amBroadway | Tony nomination surprises and snubs

“A Strange Loop”
Photo: Marc J. Franklin

Does anyone really care about this year’s Tony Award Nominations, which were announced on Monday morning? To put it another way, how many people this year feel passionately that a particular show must win a Tony Award over something else, as in the year of “Avenue Q” versus “Wicked”?

Perhaps this is result of burnout from last month, when countless shows opened on top of each other in order to meet the deadline for eligibility (even though, in a twist of irony, the deadline was extended at the last minute by a week) and the overwhelming challenges that the industry has endured throughout the season, including reopening following the 18-month shutdown, performance cancellations due to the Omicron variant, and ongoing safety and health concerns.

Personally, I am just glad that Broadway was able to reopen and finish out the season in spite of so many obstacles and remain concerned about the industry’s current commercial health, as evidenced by weekly grosses that pale in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers. With that in mind, the purpose of this year’s Tony Awards ceremony, more than ever, will be about promoting and marketing Broadway and live theater in general.

Overall, this year’s Tony Award Nominations are appropriate and, in some cases, unusually generous. Six nominees filled out many categories, including Best Musical (not so long ago, no more than four musicals could be nominated), and seven performers were nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.

Of the 34 eligible Broadway shows, 29 of them received at least one nomination. Even “Diana,” the critically-savaged Princess Diana bio musical, received a nomination for costume design. The musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire” received a nomination only for Rob McClure’s performance as the title character.

This year’s major awards will not be easily predictable, mainly because there is no mega-hit new musical along the lines of “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hansen.” At this point, the winner of Best Musical appears likely to be “A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s critical-minded meta-musical about a young, Black, gay musical theater writer, which opened to acclaim at the end of the season and previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

If “A Strange Loop” proves to be divisive among voters, the award could go instead to the Elizabethan-themed pop concert “Six,” the Bob Dylan musical drama “Girl from the North Country,” or the dance-infused Michael Jackson bio-musical “MJ.”  

The biggest surprise of the nominations was “Paradise Square,” which did not earn great reviews and has struggled at the box office, earning 10 nominations, including for Best Musical.  

All three actors from “The Lehman Trilogy” – Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, and Adrian Lester – were nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play. By comparison, none of the six actresses in the musical “Six” (who play the six wives of Henry VIII) were nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.

While “The Lehman Trilogy” finished its limited run months ago, it could conceivably still win Best Play over Martin McDonagh’s black comedy “Hangmen” Or Tracy Letts’ political comedy “The Minutes” (which received only a single nomination).

Performers who were not nominated included Daniel Craig (“Macbeth”), Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker (“Plaza Suite”), Beanie Feldstein and Jane Lynch (“Funny Girl”), Katrina Lenk (“Company”), Debra Messing (“Birthday Candles”), and Patrick J. Adams (“Take Me Out”).  

The hit Broadway revival of “The Music Man” nabbed six nominations, including for Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, but the award for Best Musical Revival will probably go to the gender-reversed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” especially in light of Sondheim’s recent death.

The Tony for Best Play Revival could conceivably go to any of the five productions that were nominated, including “for colored girls…,” which is currently slated to close three months early due to low attendance.

The Tony Awards will air on CBS and Paramount+ on Sunday night, June 12, with Ariana DeBose (who appeared in multiple Broadway productions before winning an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the “West Side Story” remake) serving as host.

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