Our (Ill-Informed) Picks to Win the 2024 Tony Awards

Inappropriate nabbed an indisputable number of rave reviews but will it take home the gold? Is 2024 the year of Jonathan Groff? And what of Alicia Keys' semi-autobiographical musical, Hell's Kitchen? Jezebel weighs in!

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Our (Ill-Informed) Picks to Win the 2024 Tony Awards

On June 16, the 77th Tony Awards will convene a who’s who of very pretty, very creatively gifted people who—underneath all that pomp and circumstance—are just the theater kids you knew and probably hated in high school. If you’re anything like me, you have theater kid energy with none of the talent so, year after year, you settle for seeing as many productions in order to live vicariously through these dorks-cum-demigods.

Between Merrily We Roll Along, An Enemy of the People, Stereophonic, and The Outsiders, it was a very crowded season. Personally, I’m upset that Oh Mary! isn’t eligible (it would make a lot of these decisions a hell of a lot easier) but regardless, here are Jezebel’s predictions for the most competitive categories.

There’s a couple nominees that seem like locks and I’ve labeled them as such. I also took the liberty of adding my personal picks, despite my ill-informed, not-even-a-little-bit-of-a-theater-critic mind, as well as the dark horse contenders. Frankly, I don’t have the financial capability—nor the patience to walk through Times Square more than twice a month—to see all of the nominees, but my bank account has never stopped me from having an opinion on things I know little about, so here we go!


Best Musical

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The Nominees:

  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Illinoise
  • The Outsiders
  • Suffs
  • Water for Elephants

Bet on: Hell’s Kitchen. Given the production credits reads like a who’s who of music, it’s difficult to imagine this not taking it. Here’s a small sample of the soundtrack: Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Pharrell Williams, Drake, SIA, Swiss Beatz, Ryan Tedder, Johnny McDaid, and yes, Kanye “Ye” West (unfortunately). Critics have also described the vocals as being “titanic” and “powerhouse,” which certainly helps.

Would love to see it: llinoise. Hello, its source material is Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 concept album!

Dark Horse: The Outsiders. Now, not all that glitters is golden (Ponyboy) but never underestimate the power of Angelina Jolie, the show’s most famous producer. It says something that this was the first production this new kid on the Broadway block put her name on.

Best Play

 

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The Nominees:

  • Jaja’s African Hair Braiding
  • Mary Jane
  • Mother Play
  • Prayer For The French Republic
  • Stereophonic

Bet on: Unfortunately, Stereophonic. From the day it made its off-Broadway debut, it’s been every critic’s darling. Former New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley, for example, deemed it “hands-down the best American play since the pandemic.” That said, when I finally saw it in May, my expectations were every bit as high as I’d be if I inhaled all the production’s marijuana smoke. But what I found was yet another taxing retelling of a Fleetwood Mac dupe’s downfall. The accents (from Laurel Canyon stoner to pseudo-posh Brit) were distracting, the dialogue was at times astoundingly bad that it became difficult to follow, and the pacing was so laborious that I suspect it was why some attendees left early. In short, I spent the entire second act debating whether I was hungry enough to tackle The Caniac Combo afterward. I was.

Would love to see it: Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, because every other narrative in this category has been done and decorated before.

Dark Horse: Mother Play. Jessica Lange, the Michael Jordan of bad mother portrayals, portrays a bad mother. Enough said.

Best Costumes of a play/musical

Play:

  • Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Dede Ayite
  • Appropriate, Dede Ayite
  • Stereophonic, Enver Chakartash
  • Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch, Emilio Sosa
  • An Enemy of the People, David Zinn

Bet on: Stereophonic. In fairness to a largely unentertaining play, it semi-redeemed itself with the ensembles. This was not your Free People-adjacent depiction of seventies-era style. I could easily find any of the play’s paisley silk blouses or fading denim at my favorite vintage store. The costumes don’t feel like costumes, but rather lived-in extensions of each and every one of these utterly unlikeable characters.

Would love to see it: Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Dede Ayite. Again, because the costumes in this category have been done and decorated before. Dede Ayite has good odds here given she’s also nominated for Appropriate, where she made such exquisite use of feather extensions in Elle Fanning’s hair that they practically deserved program billing.

Dark Horse: An Enemy of the People, David Zinn. A Henrik Ibsen play is known for its dryness so an audience will definitely desire some glamour here. They won’t find it, but the tailoring is nice, as is looking at Jeremy Strong and Michael Imperioli.

Musical:

  • Hell’s Kitchen, Dede Ayite
  • The Great Gatsby, Linda Cho
  • Water for Elephants, David Israel Reynoso
  • Cabaret at the KitKat Club, Tom Scutt
  • Suffs, Paul Tazewell

Bet on: Cabaret at the KitKat Club. There are pastel feathers, mint furs, leather pantaloons, and cheese cloth-grade lingerie. What more do you want from a musical?

Would love to see it: Cabaret at the KitKat Club. I’d wear every piece of clothing on that stage.

Dark Horse: The Great Gatsby. Linda Cho had a menagerie of previous iterations of this work to contend with and yet, even though all the flapper dresses and drop waists could’ve felt done before (or dug from a Spirit Halloween bin), the ones on stage are objectively beautiful.

Best Actor

Play:

  • William Jackson Harper, Uncle Vanya
  • Leslie Odom Jr., Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch, Emilio Sosa
  • Liev Schreiber, Doubt, A Parable
  • Jeremy Strong, An Enemy of the People
  • Michael Stuhlberg, Patriots

Bet on: Jeremy Strong, An Enemy of the People. “Masterstroke casting is what the New Yorker called the eldest boy’s role. And that’s just a sample of the praise being written about Strong’s performance. Frankly, it’s no surprise. The source material is terribly serious so who better to deliver it than a man who unblinkingly used the term “dramaturgically” in an ordinary conversation?

