To work around COVID-19 regulations, the Tony Awards will be held virtually. Graphic by Elizabeth Wong.
On Oct. 15, Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart announced the nominations for the first-ever virtual Tony Awards, set to take place later this year.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadway shut down in March of this year, effectively cutting the season that would have ended on April 23 short. In August, the American Theatre Wing and Broadway League announced that following a cancellation of the June ceremony, the 74th Tony Awards would be held virtually before the end of the year with a production start cut-off date for eligibility being Feb. 19. This meant that only 18 productions were eligible for nominations, with only four of those being musicals. Shows that opened following the date such as a revival of “West Side Story” and the Bob Dylan jukebox musical “Girl From The North Country” could not be nominated due to the lack of voters who were able to see the show before the shutdown.
While this mostly meant that a lot of the categories were open to fewer nominees in comparison to the usual five, or even six, per category, the Best Revival of a Musical category was removed altogether, with no productions eligible. “Jagged Little Pill” held the most nominations of the three musicals nominated with 15 and “Slave Play” broke the record for most nominations for a non-musical play with 12, which was set by the 2018 revival of “Angels in America.”
The lack of musicals that opened before the cut-off date also led to one of the most bizarre categories: Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, with only one nominee, Aaron Tveit for “Moulin Rouge.” He was just one of two leading actors in musicals the season, the other being Chris McCarell for “The Lightning Thief,” a limited engagement production based on the Rick Riordan book of the same name, but only Tveit received a nomination. This led to an outcry from fans of the show that received no nominations, despite being one of the only four eligible musicals this season. Fans went on to call the American Theatre Wing “elitist” on social media for not recognizing the show largely attended by younger audiences and first-time theatre goers.
“Out of respect for the actors who have sets collecting dust on broadway right now, don’t @ me that the Lightning Thief family got snubbed,” McCarrell took to Twitter to tell fans. “The shows that were running got snubbed. Celebrate them now, and remind them what’s waiting. And buy tickets for when they come back. And scream your faces off like you did for us. We are fine.”
Still, this does not mean that Tveit has automatically won a Tony Award. He has to receive 60 percent of the vote, so in theory, if more than 40 percent of voters abstain from voting for him, then there will be no winner in that category this season. That’s not a very likely scenario, however.
Tveit’s “Moulin Rouge” co-star Karen Olivo, was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical alongside Elizabeth Stanley for “Jagged Little Pill” and Adrienne Warren for “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” I predict that this will be the most heated category in a year where women dominated the Broadway stage, shown especially by Tveit as the sole nominee in his category.
While “Jagged Little Pill” led nominations with 15, “Moulin Rouge” was close behind with just one nomination less. They are facing each other in every category outside of Tveit’s, and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” makes for good competition with its 12 nominations. In this historic year, while it may seem like a lot of the awards won’t be heavily contested, of the 18 productions that managed to open this season came much talent and competition.
Record-breaking “Slave Play” will face off against popular West End-transfer, “The Inheritance” with its 11 nominations in the play categories. Due to the overwhelming majority of eligible and nominated productions being plays, there are the usual five nominated for Best Play: “The Inheritance,” “Slave Play,” “Sea Wall/A Life,” “The Sound Inside” and “Grand Horizons” and three for Best Revival of a Play: “Betrayal,” “A Soldier’s Play” and “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” These will all be interesting categories to follow due to the volume of shows and star power with actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Audra McDonald, Laura Linney, Tom Hiddleston and more gracing the stage in plays this season.
Along with seasoned stage performers come first-time nominees in University of Rhode Island alumnus and guest artist, Andrew Burnap, for his leading role in “The Inheritance” and three nominations from “Jagged Little Pill” for featured actress in a musical, Celia Rose Gooding, Katherine Gallagher and Lauren Patten, as well as leading actress in a play Joaquina Kalukango for “Slave Play.”
Following an unprecedented year and season and with Broadway not returning until June 2021 at its earliest re-opening date, I hope the 74th Tony Awards will be a great night of celebration and a reminder that Broadway will return somehow and someday and while there are hundreds of performers and crew members out of work currently, there is still much to be thankful for and that deserves rewarding.