Democracy; Doubt; Gem of the Ocean; The Pillowman Should & Will Win Doubt. John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer winner is the tightest, truest play in a category full of bold but diffuse experiments.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; The Light in the Piazza; Monty Python's Spamalot; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Should Win Bee may be slight, but we're suckers for its pure, off-kilter joy. Will Win Spamalot. Dissenters will be ridden out of town on a grail.
Best Actress in a Play
Cherry Jones, Doubt; Laura Linney, Sight Unseen; Mary-Louise Parker, Reckless; Phylicia Rashad, Gem of the Ocean; Kathleen Turner, Virginia Woolf Should & Will Win As a nun consumed by suspicions, Jones embodies certainty without losing nuance. Turner may come close, but on June 5, it'll be Cherry on top.
Best Actor in a Play
Philip Bosco, Twelve Angry Men; Billy Crudup, The Pillowman; Bill Irwin, Virginia Woolf; James Earl Jones, On Golden Pond; Brían F. O'Byrne, Doubt Should Win Irwin's George is a triumph of cornered, beta-male savagery, and a perfect parry to Turner's pitiless thrust. Will Win O'Byrne, a winner last year as a child killer in Frozen, gives voice to another morally obscure man (an accused priest) in the year's most celebrated play.
Best Actress in a Musical
Christina Applegate, Sweet Charity; Victoria Clark, The Light in the Piazza; Erin Dilly, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Sutton Foster, Little Women; Sherie Rene Scott, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Should & Will Win Clark's natural honesty, as a mother discovering and disciplining her inner romantic, smooths Light's conceptual lumpiness.
Best Actor in a Musical
Hank Azaria, Spamalot; Gary Beach, La Cage aux Folles; Norbert Leo Butz, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Tim Curry, Spamalot; John Lithgow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Should & Will Win Butz, who works wonders with Dirty's crass comedy. And they'll want to say ''Butz'' on TV. Or are we projecting?