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What to expect from this Sunday's Tony Awards

THEATRE | Our predictions for the biggest categories at the 71st Tonys

After a season filled to the brim with new theatrical productions, Broadway's best will finally be rewarded at this Sunday's Tony Awards. Unlike last year's ceremony Hamilton dominated ceremony, the race for Best Play and Musical are unusually tight this year. Here's a look at our predictions for some of the most exciting races heading into Tony Night.

Featured Performances in a Play goes to familiar faces

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This year's featured performance categories are filled with remarkable supporting performances from some of the top productions of the season, but two names have dominated many of the precursor awards. Danny DeVito earned raves for his Broadway debut as an elderly furniture dealer in The Price, while Cynthia Nixon similarly astounded tackling two different roles in The Little Foxes. Expect the Tonys to reward these veterans come Sunday.

Featured Performances in a Musical rewards the big shows

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This season has seen to mega-hit musical productions emerge, new musical Dear Evan Hansen and the revival of the Broadway classic Hello Dolly. Because of their prominence this season look for two of those shows supporting players to get rewarded as Gavin Creel brings the award home for Dolly and Rachel Bay Jones does the same for Hansen.

Will the Tony’s remember closed Revivals?

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The Tony voters face a surprisingly similar dilemma with this year's revival categories as their forced to choose between closed productions from earlier in the year and those still running. While Best Revival of a Musical is a highly likely to opt for Hello Dolly, this fall's much loved production of Falsettos could be a dark horse despite closing in January. The Best Revival of a Play is also torn between the now closed Jitney and the currently running Little Foxes, both produced by The Manhattan Theatre Club. Expect the awards to the split the difference and give Dolly and Jitney the hardware.

Big name theater vets take Best Lead Performances in a Play

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While Kevin Kline is something of a lock to bring home his third Tony as the lead in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, Best Actress finds itself in a far tighter race. In a category stacked with Oscar winners like Cate Blanchett and Sally Field, look for long time theater veteran Laurie Metcalf to grab her first Tony for A Doll's House, Part 2, though Jennifer Ehle could play spoiler for her turn in Oslo.

Musical Lead Awards avoid the upset

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If there have been two locks this season, it's been Bette Midler and Ben Platt claiming trophies for their work as the titular characters in Hello Dolly and Dear Evan Hansen respectively. While upsets have become more plausible with Midler facing controversy for potentially refusing to perform at the ceremony and Groundhog Day's Andy Karl overcoming injury in his star-making performance, Platt and Midler still are safe bets to walk away as winners this Sunday.

The diplomacy epic Oslo brings home Best Play

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While the race is likely to go down to the wire between the three-hour Oslo and the 90-minute marriage drama A Doll's House, Part 2, the former has emerged as one of the most rewarded productions of the season. While Doll's House may be the only show to have its entire cast nominated in the acting categories, Oslo is likely to garner more prizes including Best Director and a few technical awards. Expect the Oslo love shower to continue with the production snagging Best Play before concluding its limited run at Lincoln Center.

Tight Best Musical race could yield a surprising victor

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While Hansen has seemed like a safe bet because of it success, just a few days out from the awards the contest has become far closer than anyone expected. Hansen may be the most popular, but Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 is the most ambitious, and Come From Away the most emotionally and politically relevant. Though Comet is likely to win big technical categories as well as Best Director, it seems the longest shot to claim the awards. Still, based on the current momentum look for Come From Away to pull off a Tony shocker as voters opt to honor the little heart warmer that could.

Come back this coming Monday for Popdust's full recap of what actually went down at the awards this weekend.

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The Spongebob Musical is confirmed, but is Broadway becoming too safe?

ARTS | The musical joins Frozen, Mean Girls, and Harry Potter in a potential juggernaut season

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The Spongebob Broadway Musical is set to open this fall, joining several other major stage adaptations to debut.

Early yesterday it was officially announced that a certain iconic resident of an undersea pineapple would be moving to Broadway next fall.That's right The Spongebob Musical has officially secured a theater and will be starting performances on November 6th. Being one of the most beloved cartoons in recent memory you'd assume this show is destined to face massive attention in this upcoming Broadway theater season. But Spongebob is far from the only familiar property aiming for Broadway supremacy this next year. Among the shows expected to arrive this year along with Spongebob are stage versions of Mean Girls and Frozen, a jukebox musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett, and the American premiere of the Harry Potter continuation play The Cursed Child. Staring down this murderer's row of familiar properties, it's hard not to wonder whether Broadway has finally become too safe?

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Now of course these types of blockbuster adaptations are certainly nothing uncommon to the theater world as Broadway has had a long infatuation with movie adaptations and jukebox musicals. Everything from Aladdin to American Psycho has been reinterpreted for the stage, with talented theater artists managing to (in the best cases) reinvent the stories for its new medium. Yet, while these adaptations are designed to convert their built in audiences into ticket purchases, it's important to remember that often Broadway's most successful shows are the ones that emerge out of nowhere. As recent years have seen mega-hits like Book of Mormon, Dear Evan Hansen, and of course Hamilton arrive on Broadway without recognizable source material, its hard not to worry that Broadway producers will continue to play it safe as more and more Hollywood blockbusters to transition to New York.

