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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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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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”).
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.
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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