Broadway Reaches For Normalcy With 2020 Tony Award Nominations

Broadway’s coronavirus-shortened season is getting an awards process that reflects this tumultuous year — incomplete, seemingly unfair and filled with loss.Nominations for Tony Awards will be announced Thursday (Oct. 15) with just 18 eligible plays and musicals making the cut, a fraction of the 34 shows the season before.

One category — best musical revival — has no eligible shows at all. Nominations will have to come from 10 new plays, four new musicals and four play revivals. Two high profile shows — Freestyle Love Supreme and David Byrne’s American Utopia — did not accommodate Tony voters and aren’t eligible, but may get special awards on Tony night.

Broadway theaters abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows — including 16 that were still scheduled to open in the spring. One musical, Six, had scheduled its official opening on the night theaters went dark and heartbreakingly is not eligible for any trophies this year. The cutoff for eligibility for all shows was set at Feb. 19, 2020, meaning West Side Story, which opened a day later, and Girl from the North Country, which opened March 5, are not eligible.

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This season’s pandemic is expected to scramble some of the usual 26 competitive categories, especially the one for best original score. Most of the new musicals used pre-existing and previously recorded material, meaning Rob Rokicki, who wrote the score to The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, will easily get a Tony nod. To fill the category, he may be joined by scores from plays, like The Height of the Storm, The Inheritance, The Rose Tattoo, Seawall/A Life, Slave Play, and The Sound Inside. That could pave the way for a best score Tony won by a play, which would be a first.

The season’s three scheduled musical revivals — West Side Story, Company and Caroline, or Change — never officially opened, hence the anticipated loss of that Tony category this year. The 2020 Tony Awards ceremony will be broadcast digitally and take place this fall, at a date still to be announced. Tumult in the industry remains, it was announced last week that performances would be shut down until at least May 30. With four eligible musicals, there likely will only be three nomination slots, based on the rules. Moulin Rouge! was a hit and Jagged Little Pill was a popular ticket. Tina — The Tina Turner Musical was a pure crowd pleaser. That leaves The Lightning Thief as the likely show left in the dust.

Of the 10 plays options, the most buzzy nominees are The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez, a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses Howards End as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century, and Slave Play, Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, exploring the legacy of slavery in interracial sexual dynamics. Others likely to slip into the likely five-entry category are Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside, Tracy Letts’ Linda Vista and Grand Horizons by Bess Wohl.

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The best play revival candidates will be created from only four revivals that actually opened: Betrayal, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Rose Tattoo and A Soldier’s Play. In the performance categories, Adrienne Warren leads the best actress in a musical pack for her turn as Tina Turner in Tina — The Tina Turner Musical. Others likely to join her are Elizabeth Stanley for playing a woman battling addiction in Jagged Little Pill and Karen Olivo for bringing down the house with Katy Perry’s Firework in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. 

In the best actress in a drama category, Mary-Louise Parker won cheers with The Sound Inside and will likely be joined by Laura Linney, who is looking for her first Tony win with the solo show My Name is Lucy Barton, and Joaquina Kalukango, who gave a wrenching performance in Slave Play. Could six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald be denied a spot because her revival of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune closed early? Over to the best actor in a drama slots, Ian Barford of Linda Vista is a strong contender, as are several actors from The Inheritance, including Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller.

On the musical side for the leading men, there are only two possible candidates — Chris McCarrell from The Lightning Thief and Aaron Tveit of Moulin Rouge! These are the 18 eligible shows: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Sea Wall/A Life, Betrayal, The Height of the Storm, The Great Society, Slave Play, Linda Vista, The Rose Tattoo, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, The Sound Inside, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, The Inheritance, A Christmas Carol, Jagged Little Pill, My Name is Lucy Barton, A Soldier’s Play and Grand Horizons.

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