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Category-By-Category Using Math – The Hollywood Reporter

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To Washington Heights we go. The Tony Awards head to a new venue this year, the United Palace, but the excitement of honoring the year’s best in theater is the same as ever. If, like me, you can’t wait for Sunday night’s event to begin, that’s where math can come in.

Similar to the Oscars, I’ve built a mathematical model to predict the Tonys in all 26 categories, based on a combination of which categories a show is nominated in, the aggregated predictions of various Broadway critics, and the results of the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Awards. The model is trained on historical Tony Awards data over the past quarter-century — inputs that have done a better job of predicting each category in the past get more weight in this year’s predictions. In some years, the favorites will dominate, like the final pre-pandemic Tonys when 22 of the 26 mathematical favorites took home prizes. In other years, we’ll have more upsets. Here’s a category-by-category look at the percentages:

Best Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Play bar chart

Tom Stoppard is already a four-time winner for best play, taking home top honors for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, The Real Thing, and The Coast of Utopia. No one else has won more than twice, so Stoppard could more than double all other playwrights if he wins for Leopoldstadt, the story of a Jewish family in Vienna facing rising antisemitism in the first half of the 20th century.

Best Revival of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Revival of a Play bar chart

Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge are the only two shows to win best revival of a play for two separate revivals. A Doll’s House already won this category in 1997, so a win here would put Henrik Ibsen’s play in that exclusive club. If not A Doll’s House, look to Topdog/Underdog as the most likely winner.

Leading Actor in a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Leading Actor in a Play bar chart

In Good Night, Oscar, Sean Hayes plays the titular character of Oscar Levant, in the true story of his 1958 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Parr. The show itself went 0-for-6 at the Emmys all those decades ago, but Hayes is hoping to put his portrayal of it in the win column.

Leading Actress in a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Lead Actress in a Play bar chart

Prolific stage and screen star Jessica Chastain finally won her first Oscar just last year for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and the math favors her to follow that up with her first Tony win for A Doll’s House. But to get there, she’ll have to beat Jodie Comer, the star of the one-woman play, Prima Facie.

Featured Actor in a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Featured Actor in a Play bar chart

Of all eight acting categories, this one has the biggest frontrunner: Brandon Uranowitz, who takes on multiple roles in Leopoldstadt, has nearly a 2-in-3 shot to win best featured actor in a play. He was bolstered by wins from both the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle Awards.

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Featured Actress in a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Featured Actress in a Play bar chart

Tony voters were kinder to Miriam Silverman (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window) than her two better-known co-stars in Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan, who missed out on nominations entirely. Now, statistics favors Silverman to do one better and win the category, with a 37 percent chance.

Direction of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Direction of a Play bar chart

The model isn’t very confident in the direction categories. There is somewhat of a connection between best play and best director of a play, so it gives a slight edge to Patrick Marber (Leopoldstadt), but don’t count out Max Webster (Life of Pi). For what it’s worth, the film version of Life of Pi won a directing Oscar without winning best picture.

Costume Design of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Costume Design of a Play bar chart

Emilio Sosa is nominated twice, for Ain’t No Mo’ and Good Night Oscar, but even his combined probability is still just a tad below Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s odds for Leopoldstadt heading into Tony weekend.

Lighting Design of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Lighting Design of a Play bar chart

The West End staging of Life of Pi took home the lighting design category at the Olivier Awards for transforming an indoor stage to the wide open high seas, and now the American version has a 32 percent chance to do the same.

Scenic Design of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Scenic Design of a Play bar chart

Another craft category, another Life of Pi frontrunner, this one by a bigger margin. This show is arguably the most unique setting of all the nominees, and we’ll see if Tony voters think that Andrzej Goulding and Tim Hatley did a good enough job with it to deserve a scenic design trophy.

Sound Design of a Play

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Sound Design of a Play bar chart

The math sees sound design of a play as an extremely close category. All three of the top nominees are strong contenders and popular picks. The math leans towards Outer Critics Circle winner A Christmas Carol, but I wouldn’t fault someone for arguing that any one of those top three deserves the title of frontrunner.

Best Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Musical bar chart

Kimberly Akimbo is the popular pick, and it did indeed win a host of accolades for its original off-Broadway run. But I’m afraid some people are sleeping on Some Like It Hot, the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle winner with a whopping 13 nominations to its name. This could easily go either way.

