Tonys 2009: Who will win? |


Tonys 2009: Who will win?

Melissa Rose Bernardo tells us who she thinks will be taking home the prize in every category on Broadway's biggest night

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

A month ago, no one thought that Rock of Ages would get five Tony nominations (including one for hair-tossing American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis!). Or that DreamWorks’ swamp-dwelling Shrek would come away with eight nods, including Best Musical. Hey, sometimes our crystal balls are fuzzy. (Back in January, the media were forecasting nothing but gloom and doom for Broadway. Now that 43 productions have opened this season, they’re singing a slightly different tune.) But that won’t stop us from taking a crack at predicting the winners of the 2009 Tonys. Tune in June 7 to see how we did; Neil Patrick Harris hosts the festivities at Radio City Music Hall, broadcast live on CBS from 8 to 11 p.m.

Dividing the Estate, by Horton Foote
God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza
reasons to be pretty, by Neil LaBute
33 Variations, by Moisés Kaufman
Winner: God of Carnage
Possible spoiler: reasons to be pretty
Carnage is fast, funny, short, and relatively snappy. And while it isn’t quite as taut as Art, Reza’s 1998 Tony winner for Best Play, it’s a fine play made even better by a top-drawer cast — Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini, all nominated — and Matthew Warchus’ masterful direction. But the provocative pretty — though it will likely close soon after the Tony telecast — has many fans; it’s a new American play and it got terrific reviews.

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical
Winner: Billy Elliot
Possible spoiler: Next to Normal
They both have rich characters, compelling stories, and terrific music. And Normal is wholly original, while Billy is based on the 2000 film. So how does Billy have the edge? It’s big — and not in a showy, falling-chandelier way. In a chorus-of-ballerinas, massive-production-number, dancing-curtain-call way. And — with few exceptions (most notably, Avenue Q beating Wicked) — the bigger show usually wins.

Billy Elliot, The Musical (Lee Hall)
Next to Normal (Brian Yorkey)
Shrek The Musical (David Lindsay-Abaire)
[Title of Show] (Hunter Bell)
Winner: Billy Elliot
Possible spoiler: Next to Normal
Some argue that Hall shouldn’t win because he was working from his own Oscar-nominated screenplay. Didn’t Yorkey have the tougher job, crafting something entirely from scratch — particularly centering on the supersensitive topic of mental illness? But Hall did the most work — more than director Stephen Daldry, more than composer Elton John — in bringing Billy to the stage. Without his book — the bones of the piece — Billy wouldn’t fly. Plus, there’s another way to reward Yorkey, and that is…

Billy Elliot, The Musical (Music: Elton John; Lyrics: Lee Hall)
Next to Normal (Music: Tom Kitt; Lyrics: Brian Yorkey)
9 to 5: The Musical (Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton)
Shrek The Musical (Music: Jeanine Tesori; Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire)
Winner: Next to Normal
Possible spoiler: Billy Elliot
Fair warning — I’m going out on a limb here. Book and Score tend to go together, but a split isn’t so strange — it happened last year when Passing Strange won book and In the Heights won score. Honestly, I think voters are going to want to reward Next to Normal. It’s rock, it’s pop, it’s country, it's spectacular. And if I’m being honest, it gets much more play in my iPod than Billy. That said — Billy is Elton John’s best score to date. He may have won a Tony in 2000 for Aida, but Billy truly establishes him as a musical-theater composer. (As for 9 to 5 and Shrek: Dolly got a nom just for being Dolly, and though Shrek is smarter than you’d expect, it doesn’t have much drive.)

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