The Tony Awards given out next month will represent Broadway’s lurching progress toward normalcy (with periodic covid positivity shutdowns continuing) after the pandemic shutdown from March 2020 to September 2021. The Tony Awards for the truncated 2019-2020 season were held last September, and also served as a way to promote the reopening of live theatre in New York City to a wider audience. Those awards were anything but typical, however, since many new musicals and plays open in the spring to capitalize on the Tony nominations and awards, and the shutdown occurred before many had been able to open. “Six,” for instance, was set to open the very night Broadway was closed (March 12, 2020). Because of the shortened season, some categories had no nominations at all (Best Revival of a Musical, for instance) and Best Actor in a Musical had only one nomination (Aaron Tveit – and while that is not a guarantee of winning as over 50% of voters need to actively vote yes instead of no, fortunately he did win!).
While this season again was an unusual period (to be eligible, shows had to open between February 20, 2020 and May 4, 2021), the time included encompassed the normal seasonality of openings and the Tony nominations for 2021-2022 are robust. Out of 34 eligible productions this year, 29 received at least one nomination (even “Diana” received a nomination in costume design). All categories are competitive, with one even having seven nominees, and several with six. Since I have seen the majority of the nominees, I thought I would weigh in a bit on the bigger categories, both with my own opinion and what the general buzz is.
“The Lehman Trilogy”
I think it’s going to be hard for anyone to beat “The Lehman Trilogy” here, and it would get my vote. The only new plays nominated here that are still running are “The Minutes” (which I saw in previews pre-pandemic when Armie Hammer was still in it) and “Hangmen” (which is set to close mid-June) so I don’t think that “Lehman” having only run last fall will be a factor against it.
Revival of a Play
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf”
“How I Learned to Drive”
“Take Me Out”
“Trouble in Mind”
Again, it seems that “How I Learned to Drive” will be hard to beat, and it would certainly get my vote. Simply brilliant.
Actress in a Musical
Sharon D Clarke, “Caroline, or Change”
Carmen Cusack, “Flying Over Sunset”
Sutton Foster, “The Music Man”
Joaquina Kalukango, “Paradise Square”
Mare Winningham, “Girl From the North Country”
While I absolutely loved Carmen Cusack in “Flying Over Sunset” (check out the cast recording!) and Joaquina Kalukango is giving a bravura performance that is perhaps the best thing about “Paradise Square,” if I had a vote I would cast it easily for Sharon D. Clarke in “Caroline or Change.” This was a Caroline whose simmering anger over the state of her life boiled over in a thundering “Lot’s Wife.” It would be wonderful if they could bring her back to do this for the Tonys.
Leading Actor in a Musical
Billy Crystal, “Mr. Saturday Night”
Myles Frost, “MJ”
Hugh Jackman, “The Music Man”
Rob McClure, “Mrs. Doubtfire”
Jaquel Spivey, “A Strange Loop”
Rob McClure’s nomination here is the only one for “Mrs. Doubtfire,” Crystal and Jackman are the old pros, but I think this comes down to two newcomers in their first role on Broadway: Myles Frost and Jaquel Spivey. My vote would go for Spivey, who carried me through Usher’s journey with intelligence, heart, and tremendous vocals.
Featured Actor in a Musical
Matt Doyle, “Company”
Sidney DuPont, “Paradise Square”
Jared Grimes, “Funny Girl”
John-Andrew Morrison, “A Strange Loop”
A.J. Shively, “Paradise Square”
I posted the playbill from “Funny Girl” above because this category features its only nomination, and I am glad to see Grimes singled out. I will also note that I love John-Andrew Morrison in “A Strange Loop” and it was hard for him to stand out in the six excellent performances being given by Usher’s Thoughts (L. Morgan Lee was also recognized in Featured Actress). For me, though, this award has gone to Matt Doyle in “Company” from the first time I saw his bravura performance of “Not Getting Married Today” as Jamie (changed from Janie in the original) less than a week before Broadway shut down for the pandemic. I’ve seen it twice since and he never fails to dazzle me with his ability to make the lyrics so clean and acted out so clearly – while going so incredibly fast.
