‘Jagged Little Pill’ leads the race for best new musical, followed closely by ‘Moulin Rouge!’
“Jagged Little Pill,” a rousing, of-the-moment show about a suburban family grappling with issues of addiction, sexual assault, transracial adoption and marital strife — just to name a few — scored 15 Tony Award nominations Thursday, the most of any show from the truncated 2019-20 Broadway season.
“Jagged,” inspired by the 1995 Alanis Morissette album, will be in a tight race with “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a lush stage production about a louche nightclub in turn-of-the-century Paris, which received 14 nominations. “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” is the third contender in the best musical race.
This year’s much-delayed awards cycle comes at an enormously trying time for the theater industry, when professional productions around the country are almost entirely shut down, leaving most theater artists unemployed, because of the coronavirus pandemic. But industry leaders have decided to proceed with an awards ceremony, deciding that they wanted to honor the best of the 18 shows that opened between April 2019 and February this year.
Just four new musicals, 10 new plays and four play revivals were eligible for nominations. By contrast, last year there were 34 shows under consideration for the awards.
There was just one new musical this season with an original score, “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.” It was panned by critics and snubbed by nominators, who excluded it even from the best score category — which, in a rare step, only included scores from plays.
This year’s nominations, like so much during this year of social distancing, were announced online. The host was James Monroe Iglehart, a 2014 Tony winner for “Aladdin.”
“History has shown us that every great society has had theater at its core,” Iglehart said in the livestream. “Theater has always and will always survive. Theater is constant.”
“Slave Play,” an outlandish and uproarious drama that explores the legacy of slavery in American through an imaginary sex therapy retreat for interracial couples, scored 12 nominations, and emerged as a leading contender in the race for best new play.
The play, staged at New York Theater Workshop before arriving on Broadway last fall, was hailed by critics, and its young writer, Jeremy O. Harris, emerged as an important new cultural voice.
“Slave Play” was closely followed in the nominations by “The Inheritance,” Matthew Lopez’s sprawling riff on the E.M. Forster novel “Howards End,” which ponders the lingering effects of the AIDS crisis through two generations of gay men in contemporary New York. “The Inheritance” received 11 nominations.
Those plays will face off against “The Sound Inside,” Adam Rapp’s gripping two-hander about the relationship between a university professor with cancer and her precocious writing student; “Grand Horizons,” by Bess Wohl; and “Sea Wall/A Life,” by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne.
‘A Soldier’s Play’ receives nods for its belated Broadway debut.
“A Soldier’s Play,” Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1981 drama about racism in the American military, received seven Tony nominations, the most of any play revival.
The Broadway production, presented by the nonprofit Roundabout Theater Company and directed by Kenny Leon, was a long-awaited moment for the 81-year-old Fuller.
Among the play’s nominees were the actors Blair Underwood and David Alan Grier, as well as its set, costumes, lighting and direction.
“A Soldier’s Play” will face off against starry revivals of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” and Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.”
There were no eligible musical revivals. A production of “West Side Story” was deemed ineligible to compete because it opened in late February, and not enough Tony voters managed to see it before the shutdown in March, so that category was eliminated.
We still don’t know when the Tony Awards will be.
This year’s Tony Awards ceremony was originally slated for June 7 at Radio City Music Hall, and to be broadcast on CBS. None of that is happening anymore.
So what is the plan? We don’t know yet.
The awards administrators are hoping to hold the ceremony in December or January, but expect to wait until after next month’s presidential election before setting a date. They have not described the format, but have indicated that the ceremony will be virtual, rather than in person. And they have not yet said how it will air, although they expect it to be streamed online, not broadcast on television.
There are about 800 Tony voters, most of whom work in the theater industry as producers, actors, designers and so on; only those who have seen each nominated show in a category can vote in that category. Tony officials say every nominated show was seen by several hundred voters, at a minimum, and that the number of qualified voters for each category is similar to that in other years. Awards administrators have not yet said when the voting will take place.
The Tonys, founded in 1947 and formally called the Antoinette Perry Awards, are presented by the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League. The awards honor plays and musicals that are staged in the 41 Broadway theaters, each of which has at least 500 seats, and most of which are around Times Square.
This could be the last Tony Awards for a while. It’s unlikely that there will be a 2020-21 Broadway season, given that the Broadway League has canceled performances at least through May 30, which is after the traditional season ends.