Tonight is the 66th annual Tony Awards, the American Theatre Wings' most glamorous night of the Broadway season.
Telecast by CBS at 8 p.m. from the Beacon Theatre on upper Broadway, the 2012 Tony Awards honor the biggest and brightest of the Great White Way with Neil Patrick Harris in his third stint as host.
For avid theatregoers, the Tony Awards (named after co-founder of the American Theatre Wing and benefactor Antoinette Perry) deliver more entertainment than Hollywood's Oscars, television's Emmys or recording industry's Grammy Awards.
Unlike last year when "The Book of Mormon" took the lion's share of the awards, this year promises to share the wealth in the major categories with no dominating monster hit.
BEST MUSICAL: The nominees are "Once" (which led all plays and musicals with 11 nominations), "Newsies," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Leap of Faith."
The likely winner will be either the critically acclaimed "Once" or the popular box office hit "Newsies," both adapted from movies. "Once" is a low-tech musical set in Dublin that follows a one- week romance between a Czech flower girl and an Irish street musician. "Newsies" is Disney's production based upon the 1992 film flop about turn-of-the-century paperboys leading a strike against media barons.
BEST PLAY: With mostly unfamiliar titles, the nominees are: "Peter and the Starcatcher" (with nine nominations) "Clybourne Park," "Other Desert Cities" and "Venus in Fur". Supposedly, the projected winner is "Clybourne Park," a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Olivier (England's equivalent of the Tony), which examines race relations, real estate and the roots of change in today's Chicago.
BEST REVIVAL: In the Best Play revival category, the nominees are: "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman," "Gore Vidal's The Best Man," "Master Class" and "Wit." Inquiring minds want to know not which play will win but why has it become necessary to include the playwright's name in the title. Some of us know that novelist Gore Vidal penned the political thriller "The Best Man" and just about all of us folks know that Arthur Miller was married to Marilyn Monroe and wrote the classic "Death of a Salesman." Just saying!
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL: The nominees are: "Evita," "Follies," "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" - there you go again with the name prefix! At least we're spared the boys' first names as the title could have read "George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess." Apparently neither Stephen Sondheim nor Andrew Lloyd Weber demanded that their names be tacked on to "Follies" and "Evita," respectively.
The sure-fire winner, according to my oldest daughter, as Best Featured Actor in a Musical is Michael Cerveris in "Evita." Having seen every play that Cerveris has appeared in since "Titantic," Kirsten Felix Burkhart extols Cerveris' portrayal of Juan Peron. Even more so, she thanks the Tony gods who omitted pretty boy Ricky Martin playing Che from snagging a Best Featured Actor nomination.
BEST ACTOR: Heavy hitters and former Tony winners make this category too close to call, although several critics give the nod to James Corden for "One Man, Two Guvnors." Also in competition are Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman"), James Earl Jones ("Gore Vidal's The Best Man"), Frank Langella ("Man and Boy") and John Litgow ("The Columnist").
HYPED PLAYS OR MUSICALS THAT FIZZLED OUT: If there was such a category, there were some worthy (or is that unworthy) contenders this past season.
First and foremost was "Spiderman: Turn Off the Night," the $75 million spectacle that had endless and injury-producing previews, which managed only a couple of technical awards nominations.
"Ghost, the Musical" generated plenty of buzz but faded out, almost like a ghost, getting a Featured Actress nomination. And for sports fans, "Magic/Bird" depicting the bitter rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, which turned into an enduring friendship, was geared to attract younger audiences. But the final whistle blew before the Tony Award nominating committee got to see it.
SPECIAL AWARD: Hugh Jackman, who performed a one-man show on Broadway this past season, will receive a special award for his film and stage work. Coincidentally, this is the same week when the movie trailer of "Les Miserables"(scheduled for release in December) starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean was previewed online and featured in national publications. Jackman, according to some early prognosticators, might be a leading contender to win another award next year - an Oscar.