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Best Revival of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Revival of a Musical bar chart

The original run of Parade was nominated for best musical in 1999, but lost to Fosse. The revival looks set to finish the job, but both Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd sit in double-digit percentages as well.

Leading Actor in a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Leading Actor in a Musical bar chart

J. Harrison Ghee (Some Like It Hot) and Alex Newell (Shucked) already made history as the first openly non-binary actors nominated at the Tony Awards. And now, both of them are set to make even more history – Ghee in the leading category and Newell in the featured category – should the mathematical favorites win.

Leading Actress in a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Leading Actress in a Musical bar chart

Kimberly Akimbo has a chance to sweep the two actress categories, if Victoria Clark and Bonnie Milligan both win. It would become the 14th musical to do that, and the first since The King and I eight years ago.

Featured Actor in a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Featured Actor in a Musical bar chart

As mentioned in the section on leading actor, Alex Newell could be set for a historic victory. Intriguingly, both J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell have to go up against cast members from their own show (in Newell’s case, Kevin Cahoon). But, two of the last three featured actor in a musical winners successfully overcame that hurdle.

Featured Actress in a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Featured Actress in a Musical bar chart

A bit surprisingly, it’s been six years since a show won both best musical and best featured actress in a musical, when Rachel Bay Jones and Dear Evan Hansen accomplished the feat. Bonnie Milligan and Kimberly Akimbo are favored to join that group.

Direction of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Direction of a Musical bar chart

Unsurprisingly, best direction of a musical looks like it’s coming down to the frontrunners for best musical and best musical revival: Kimberly Akimbo (Jessica Stone) and Parade (Michael Arden). The math gives the slight edge, just 2.5 percent, to Jessica Stone.

Costume Design of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Costume Design of a Musical bar chart

Gregg Barnes had a great starting point for his costumes for Some Like It Hot: The film version won Orry-Kelly his third Oscar for best costume design. Then Barnes took the black-and-white original and ran with it, adding splashes of color to bring the 1930s into the present. He has a 58 percent chance to win for his work.

Lighting Design of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Lighting Design of a Musical bar chart

Natasha Katz continues to dominate this category. Already armed with wins for Once, An American in Paris, and just last year, MJ, she sits in pole position with Sweeney Todd. One of her toughest competitors? Natasha Katz, the lighting designer for Some Like It Hot.

Scenic Design of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Scene Design of a Musical bar chart

Scenic design for New York, New York is no easy task: there’s no scene more familiar to Tony voters, most of whom call New York City home, and the real thing sits just outside the doors of the St. James Theatre. Beowulf Boritt brought the city’s exteriors alive indoors, and has a 58 percent chance to win the Tony for it.

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Sound Design of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Sound Design of a Musical bar chart

A second straight win for New York, New York? It could be, but the model isn’t nearly so confident on this one. & Juliet and Sweeney Todd both sit above 20 percent as well, making this the toughest of the design categories to predict.

Best Book of a Musical

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Book of a Musical bar chart

Don’t use best book of a musical as your bathroom break. This is another close one between Kimberly Akimbo and Some Like It Hot, just like the top prize, so whoever wins this award could offer a real clue as to which show is favored to win the night’s last award.

Best Choreography

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Choreography bar chart

Casey Nicholaw has been up for best choreography six times, but despite some very worthy work, he’s come up short all six of them. Lucky number seven, for Some Like It Hot? The math says that the seventh time might be the charm, but look out for four-time winner Susan Stroman and New York, New York.

Best Orchestrations

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Orchestrations bar chart

The closest category of them all: Some Like It Hot and Shucked are separated by just 0.4 percent for best orchestrations. I don’t consider the model to be exact enough given the limited data to truly reach this level of accuracy, so for all intents and purposes, this one’s a tie.

Best Original Score

Mathematical Tonys Predictions 2023 - Best Original Score bar chart

With our last category, it’s a fifth predicted win for Some Like It Hot. If, hypothetically, every single category went according to math, Some Like It Hot would become only the second show in the last decade to win five or more awards without winning one of the four Best Show categories (along with A Christmas Carol).

***

Of course, the odds of every category going exactly according to the statistics are extremely small. Upsets happen every year. And that, along with the thrilling performances and moving speeches, is exactly why we all can’t wait to tune in.

Ben Zauzmer (@BensOscarMath) uses data to write about awards shows for The Hollywood Reporter. He is an Assistant General Manager with the New York Mets.





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