By Donalevan Maines
Broadway boasts a bonanza of new musicals this season, but the belle of the ball at the Tony Awards should be that old broad, Bette Midler.
The Divine Miss M stars opposite out Tony winner David Hyde Pierce in the Big Apple’s hottest ticket, a revival of Hello, Dolly! that’s nominated for 10 Tony hosannas.
Theater critic Ben Brantley of the New York Times calls Midler “Beyoncé for the old folks.”
Midler not winning Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical would rate as big of a surprise as the gay-themed Moonlight beating La La Land in this year’s Oscar Best Picture snafu.
The Tony nominating committee was in no mood for surprises, but perhaps the bulk of the voters will shake things up when Kevin Spacey hosts the honors at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 11 on CBS-TV, live from Radio City Music Hall.
Other nominees in Midler’s category are two two-time Tony winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole as rivals Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, in War Paint, and two first-timers on Broadway, Denée Benton in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and Eva Noblezada in a revival of Miss Saigon.
Hyde Pierce, as Horace Vandergelder, is up for Best Actor in a Musical, along with pop balladeer Josh Groban (The Great Comet), Andy Karl (Groundhog Day), young Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen), and Christian Borle as a gay man in the long-awaited revival of Falsettos.
The most-nominated show is the visually stunning (and some would say “simplistic”) Great Comet, which is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It faces off against the YA musical Dear Evan Hansen, which was composed by La La Land Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Hoping to split the difference is a dark horse, Come From Away, which got two thumbs up from Ivanka Trump and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau when they famously attended it together, with U.N. ambassador Nikki R. Haley, in March.
Come From Away, which is nominated for ever Best Musical award of the 2016-17 Broadway season, is set in the remote Newfoundland village of Gander, where 7,000 air travelers were rerouted in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Oslo, another show with international ties, appears to be the frontrunner for Best Play, fending off Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, which stars Laurie Metcalf from TV’s Roseanne as Henrik Ibsen’s fierce feminist Nora. Other nominees are the Broadway debuts of two female Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights, lesbian Paula Vogel’s Indecent and African-American Lynn Nottage’s Sweat.
Marquee names among this year’s acting nominees include Oscar winners Sally Field (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play as Amanda in yet another revival of A Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams), Cate Blanchett (same category, in The Present), Chris Cooper (Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play as Torvald in A Doll’s House, Part 2) and Kevin Kline (same category, in Present Laughter by Noël Coward); Emmy Award-winning co-stars Laura Linney and out actress Cynthia Nixon in The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman; and Emmy/Golden Globe winner Danny Devito in Arthur Miller’s The Price.
Out actor Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!) Andrew Rannells is the favorite for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Falsettos, while Nathan Lane and Richard Thomas are featured-actor nominees in plays.
Condola Rashad, the daughter of Houston’s Tony-winning Phylicia Rashad, is up for Best Featured Actress in a Play as Emmy in A Doll’s House, Part 2.
Corey Hawkins, who appears nude in the revival of out author John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, is a nominee for Best Leading Actor in a Play.
Dallas Theater Center will receive the regional theater Tony Award.
Last year’s Tony Awards ceremony was held just hours after the late-night terrorist/hate-crime attack inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.