Featured Actress in a Musical
Jeannette Bayardelle, “Girl From the North Country”
Shoshana Bean, “Mr. Saturday Night”
Jayne Houdyshell, “The Music Man”
L Morgan Lee, “A Strange Loop”
Patti LuPone, “Company”
Jennifer Simard, “Company”
I’m glad to see L. Morgan Lee and Jennifer Simard recognized in this category, but Patti LuPone is just SO GOOD as Joanne in the revival of “Company” I would be unable to resist casting a vote for her.
Leading Actor in a Play
Simon Russell Beale, “The Lehman Trilogy”
Adam Godley, “The Lehman Trilogy”
Adrian Lester, “The Lehman Trilogy”
David Morse, “How I Learned to Drive”
Sam Rockwell, “American Buffalo”
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “Lackawanna Blues”
David Threlfall, “Hangmen”
Look at this category – seven nominees! All three actors from “The Lehman Trilogy” are nominated, which might split votes and lead to none of them winning (although I could see Simon Russell Beale doing it). Sam Rockwell fully inhabited the character of Teach in “Buffalo.” But my vote would go to David Morse in “How I Learned to Drive.”
Featured Actor in a Play
Alfie Allen, “Hangmen”
Chuck Cooper, “Trouble in Mind”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Take Me Out”
Ron Cephas Jones, “Clyde’s”
Michael Oberholtzer, “Take Me Out”
Jesse Williams, “Take Me Out”
Six nominees in this category, and no clear favorite. I would probably vote for Michael Oberholtzer in “Take Me Out,” although again, you have three nominees from the same play which might split that vote and lead to another actor taking the award.
Leading Actress in a Play
Gabby Beans, “The Skin of Our Teeth”
LaChanze, “Trouble in Mind”
Ruth Negga, “Macbeth”
Deirdre O’Connell, “Dana. H”
Mary-Louise Parker, “How I Learned to Drive”
All worthy performances, but I will be shocked if Mary-Louise Parker doesn’t win for “How I Learned to Drive.”
Featured Actress in a Play
Uzo Aduba, “Clyde’s”
Rachel Dratch, “POTUS”
Kenita R. Miller, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf”
Phylicia Rashad, “Skeleton Crew”
Julie White, “POTUS”
Kara Young, “Clyde’s”
I put the picture of the “POTUS” Playbill above because two in the ensemble were nominated here. By the way, I agree with the recent article in The New York Times that the Tonys need an ensemble category – none of the wives in “Six” were nominated singly but as a group they might have won. I might vote for Rachel Dratch in “POTUS,” or Uzo Aduba in “Clyde’s” – but anyone could win here.
Revival of a Musical
“Caroline, or Change”
“The Music Man”
I would vote for “Caroline,” but with it having been a limited run and closing just after New Year’s, sometimes it is harder to stay fresh in the Tony voters’ minds. If so, then I think “Company” will win – although it is possible that Marianne Elliott might win (deservedly) for best director and “Caroline” win for Best Revival.
“Girl From the North Country”
“Mr. Saturday Night”
“Six: The Musical”
“A Strange Loop”
Until “A Strange Loop” arrived this spring, my vote would have been for “Six,” which I saw twice before the pandemic and have seen three times since. But having seen “A Strange Loop” twice now this spring, it would have my vote for Best New Musical without any hesitation. I also hope that Michael R. Jackson, who has been working on this musical for about two decades, wins for best book of a musical. It is possible that “Six” might win for best score. “Girl From the West Country” also has some critical acclaim so I would say it is likely the only dark horse if this win doesn’t go to “A Strange Loop” or “Six.”
As mentioned before, the revival of “Funny Girl” garnered only one nomination, for Featured Actor. “Plaza Suite,” the revival of Neil Simon’s play starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, had no acting nominations. The lead of the revival of “Company, ” Katrina Lenk, was not nominated for Lead Actress. I don’t necessarily disagree with these snubs, but I would have liked to have seen “Flying Over Sunset” – flawed as it was, it also was often quite brilliant and certainly original -nominated for Best Musical over “Mr. Saturday Night” and “Paradise Square.”
The Tony Awards will be held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 12, starting at 7pm on Paramount+ and continuing from 8-11pm on CBS. Hosted by Ariana DeBose, recent Academy Award winner and Broadway veteran, look for an abundance of musical numbers as Broadway hopes to lure the casual theatre-goer back. Whether casual or devoted, go support the Broadway community, so integral to the very spirit of New York City, and don’t forget the established productions that have made it back from the pandemic as well!