role in “Lombardi” last year.

The winner in the best featured actor in a musical is guaranteed to be named Michael, although it is neck-and-neck between the serious Michael Cerveris (“Evita”) and the comical Michael McGrath (“Nice Work If You Can Get It”); by making Juan Peron an equal to Eva Duarte and Che Guevara – unlike any previous production of “Evita” that I have seen -- Cerveris should prevail.

Another close race occurs in the best featured actress in a musical category, where two legendary grand dames of the theater square off, with Jayne Houdyshell (“Follies”) and Judy Kaye (“Nice Work If You Can Get It”). I won’t be disappointed if either should win, but it’s tough to top swinging from a chandelier -- as Kaye did in her role -- so I, too, swing her way with this award.

The creative categories – my favorites – will see both the old and the new with best director awards going to veteran Mike Nichols for “Salesman” (reaffirming his earlier victory from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle) and newcomer John Tiffany for the musical “Once.” Christopher Gattelli’s choreography for “Newsies” danced to Alan Menken and Jack Feldman’s musical score are sure bets, but Harvey Fierstein’s book for “Newsies” faces stiff competition from Edna Walsh’s script for “Once.” Look for Fierstein to win, making him a perfect five for five with his previous nominations. “Once” will get one more Tony in this category when Martin Lowe picks up a well-deserved Tony for his unique, folksy orchestrations.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” will capture three of the eight design awards with wins for scenic, costume and lighting design for a play, with the remaining prizes going to “End of the Rainbow” (sound in a play) and the musicals “Follies” (costumes), “Ghost” (supposedly for lighting, but including special effects) and “Once” (sound). Finally, the highly maligned and much parodied “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will get a single Tony Award (set design of a musical), a record 81 weeks and $75 million after its first preview performance in November 2010. Incredible.

My final Tony tally: “Newsies” gets bragging rights with five awards, followed by “Peter and the Starcatcher” with four, “Once” and “Death of a Salesman” with three each, “Follies” and “End of the Rainbow” with two apiece, and a single Tony to each of seven shows (“Clybourne Park,” “Evita,” “Ghost,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Other Desert Cities,” “Porgy and Bess,” and last – and certainly least – “Spider-Man”).

May I have the envelope, please?

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