The sequined-covered gloves are off.
Voting began last week for the 2022 Tony Awards, honoring the best of Broadway on June 12 on CBS.
The race — capping off a bizarre year — is closer and meaner than it looks.
The battle that’s tightened considerably is Best Musical, and right now, it’s the late Michael Jackson vs. the composer Michael R. Jackson.
“A Strange Loop,” R. Jackson’s meta-musical about a young, gay, black musical theater writer who creates the very show audiences are watching, has been in the lead for weeks — buoyed by strong reviews in late April.
But sources said the race is now neck and neck between “Loop” and “MJ,” the musical about the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Some voters The Post spoke to aren’t as enamored with “Loop” as the critics were. Said one: “I think ‘MJ’ is a better musical than ‘Strange Loop,’ which is so very talented, but small.”
“Six: The Musical,” the royal pop concert from Britain, can’t be counted out, either, although as that same voter observed, “It might be this year’s ‘Wicked’ [a famous Best Musical Tony loser] and make the most money.”
Participation is the dilemma du jour. The always slim pool of about 846 voters — including everyone from theater landlords to actors, directors, producers and critics — has been decimated because of a reluctance to go back to the theater, especially during the fall and winter Omicron surge.
Because each person must prove they saw every nominee in a category to vote, a source estimated that there are just 500 eligible people to decide the musical winners (possibly even less for revival) and a meager 200 for the plays. That’s two-thirds of a dinner service at Sardi’s.
“This year, every vote counts,” the source said.
And so do the tactics to get ’em.
Productions, which until moments ago had been hesitant to host traditional opening-night parties, threw boozy bashes this month when the 100 out-of-town, so-called “road voters” came to New York to see the nominees and be feted.
“Six” hosted them for a bash at Sony Hall; “A Strange Loop” brought the fun to Margaritaville in Times Square; “Company” premiered a documentary about its creation at the SVA Theatre and had a soiree at a nearby art gallery, where nominees Patti LuPone and Matt Doyle held court. “MJ,” meanwhile, secured Tavern on the Green and had Andrew Lloyd Webber play DJ. (Although I’d rather hear him sing “Smooth Criminal.”)
“If there are only 500 voters for musicals, does it make road votes more important? I bet it does,” said one producer. “That bodes badly for ‘A Strange Loop.’ Good for ‘MJ.’ ” As another source put it: ” ‘A Strange Loop’ makes ‘Fun Home’ look like ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Not everyone is convinced of the power of “MJ.” “The show could take it if it weren’t for its terrified producer and cautious estate,” a source said, adding they’ve been tip-toeing due to Jackson’s controversies.
Best Actor in a Musical is another fun fight. Myles Frost, the charismatic 22-year-old actor who’s been a breakout star as Jackson, won’t stop till he gets a Tony, a source said. “He’s unbelievably ambitious.”
Frost is duking it out with another celebrated newcomer, Jaquel Spivey, 23, the excellent lead in “A Strange Loop,” who has been out sick the past several days, forcing producers to beg voters to reschedule. (The deadline to submit ballots is June 10.) And, of course, there’s Hugh Jackman, whose “The Music Man” is the only musical hit of the season, and who opened the road conference with a charming speech. One swooning visitor said Jackson and co-star Sutton Foster were “delightful” speakers.
While LuPone was once a shoo-in for Best Featured Actress in “Company,” there’s now momentum around L Morgan Lee of “A Strange Loop.” LuPone, sources say, will not drink to that.
The actress, who wants to take a third Tony home to her house in Connecticut, has been everywhere, including singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night. She’s not kissing babies though — she’s demanding adults wear their f – – king masks.
“Company” will win Best Musical Revival, as Stephen Sondheim died mere months ago. And if anyone has forgotten that sad fact, the late composer’s face is currently on all their free commemorative Playbills.
The rare spot of stability is Best Play — a lock for “The Lehman Trilogy.” But that isn’t stopping its competition from airing their grievances.
Jeffrey Richards, producer of Best Play nominee “The Minutes,” sent out an email Wednesday to voters ripping the New York Times for its scant coverage of Tracy Letts’ dramedy — and boasting that his show managed to open despite the Armie Hammer sex scandal.
“We were surprised (but not astonished) that in the all important Tony issue of the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times, we were the only Tony nominee in the Best Play category to not receive a single mention in the three major articles involving (1) a review of the season (2) a look at the major ensembles of the season and (3) a discussion from the major critics about the important works of the year,” Richards said.
Frankly the omissions not that all important. Last year’s Best Play winner, “The Inheritance,” wasn’t even a Times Critic’s Pick. A Broadway pundit agreed. “A Tony issue that’s only read on Ninth Avenue and 45th Street,” they said.
On Hammer, whose part was taken over by Noah Reid from “Schitt’s Creek”: “We overcame the obstacles of . . . [having] to replace a major artist who had been involved in a scandal that led to his decision to depart the production.”
Sorry about Arts & Leisure, Jeffrey. But you’re always welcome to complain to The Post!