The 2019 Tony Award nominations prove there’s a science behind opening a show as late as possible in a given theater season. For one, it keeps it fresh in the minds of nominators who probably just saw it.
“The Ferryman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” tied for the most nominations received by a play, at nine each, after both opening in the fall. But the productions creeping up behind them have just entered the scene.
“Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus" somehow managed to snag seven nominations, including best play after opening to mixed reviews and general bewilderment last week. “Ink,” which also just opened, received an impressive six nods.
Nearly all of the top-nominated musicals — “Hadestown,” “Tootsie,” “Beetlejuice” and “Oklahoma!” — opened in April, except for “Ain’t Too Proud,” which opened in late March. And “Beetlejuice,” the last show of the season to open, nevertheless received nods in top categories including best musical.
In any event, the jazzy mythical romance “Hadestown” (at 14 nods) deserved to be the most-nominated production of the season. Still, it’s far from certain that “Hadestown” will win best musical over “Tootsie,” or even “Ain’t Too Proud” or “The Prom.”
The most surprising snubs involved “Mockingbird” and "Network," which were passed up in the best play category.
Another high-profile snub involved Glenda Jackson, who won last year’s Tony Award for best actress in a play for “Three Tall Women,” but was not nominated for her title-role performance in “King Lear.”
Shows that were completely shut out of nominations included “Pretty Woman,” “Head Over Heels,” “True West,” “The New One,” “American Son,” “The Lifespan of a Fact,” “The Nap,” “Straight White Men” and “Gettin’ the Band Back Together.”
Shows that received just a single nomination included “Be More Chill” (best score), “Hillary and Clinton” (Laurie Metcalf for best actress in a play) and “King Lear” (Ruth Wilson for best featured actress in a play).
After the nominations’ announcement, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, a producer of the sci-fi teen musical “Be More Chill,” posted a message of resilience on Facebook: “We have always been the Outlaws. We have never been the Prom King and Queen. We have always kept making work we believed in, despite years and years of bad reviews and setbacks and rejections of all kinds.”
The emptiest category of the year is best revival of a musical, in which only “Oklahoma!” and “Kiss Me, Kate” (the only eligible shows) were nominated. The current Yiddish-language revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” was not eligible for consideration since it is playing an Off-Broadway (rather than Broadway) theater in midtown.
Far more interesting than the competitive nominations are this year’s selections for special Tony honors, which include actress Marin Mazzie (who recently died from ovarian cancer), the creators of the “King Kong” puppet, the choir Broadway Inspirational Voices, actress Judith Light (for her advocacy work) and the FDNY firefighters assigned to the Broadway area.
Lifetime achievement honors will go to 80-year-old playwright Terrence McNally, 91-year-old actress Rosemary Harris and 75-year-old musician Harold Wheeler.