Would love to see it: Michael Stuhlberg, Patriots. For the love of all that is holy, give this man something. Somehow, Stuhlberg hasn’t been nominated for a major award since 2011 despite a series of superb work—from Call Me By Your Name to Dopesick—in the last decade.

Dark Horse: Liev Schreiber, Doubt, A Parable. He’s already won a Tony for Glengarry Glen Ross so he’s certainly capable of taking another. Plus his performance is earning raves.

Musical:

 

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  • Brody Grant, The Outsiders
  • Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along
  • Dorian Harewood, The Notebook
  • Brian d’Arcy James, Days of Wine and Roses
  • Eddie Redmayne, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

Bet on: Jonathan Groff, Merrily We Roll Along. That Jonathan Groff has never taken home a Tony just doesn’t sit right with my spirit. Fortunately, 2024 is likely to be his year. His Franklin Shepard is one you hate, then despise, until you ultimately settle on something like love. The journey is a testament to the empathy that Groff elicits from you—even at his worst.

Would love to see it: Dorian Harewood, The Notebook. A Seventh Heaven alum! An Ohio legend! A devoted wife guy!

Dark horse: Brody Grant, The Outsiders. As Ponyboy Curtis, this newbie received an awful lot of buzz, like this Entertainment Weekly review that calls his performance “star-making.”

Best Actress

Play:

 

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  • Betsey Aidem, Prayer for the French Republic
  • Jessica Lange, Mother Play
  • Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane
  • Sarah Paulson, Appropriate
  • Amy Ryan, Doubt: A Parable

Bet on: Sarah Paulson, Appropriate. This, my friends, is what we call a Mother-Off. Between Paulson, Lange, and McAdams, I’m spoiled for choice here. However, Lange already won in 2016 for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and McAdams—while undeniably talented—is still a novice of the stage. Every moment of Paulson as the high-strung, harping, and—in the end—haplessly sad, Toni Lafayette, made a pitch-dark play, well, pitch-perfect. Give this Toni the Tony!

Would love to see it: Jessica Lange, Mother Play. See Best Play category.

Dark Horse: Rachel McAdams, Mary Jane. Again, McAdams’ Broadway career is still nascent but if her performance in Mary Jane is any indication of its promise, a Tony could—sooner than later—very well be hers. As the single parent of a seriously ill child, McAdams delivers a stirring, if not a tad quiet, portrayal of a woman doing the best she can to hold onto hope when life has given her every reason to let go. Regardless, I hope to see more of her on stage.

[Editors note: I saw Mary Jane and enjoyed McAdams but thought she overacted!]

Musical:

  • Eden Espinoza, Lempicka
  • Maleah Joi Moon, Hell’s Kitchen
  • Kelli O’Hara, Days of Wine and Roses
  • Maryann Plunkett, The Notebook
  • Gayle Rankin, Cabaret at the KitKat Club

Bet on: Days of Wine and Roses barely managed to generate much buzz among theater-goers but I think it’s safe to say that Kelli O’Hara is a perennial favorite regardless.

Would love to see it: Gayle Rankin, Cabaret at the KitKat Club. I’ve been a fan of the Scottish actress since Glow and I appreciate that she embraces roles that the average actor would likely shy away from.

Dark Horse: Hell’s Kitchen is Moon’s Broadway debut, plus she has one of those “just when I was ready to give up…” stories that we all know and love. Earning not just a Tony nomination but a spot on the New York Times 2023 Theater Artists to Watch This Fall list, on one’s first go-around usually bodes well for the recipient.

Best Revival

Play:

  • An Enemy of the People
  • Appropriate
  • Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Bet on: An Enemy of the People. It has all the elements of a winner. It’s garnered universal acclaim by critics and audiences, so much so that it extended its run. The entire cast—from Strong to Michael Imperioli to Victoria Pedretti—turns in impressive performances. And it has a functioning bar where revelers can take shots.

Would love to see it: Appropriate. I guffawed. I gasped. I felt grateful I no longer speak to most of my extended family. This play takes its audience on the most unhinged ride of any other production on Broadway right now. I’ve never had so much fun white-knuckling my way a play.

Dark horse: Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch. It’s been well-received and its anchor (the formidable Leslie Odom Jr.) is never not sublime, but this is a stiff, celebrity-dense category. I fear it doesn’t stand much of a chance.

Musical:

  • Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club
  • Gutenberg! The Musical!
  • Merrily We Roll Along
  • The Who’s Tommy

Bet on: Merrily We Roll Along. Top-Sondheim! Top-Cast Chemistry! Top-grosser!

Would love to see it: Merrily We Roll Along. It’s that good.

Dark horse: Literally everything else in this category.

Best Original Score

  • Days of Wine and Roses, Adam Guettel
  • Here Lies Love, David Byrne
  • The Outsiders, Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine
  • Stereophonic, Will Butler
  • Suffs, Shaina Taub

Bet on: Stereophonic. Arcade Fire’s Will Butler wrote all of it, therefore, by default, it’s the best thing about this production.

Would love to see it: Stereophonic. Every time these characters actually played their instruments (spoiler alert: not often enough), I sat up straighter.

Dark Horse: Here Lies Love. All of the music was produced by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim which is to say, it slaps.

The 77th Tony Awards are Sunday, June 16 at 8 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on CBS.

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