For theatergoers, the Tony Awards ceremony always arouses more interest and offers more entertainment than Hollywood's Oscars, television's Emmys, or the music industry's Grammys.
The 69th annual Tony Awards will honor the biggest and best of Broadway performers and productions on Sunday, returning to Radio City Music Hall after a two year absence.
Neil Patrick Harris will host this year's ceremony telecast on CBS at 8 p.m.
Tom Hanks is seen in “Lucky Guy.” Hanks is nominated for Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in the show.
This year's nominations generated a few surprises and lots of omissions. Most notably, Broadway purists are probably chuckling over the number of Hollywood big-names whose names did not end up on the ballot.
Although superstar Tom Hanks, making his Broadway debut, was nominated for "Lucky Guy," with perennial favorite Nathan Lane for "The Nance," and David Hyde Pierce for "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" grabbing nominations, other leading Hollywood "stars" did not fare so well.
Omitted as "Leading Actor in a Play" were Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin. Ladies left off the ballot include Jessica Chastain, Sigourney Weaver, Katie Holmes, Scarlett Johansson and Bette Midler, with the Divine Miss M the biggest snub after glowing reviews for her one woman show "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers."
The biggest surprise is that the four young girls who rotate the title role in "Matilda" were ruled ineligible to jointly share the nomination as Best Actress in a Musical.
The American Theatre Wing overturned the nominating committee's decision, no doubt largely based upon the commotion prompted by allowing the three boys who rotated the role of "Billy Elliot" to jointly share the nomination.
Another surprise is that "Matilda the Musical" did not swamp the competition after the British import chalked up superb reviews and massive box office receipts on both sides of the Atlantic. While "Matilda" got 12 nominations, surprisingly "Kinky Boots" received 13 nods.
Not too many sure-fire winners in this year's competition. Only Cicely Tyson as the aged lady making a return "Trip To Bountiful" has won audiences' and critics' hearts, making her a shoo-in for a tony as Best Actress in A Play.
With a peek into my crystal ball, slightly fogged over in recent weeks, here are few loosely-speaking predictions of who will win and who should win in some hotly contested races:
LEADING ACTOR, PLAY - Will Win: Tom Hanks for "Lucky Guy." Should Win: Broadway veteran for the revival of "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf."
LEADING ACTOR, MUSICAL - Will Win: Bertie Carvel (that's a guy!) for "Matilda." Should Win: Billy Porter (in drag queen attire) for ""Kinky Boots."
LEADING ACTRESS, MUSICAL - Although five solid performances, the race boils down to two singing actresses.
Will Win: Patina Miller (in the Ben Vereen narrator role) in "Pippin." Should Win: Laura Osnes for "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella."
BEST MUSICAL - Two nominees that will not win are "Bring It On: The Musical" and "A Christmas Story: The Musical" as both have closed although "A Christmas Story" will return next winter as a seasonal attraction. Will Win: "Matilda" as fine family fare. Should Win: "Kinky Boots." Just because.
BEST REVIVAL, MUSICAL - Will Win: "Pippin." Should Win: "Pippin." Imaginative staging with lots of acrobatic performers in a circus-like atmosphere.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS, MUSICAL - In this category, a couple of grandmothers" will battle it out. Victoria Clark as the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella" will likely lose out to "Saturday Night Live" favorite Andrea Martin as the wise grandmother in "Pippin."
One final note as to obtaining tickets. Upper, upper balcony tickets to see the Tony awards inside Radio City Music Hall are available. But the ceremony will also be telecast on the Jumbotron screen in Times Square, which should be equally festive - and free.
But seeing the Tony Awards presentation in Times Square may not be as dramatic as another presentation made there on May 25. Details to follow!