Special Reports

Who Will Win Best Director, Choreographer, Score, and Book Tonys in 2024?

Our critics predict the winners in top creative categories.

The winners of the 2024 Tony Awards will be revealed in a televised ceremony on Sunday, June 16. Our critics have some predictions. These are their predictions for Best Directors of a Musical and a Play, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Choreography.

Maria Friedman is the director of the Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along.
(© Tricia Baron)

Best Direction of a Musical
Maria Friedman, Merrily We Roll Along
Michael Greif, Hell’s Kitchen
Leigh Silverman, Suffs
Jessica Stone, Water for Elephants
Danya Taymor, The Outsiders

David Gordon
Will win: Maria Friedman
Should win: Michael Greif

In a Merrily-free world, this could have been Michael Greif’s year. Having never won, he’s a perpetual groomsman, despite his staging of Rent really setting the tone for all rock musicals to come, and Dear Evan Hansen pushing it forward with the use of technology. Hell’s Kitchen is a perfect synthesis of the aesthetic he’s developed for 30 years, but the prize will go to Maria Friedman for the way she rescued Merrily We Roll Along from the ash heap of history and turned it into a viable property.

Zachary Stewart
Will win: Maria Friedman
Should win: Jessica Stone

I suspect David is right about Maria Friedman, but Jessica Stone has masterfully juggled so many moving parts (some of them hurtling through the air at great speeds) in Water for Elephants. That show wouldn’t be possible without a great director, and Stone has proven herself to be just that with her second consecutive nomination.

Pete Hempstead 
Will win: Maria Friedman
Should win: Maria Friedman

I didn’t attend the original flop of Merrily We Roll Along, but after seeing Maria Friedman’s steady-handed production, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever not good. That’s a mark of directorial brilliance. I admired Danya Taymor’s cinematic rumble scenes and Jessica Stone’s exciting circus legerdemain, but Friedman elevated Merrily from the dustbin to the mantel, and for that she will and should win.

Daniel Aukin is the director of Stereophonic on Broadway.
(© Tricia Baron)

Best Direction of a Play
Daniel Aukin, Stereophonic
Anne Kauffman, Mary Jane
Kenny Leon, Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch
Lila Neugebauer, Appropriate
Whitney White, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

David Gordon
Will win: Daniel Aukin
Should win: Kenny Leon

Daniel Aukin’s direction of Stereophonic is invisible, and that’s not a dig — his work is so meticulous that you don’t detect his fingerprints everywhere. That’s a feat in and of itself, but I’d still like to see Kenny Leon collect the prize for infusing Purlie Victorious, a 60-year-old play that many pundits thought would be a waste of time, with such vitality it made us all reconsider its place in the American dramatic canon.

Zachary Stewart
Will win: Daniel Aukin
Should win: Anne Kauffman

I’m anticipating a big night for Stereophonic, and a Best Direction Tony will be a part of that. But Anne Kauffman, always a meticulous director, has outdone herself with Mary Jane, a play that is so much about the drama taking place just offstage, and the drama bubbling right beneath the surface.

Pete Hempstead 
Will win: Daniel Aukin
Should win: Lila Neugebauer

I’ve admired Lila Neugebauer’s work for years, and it has never been better than right now in Appropriate. She brings Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s script to life by making us squirm in our seats and laugh in all the wrong places. She more than deserves to win. But Daniel Aukin is also at the top of his game with Stereophonic. The play has so many gears and sprockets, and Aukin makes it look like they’re turning all by themselves. He’s sure to get this one.

Kristoffer Diaz wrote the book for Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway.
(© Tricia Baron)

Best Book of a Musical
Hell’s Kitchen, Kristoffer Diaz
The Notebook, Bekah Brunstetter
The Outsiders, Adam Rapp and Justin Levine
Suffs, Shaina Taub
Water for Elephants, Rick Elice

David Gordon
Will win: Shaina Taub, Suffs
Should (have been nominated): Jackie Sibblies Drury and Justin Peck, Illinoise

I’m giving the edge to Shaina Taub here because it’s the one truly original script in the group, though the group as a whole is pretty weak. I would have liked to see Jackie Sibblies Drury and Justin Peck on the list for their book of Illinoise, which constructed a new, mostly cohesive story from a group of unconnected songs, which was told entirely through movement without a line of dialogue.