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But at the same time, as concerning as it is to see a season so dominated by adaptations, it's important to remember the often-cyclical nature of theater. While next year may be dominated by family-targeting properties, this comes after a season that featured innovative new works including Hansen, Come From Away, and Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, all three of which spent several years developing at regional and off-Broadway theaters. Because a play or musical often requires several years of work, just because there aren't many original musicals currently set to debut next season, doesn't mean they aren't on their way.

And despite how easy it is to become cynical, it's important to remember that each of these shows features a stacked creative team with zero intention of making a bad show. Spongebob in particular has chosen to invest heavily in established pop artists, with accomplished artists like The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, and even David Bowie contributing either music to the show. Beyond just the music, whether it's the original writers like Mean Girl's Tina Fey returning to their material to help shepherd it towards its new form or accomplished and respected theatrical veterans like Spongebob director Tina Landau whose made a career of turning people's expectations on their heads, there is reason for optimism in these familiar productions. Still, hopefully it won't be too long before a new show arrives on Broadway capable of taking audiences somewhere they've never been before.


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Your cheat sheet to this year's NBA Finals

SPORTS | All the answers a non-fan could need before watching this year's games.

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With the NBA Finals on the verge of starting, here's a handy guide for anyone who wants to know what's been happening on the court.

In just a few hours the NBA season will reach its climax as the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers face off in one of the most anticipated NBA finals of all time. Because of the attention the game has gotten, there's likely to be a few folks out there interested in experiencing the action who haven't ever kept tabs on the NBA. For that reason I've decided to make a handy guide for all those out there who think Michael Jordan was the King of Pop and Kobe is just a type of beef to assist in your enjoyment of the next four to seven games.

The Teams

The Golden State Warriors

The top performing team in the league is back in its third consecutive NBA finals, bringing with them the highest win total in the league and an undefeated 12-0 playoff run this year. Despite winning the 2015 NBA title, the team is seeking redemption after losing in heartbreaking fashion in the 2016 finals. After adding several new players (including one game-changing acquisition we'll get to below) this is a team out for vengeance that's looking to cement its legacy as an all time great team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers

The defending world champs, return to do battle with The Warriors one year after their miraculous run brought the team its first ever championship and the first Cleveland sports championship in 52 years. Now one year later the team returns to prove their victory wasn't a fluke, coming off a dominating 12-1 playoff record. With Cleveland's star filled line-up returning after last year, expect a team looking to prove the days of mocking Cleveland sports is over (well except for the Browns).

The Key Players

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LeBron James: Arguably the best basketball player currently in the game, he's spent years trying to chase Michael Jordan (not the King of Pop)'s legacy and become the greatest of all time. In his eighth NBA finals (and seventh consecutive appearance), he has a chance to win another title for his hometown as well as bolster his resume by defeating the current top-dog Warriors.

Kevin Durant: A former NBA MVP shocked the basketball world last year when he decided to leave his longtime team to join the Warriors who'd come within a game of winning last year's title. With many expecting nothing less than a championship from Durant and his elite new team, a major storyline to watch is how he will fare under the extreme pressure.

Stephen Curry: A two-time NBA MVP himself, the universally beloved player initially struggled to adjust to his new mega-teammate but now enters the Finals at the top of his game. However Curry has failed to deliver memorable performances in his previous two Finals experiences, putting pressure on the star to deliver and redeem the teams failures last year.

Kyrie Irving: Cleveland's number two weapons, Irving has had some dominating performances in both of the Cavs last two playoff runs. Seven years younger than his teammate James, if Irving continues to play to this level the Cavs could see the ascension of the franchise's future face as James continues to age.

Draymond Green: The Warriors' emotionally volatile big man shocked last year's Finals when a skirmish with James led to a one game suspension that proved devastating to its title run. One year later, expect Green to use his frustration at last year's heartbreak to drive him to bring home the crown this year.

Key Questions

Who wins Round 3? This marks the third consecutive year the Cavs and Warriors have faced each other in the finals (a first in NBA history), with both teams splitting the first two matchups. A major focus will be which team pulls away to win this third matchup, as well as whether or not we should expect a round 4 next summer?

Who Will Coach The Warriors? After suffering complications from back surgery, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been sidelined for most of the playoffs. While the team has continued to dominate without their normal coach, facing their toughest matchup questions remain on whether Kerr will even be able to return during the series.

Will it be entertaining? Much has been made about the dull action the NBA playoffs have offered this year, with both the Cavs and Warriors dominating opponents on their runs to the Finals. While this match up bring some much needed excitement to the proceedings or give fans one last lopsided affair? Only time will tell.

All NBA Finals games will air on ABC with Game 1 starting tonight at 9pm.


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