The Tony Awards are Sunday. Here’s why it’s worth watching.

June 6, 2014
From left, Danielle Radcliffe, Zachary Quinto, James Franco, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Fran Drescher, Anna Gunn and Bradley Cooper are all part of the great big Broadway family — for Sunday night, at least. (Getty Images / Express Illustration)
From left, Danielle Radcliffe, Zachary Quinto, James Franco, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Fran Drescher, Anna Gunn and Bradley Cooper are all part of the great big Broadway family — for Sunday night, at least. (Getty Images / Express Illustration)

Our money is always on the Tonys for best awards show of the year. The three-hour spectacle honors performers who know a thing or two about entertaining: Singing, dancing and/or emoting in front of a live audience is their actual job description. Many of the usual suspects are up for awards (Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.), and the night gets some star power from a distinctly non-show tune source with a performance from Sting. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Sunday on CBS. Here’s what we’ll be watching out for.

Looking Bitter: It’s always a bad sign when the actors snubbed by Tony nominators are more interesting than those honored. Our suggestion: Make a fun drinking game out of spotting the stars in the audience who didn’t even get to be bridesmaids. Daniel Radcliffe (“The Cripple of Inishmaan”), Zachary Quinto (“The Glass Menagerie”), James Franco (“Of Mice and Men”) and Denzel Washington (“A Raisin in the Sun”) will at least be competing for the Leonardo DiCaprio “ ‘I’m Totally Happy for You’ Face” Award when the winners are announced.

Leading Man: Universally beloved host of everything Neil Patrick Harris steps aside to let some schmo named Hugh Jackman take the reins. Granted, Jackman won an Emmy when he hosted the Tonys in 2004, so he knows what he’s doing. But Harris is known for his enormous opening sequences, so Jackman, if you’re reading: Get ready to jump through your biggest hoop. That’s on fire. And atop a human pyramid. While blindfolded. (Diehard NPH fans, don’t freak out: He’ll perform a song from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” which earned him a nod for best leading actor in a musical.)

Hometown Pride: Three shows among the nominees for various awards did their pre-Broadway tryouts in D.C. this season. Con: We’re guinea pigs for the “real” performances in New York. Pro: We have plays to cheer for that are practically local! The most high-profile of these, the musical “If/Then,” scored a nod for its leading lady, Idina Menzel, and for its score. Menzel will fight it out with the star of “A Night with Janis Joplin,” Mary Bridget Davies, who played the part in two runs at Arena Stage. Another show with an Arena tryout, “The Velocity of Autumn,” earned Estelle Parsons a nomination for best leading actress in a play.

Who Invited Them?: The Tonys are about ratings, and that means producers have to bring in Hollywood names. This year’s presenters range from the predictably beautiful (Bradley Cooper, Anna Gunn, top right) to the seemingly inexplicable (Emilio Estefan, Fran Drescher). And that Sting performance? It’s a sneak peek from his upcoming Broadway show, “The Last Ship.”

History-Making Alert: If she wins for best leading actress in a play, Audra McDonald alone will be the Tonys’ winningest actor. At five wins, she now shares the title with Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury.

Want some theater you can actually go see? Check out our guide to D.C. summer theater.

Lori McCue is the entertainment editor at Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby · June 6, 2014