Zachary Stewart
Will win: Kristoffer Diaz, Hell’s Kitchen
Should win: Kristoffer Diaz, Hell’s Kitchen

Undergirding one of the biggest, loudest musicals of the season is a sturdy and sweet little story about a young New Yorker finding her adult voice. Hell’s Kitchen proves that a jukebox musical need not be a tedious career retrospective — it can be a really good play instead.  

Pete Hempstead 
Will win: The Outsiders, Adam Rapp and Justin Levine
Should win: The Outsiders, Adam Rapp and Justin Levine

I am an outsider when it comes to my dislike of the source materials for The Outsiders. I know, I know, hate me, but I always found both the novel and the film hokey and overly sentimental. Not so with the musical, which made me see the story in a new light. It was grittier and more inclusive with the diverse backgrounds of its characters. Still a little sentimental, sure, but I felt for Ponyboy and his friends’ stories like I hadn’t before. The Outsiders would be my choice.

Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance are two of the composers of The Outsiders on Broadway.
(© Tricia Baron)

Best Original Score
Days of Wine and Roses – Music & Lyrics: Adam Guettel
Here Lies Love – Music: David Byrne and Fatboy Slim; Lyrics: David Byrne
The OutsidersMusic & Lyrics: Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine
StereophonicMusic & Lyrics: Will Butler
SuffsMusic & Lyrics: Shaina Taub

David Gordon
Will win: Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine, The Outsiders
Should win: Adam Guettel, Days of Wine and Roses

I’m happy to see Stereophonic here, even though there are, like, four songs in the entire show, and they’re mostly snippets. Suffs and The Outsiders are classic musical-theater scores, and they function in their respective ecosystems very well. I’ve loved Here Lies Love for well over a decade at this point; the musical is original, but it’s more or less a revival by now and probably shouldn’t be here. Days of Wine and Roses is the most accomplished of the bunch — dense and difficult and always striving. But honestly, from this list, I’d be happy with anything.

Zachary Stewart
Will win: Will Butler, Stereophonic
Should win: David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love

Stereophonic is on the march, and I think this may be the year voters choose to lavish awards on a show that does really interesting things with musical storytelling, but isn’t a musical. But from my perspective, Here Lies Love has one of the best scores of this young century. If the show was still open, it would be the frontrunner.

Pete Hempstead 
Will win: Will Butler, Stereophonic
Should win: David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love

Here Lies Love is not going to win, and that’s unfortunate, because it’s the best score of the year hands down. Having said that, it’s between two others for me. I was nonplussed by Adam Guettel’s Days of Wine and Roses score at first, but on hearing it a second time, it began to seep pleasantly into my head and wouldn’t let go. I’ll side with my colleague Zach, though, and bet that Will Butler will take this in an exciting coup of a play over its musical competitors.

The cast dances in Illinoise on Broadway.
(© Tricia Baron)

Best Choreography
Annie-B Parson, Here Lies Love
Camille A. Brown, Hell’s Kitchen
Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman, The Outsiders
Justin Peck, Illinoise
Jesse Robb and Shana Carroll, Water for Elephants

David Gordon
Will win: Justin Peck, Illinoise
Should win: Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman, The Outsiders

I thought the movement in The Outsiders was so cool to watch. It felt visceral and scary and in your face. The acrobatics in Water for Elephants aren’t original, and were more exciting in Pippin. For Here Lies Love and Hell’s Kitchen, the nomination is the win. But it’s Justin Peck’s. The whole show is dance.

Zachary Stewart
Will win: Justin Peck, Illinoise
Should win: Jesse Robb and Shana Carroll, Water for Elephants

Voters are likely to give this award to the most dance-centric show of the season. David is right about that. But he’s completely wrong about Water for Elephants, a show in which dance and acrobatics blend seamlessly to tell a great story. This is the kind of innovation the Tony Awards ought to be recognizing.

Pete Hempstead 
Will win: Camille A. Brown, Hell’s Kitchen
Should win: Camille A. Brown, Hell’s Kitchen

The competition in this category became fierce with the late-season entry of Illinoise, and Justin Peck has a good chance of winning. But I think voters might have Hell’s Kitchen more on their radars right now. If that’s the case, then this belongs to Camille A. Brown, and kudos to her. She’s been creating some of the most innovative and exciting choreography on Broadway for a while now with shows like Once on This Island and for colored girls. Hell’s Kitchen is her latest triumph. This is her year.

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