With no one show dominating the conversation as in the past, with musicals like "Hamilton" or "Dear Evan Hansen," the nominations this year are more of a toss-up. If the past is any guide, last year's big winner was the adult musical "The Band's Visit," which elbowed past goofier ("SpongeBob SquarePants") and crowd-pleasing ("Frozen") competition.
Other contestants in the 11 new musicals hoping to score a nomination in the best musical category are "Ain't Too Proud," the jukebox show built around songs by The Temptations; "Beetlejuice," adapted from the Tim Burton film; and "The Prom," a heartwarming, giddy show.
If "Tootsie" pulls it off, the nomination would be a step closer for composer and lyricist David Yazbek to get back-to-back wins. His show "The Band's Visit" won best new musical last year. Songwriter Eddie Perfect made a splash on Broadway this season, marking his debut with two shows that may be in contention for Tonys: "Beetlejuice" and "King Kong." Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell also made her Broadway debut with "Hadestown," which intertwines the myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone.
The season saw strong plays — 14 new ones — including the Northern Irish drama "The Ferryman" from Jez Butterworth; Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird"; Heidi Schreck's personal tour of American history in "What the Constitution Means to Me"; "Hillary and Clinton," the story of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign; the stage adaptation of "Network"; the Rupert Murdoch play "Ink"; and Taylor Mac's Broadway debut "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus."
Likely contenders for best play actor nominations include Bryan Cranston in "Network," Tracy Letts in Arthur Miller's classic "All My Sons" and Jeff Daniels from "To Kill a Mockingbird." Other possibilities include John Lithgow ("Hillary and Clinton"), Adam Driver ("Burn This"), Daniel Radcliffe ("The Lifespan of a Fact") and Ethan Hawke ("True West").
Likely contenders for best play actress nominations include Glenda Jackson in "King Lear," Elaine May in "The Waverly Gallery," Laurie Metcalf in "Hillary and Clinton" and Annette Bening in "All My Sons."
If Metcalf gets a nod and wins the Tony this year, she will make history as the first actor to win acting Tonys three years consecutively. (She won in 2018's "Three Tall Women" and "A Doll's House, Part 2" in 2017).
A sweet "Kiss Me, Kate" and a dark "Oklahoma!" will make up the best musical revival category, mostly because they're the only eligible nominees. The best play revival will probably be led by "All My Sons," ''The Waverly Gallery," ''Burn This" and "The Boys in the Band."
Among the likely nominees for best leading man in a musical are Santino Fontana from "Tootsie," Alex Brightman in "Beetlejuice," Reeve Carney from "Hadestown" and Will Chase in "Kiss Me, Kate." Kelli O'Hara in "Kiss Me, Kate," Stephanie J. Block for "The Cher Show," Beth Leavel from "The Prom" and Eva Noblezada in "Hadestown" are the leading contenders for nods in the leading musical actress category.
Plenty of nominations don't necessarily lead to actual wins on Tony night. While "Hamilton" was nominated for 16 awards in 2016 and went on to win 11, the show "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" earned a leading 12 nominations in 2017 but got just two technical awards on the big night.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits