NEW YORK — One tip-off that this season on Broadway has been unique is that two of the top musicals had coffins prominently onstage. The season also had royalty, from the current British queen to Henry VIII and the King of Siam. There were trained ballet dancers and hard-core puppet sex. And William Shakespeare was mocked as a rump-wiggling word thief. The Associated Press tries to predict some of this year's Tony Award winners.
Will win: "An American in Paris." Should win: "Fun Home."
Tony voters had almost polar opposite shows to pick from for the biggest crown — a small, intimate jewel and a big, lush, sumptuous gem. Both represent Broadway at its best. But "An American in Paris" has what everyone who goes to theater wants — superb dancing, great sets, known songs and zest. "Fun Home" is the show that will linger longer but its rival is safer to vote for.
Will win: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." Should win: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
Sometimes it's hard to remember that this British import is a play and not a musical, such is the swirling, beautifully kaleidoscopic series of scenes. It is the only play that got a Tony nod for choreography, after all. The sheer audacity of adapting Mark Haddon's best-selling novel is astonishing but what emerged is even better.
Will win: "The Elephant Man." Should win: "The Elephant Man."
"The Elephant Man" and "Skylight" are worthy front-runners in this category for their brilliant casts. Both have been celebrated in New York and London. But the edge goes to the show with Bradley Cooper, who got really downright raw.
Will win: "The King and I." Should win: "On the Town."
These two — together with a great "On the Twentieth Century" — were perfect revivals this season, going beyond musty nostalgia to offer fresh, beautiful takes on some favorite musicals. Pity the voters who have to pick a winner here.
Will win: Bradley Cooper. Should win: Bradley Cooper.
One of the hunkiest actors around should win the Tony for being ugly. Cooper stripped down both physically and emotionally to play a disfigured man and remind us about our obsession with celebrity culture. Ben Miles was unstoppable in six hours of "Wolf Hall" and Bill Nighy was at his sardonic best in "Skylight," but Cooper risked the most.
Will win: Helen Mirren. Should win: Geneva Carr.
Look, Mirren is the queen of playing the queen. She knows the role, every nuance and tick and arched eyebrow. She's wonderful in "The Audience." But Carr is ferocious in "Hand of God" as a widow with a son being bullied by a satanic sock puppet. Carey Mulligan in "Skylight" and Ruth Wilson in "Constellations" both were sublime in their shows, but Carr threw herself into her role with an astonishing abandonment.
Will win: Michael Cerveris. Should win: Michael Cerveris.
Cerveris as the doomed father in "Fun Home" is amazing to watch, with layers of pain fighting under his placid expression. Tony Yazbeck in "On the Town" and Robert Fairchild in "An American in Paris" are both sheer joy as they dance and sing, but it's Cerveris' inner torment that helps make this powerfully unforgettable.
Will win: Kelli O'Hara. Should win: Kelli O'Hara.
O'Hara's role as the stubborn, strong school teacher in "The King and I" was blissfully sung and acted, a tour de force. Sure, Kristin Chenoweth in "On the Twentieth Century" was superbly quirky, and Chita Rivera was regal and chilly in "The Visit." But both those women have Tonys and O'Hara really needs to have one after a few years of exceptional work.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits