A few reasons Ohio should be proud at the Tony Awards

Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi in ?Hello, Dolly!? at the Shubert Theater, in New York, April 15, 2017. The genius of casting Midler as Dolly, a widow who decides to rejoin life by marrying the rich and curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder, is that she built her career on making nostalgia hip. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
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Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi in ?Hello, Dolly!? at the Shubert Theater, in New York, April 15, 2017. The genius of casting Midler as Dolly, a widow who decides to rejoin life by marrying the rich and curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder, is that she built her career on making nostalgia hip. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

Without “Hamilton” basking in the spotlight, the 71st annual Tony Awards airing Sunday, June 11, from New York’s Radio City Music Hall will reflect a broader slate befitting what was a remarkably strong 2016-17 season on Broadway.

The dazzlingly sophisticated and superbly designed “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” a lively musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” impressively leads the pack with 12 nominations. Other major contenders include the blockbuster revival of “Hello, Dolly!” (10 nominations), relevant social media-infused musical “Dear Evan Hansen” (9 nominations), Henrik Ibsen-inspired drama “A Doll’s House: Part 2” (8 nominations), and crowd-pleasing musicals “Groundhog Day” and “Come From Away” (7 nominations each).

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Kevin Spacey at the Juilliard School in New York, May 29, 2017. Spacey has had a busy spring, starring in another season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, preparing to host the Tony Awards and showing his stage roots with a performance as Clarence Darrow — in a tennis stadium. (Ryan Pfluger/The New York Times)
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Kevin Spacey at the Juilliard School in New York, May 29, 2017. Spacey has had a busy spring, starring in another season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, preparing to host the Tony Awards and showing his stage roots with a performance as Clarence Darrow — in a tennis stadium. (Ryan Pfluger/The New York Times)

Here are five things to keep in mind regarding this year’s telecast, hosted by Tony Award and two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”).

In this March 29, 2017 photo, Allison Janney poses for a portrait in New York. Janney, who won Emmy Awards for her work in “The West Wing” and “Mom,” is starring in a Broadway revival of “Six Degrees of Separation.” (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
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In this March 29, 2017 photo, Allison Janney poses for a portrait in New York. Janney, who won Emmy Awards for her work in “The West Wing” and “Mom,” is starring in a Broadway revival of “Six Degrees of Separation.” (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)

OHIO REPRESENTED

A handful of nominated shows this year feature artists with ties to Ohio. In addition to seven-time Emmy Award winner and Dayton native Allison Janney starring in Best Revival of a Play nominee “Six Degrees of Separation,” Academy Award and 10-time Grammy Award winner John Legend of Springfield is an associate producer of Best Revival of a Play nominee “Jitney,” Cedarville University graduate and former “Survivor” contestant Josh Canfield is in the ensemble of “Natasha…,” Tony winner and Cincinnati native Andy Blankenbuehler (“Hamilton”) is nominated for choreographing new musical “Bandstand,” and Findlay native Gavin Creel is a Best Featured Actor in a Musical frontrunner as Cornelius Hackl in “Hello, Dolly!”

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Musician John Legend performs onstage during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Musician John Legend performs onstage during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

NOTABLE DIVERSITY

Last year, the four musical acting categories were won by African-Americans. History will not repeat itself this year, but there’s something to be said about the scope of diversity within the nominations nonetheless. The marvelously acted production of the aforementioned “Jitney,” August Wilson’s chronicling of the African-American experience in the 1970s, received six nominations and is a frontrunner for Best Revival of a Play.

Also, Denée Benton (“Natasha…”) and Eva Noblezada (“Miss Saigon”) were duly recognized in the Best Leading Actress in a Musical field, and Rachel Chavkin could become only the fourth woman to win Best Direction of a Musical for her thrillingly atmospheric staging of “Natasha…”

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COMPETITIVE CATEGORIES

Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House Part 2” is the most-nominated play, but it’s not a shoo-in to win Best Play in particular. In fact, J.T. Rogers’ “Oslo,” a highly praised work about the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Sweat,” a compelling examination of race and economics in America’s rust belt, are equally worthy.

Other showdowns include Best Leading Actress in a Play’s Laura Linney (“The Little Foxes”) vs. Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House: Part 2”) and Best Leading Actor in a Musical’s Andy Karl (“Groundhog Day”) vs. Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen”). Be sure to watch the final and most suspenseful category of the night: Best Musical. It’s anybody guess as to whether or not voters will reward opulent exuberance (“Natasha…”), character-driven drama (“Dear Evan Hansen”), screen-to-stage savvy (“Groundhog Day”) or feel-good optimism (“Come From Away”).

STAR PRESENTERS

You can always count on the Tonys for star power and this year’s lineup of celebrity presenters will not disappoint. The roster includes nominees such as Sally Field (“The Glass Menagerie”) and Josh Groban (“Natasha…”) in addition to Orlando Bloom, Glenn Close, Cynthia Erivo, Tina Fey, Sutton Foster, Whoopi Goldberg, Taraji P. Henson, Scarlett Johansson, John Lithgow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sarah Paulson, and the aforementioned Janney and Legend among others.

From left: Kate Baldwin, Bette Midler, Beanie Feldstein and Taylor Trensch in the revival of the musical “Hello Dolly” at the Shubert Theater in New York, April 15, 2017. There is still time for a change of plans, but at the moment it appears unlikely that Midler, one of the biggest stars of the current Broadway season, will be singing during the June 11, 2017 CBS broadcast of the Tony awards. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
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From left: Kate Baldwin, Bette Midler, Beanie Feldstein and Taylor Trensch in the revival of the musical “Hello Dolly” at the Shubert Theater in New York, April 15, 2017. There is still time for a change of plans, but at the moment it appears unlikely that Midler, one of the biggest stars of the current Broadway season, will be singing during the June 11, 2017 CBS broadcast of the Tony awards. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

ALL ABOUT BETTE

The legendary Bette Midler’s highly anticipated return to the Great White Way has become a must-see event. Although she received a special Tony in 1974 for “adding luster to the Broadway season,” Midler is sure to win her first competitive Tony for her critically acclaimed portrayal of meddlesome matchmaker Dolly Levi. At this point, it’s safe to say “Hello, Dolly!” wouldn’t have been one of the hottest tickets of the season without her. Her acceptance speech (preceded by a possible standing ovation) will likely be a huge highlight of the evening.


How to Watch

WHAT: 71st annual Tony Awards, hosted by Kevin Spacey

WHERE: New York's Radio City Music Hall

TIME: 8 p.m. on CBS