Broadway is busy celebrating another year of Tony Award nominations, a list that saw lots of first-time nominees alongside artists finally receiving nods after long careers. And as per usual, theatre fans have lots of opinions about who did—and did not—make the list this year.
Pull up a chair and brew a cup of tea, because the Playbill edit staff is taking a look at the shows and artists overlooked in this year's Tony Award nominations.
But First, Some Caveats
Some Broadway fans may be confused by the lack of Best Score nomination for New York, New York, and Best Choreography nomination for Dancin'. But those are not snubs. The shows were ineligible in both of these cases, with not enough new material to meet the Tony nominating committee’s requirements. Bob Fosse won a Tony Award in 1978 for his Dancin' choreography, re-staged for the revival by original cast member Wayne Cilento. Meanwhile, New York, New York, while not really being billed as such, is essentially a Kander and Ebb jukebox musical. Less than 50 percent of the score's songs were newly written for the musical. Find out where the other songs came from here.
11 Shows Were Not Nominated at All
Last year, out of 34 shows, just five were shut out of nominations. This year, the number is bigger. Out of 38 eligible shows, 11 shows did not receive any nominations (and no, we’re not counting The Jonas Brothers, whose limited concert engagement was not eligible). The shows left out of this year’s list of nominees are 1776, A Beautiful Noise, Bad Cinderella, The Collaboration, Bob Fosse's Dancin’, The Kite Runner, Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Pictures from Home, The Thanksgiving Play, and Walking with Ghosts.
The most shocking of the omissions was A Beautiful Noise, especially star Will Swenson who plays Neil Diamond in the jukebox bio-musical. Usually, the Tony Awards recognizes performers who play a real-life person (and doubly so when they play their own instruments on stage like Swenson), which makes the exclusion of anything for A Beautiful Noise especially unexpected. But considering how well the show is continuing to do in the box office, the show may not have any Tonys but it does have legions of fans singing "Sweet Caroline."
While it must hurt to not receive any nominations, some shows are handling the news with a wink. Bad Cinderella tweeted out to their fellow Broadway shows, “Soooooo @dancinbway @beautifulnoise what are you doing June 11th? Brunch???👀❤️🔥”
Similarly, Peter Pan Goes Wrong has started running ads poking fun at its lack of Tony love.
Kudos to both shows for taking it all in stride (and in Bad Cinderella's case, in some fabulous shoes).
Soooooo @dancinbway @beautifulnoise what are you doing June 11th? Brunch??? pic.twitter.com/oHimzCNvwG— Bad Cinderella on Broadway (@badcinderella) May 2, 2023
A Pair of Missing Leading Actresses
This season had an unusually small number of performers—just six!—eligible in the Best Leading Actress in a Play category. With four actors making the cut (in a category that has had six nominees as recently as 2019), the absence of The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window’s Rachel Brosnahan and Summer, 1976’s Laura Linney becomes somewhat notable. Both Brosnahan and Linney did, however, receive recognition from the Drama League Awards, with both currently in the running for their Distinguished Performance Award.
An Olivier Award Doesn’t Always Lead to a Tony
Leopoldstadt came to Broadway this season after winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play and Best Actor in a Supporting Role. And its good luck seems to reflected in this year’s Tony nominations, where it received six nominations (including Best Play). But other West End-originating plays did not repeat their Olivier success on this side of the pond. Life of Pi, which won five Olivier Awards (including Best New Play and Best Actor for Hiran Abeysekera, who reprised his role on Broadway), faced stiffer competition stateside. The production has five Tony nominations, including for its scenic and costume (and puppet) design, but notably not for Best Play or for Abeysekera’s Broadway performance. Abeysekera did get a Drama Desk nomination and an Outer Critics Circle nomination, so this may be the case of different tastes in different awards bodies.
The same is true for Prima Facie, which won three Olivier Awards (including for Best New Play). Jodie Comer did repeat her West End success by getting a Tony nomination for her performance, as well as the show’s design team (who earned three Tony nominations). But out of the show’s four Tony nominations, Best Play was not one of them.
Another Olivier-winning performance that was overlooked this year was Sharon D Clarke for Death of a Salesman. She won an Olivier Award for Best Actress for playing Linda Loman, but did not receive a Tony nomination for her performance on Broadway. Conversely, her co-star, Wendell Pierce did receive a Tony nod after being nominated—but not winning—the Olivier.
It might be an indication of just how strong American plays and performers were this year, since four out of the five plays nominated for Best Play originated Off-Broadway. And for those of us theatre lovers, we’re just grateful at the abundance of great work, so much so that it’s hard for anyone to choose!
Adrienne Kennedy Misses Her Long-Awaited Tony Nomination
Audra McDonald told us last year that one of the main reasons she wanted to star in Ohio State Murders was that she was “haunted by the fact that [playwright] Adrienne Kennedy had never had any of her plays on Broadway.” At 91 years old, Kennedy has had a long and distinguished career in the American theatre, but never got a Broadway bow until this season’s production of her Ohio State Murders. Even though the show, which premiered in 1992, was ruled eligible in the Revival of a Play category, many hoped the production would give Kennedy not only her Broadway debut but a Tony Award—she’s already an Obie Award winner and Lifetime Achievement Obie honoree, along with being in the Theater Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the show’s limited run was cut short after just 29 performances, and McDonald received the production’s sole Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play. We think the takeaway here should be that Broadway needs more Adrienne Kennedy plays—and pronto.
No Tony Love For Aaron Sorkin’s Take on Camelot
Broadway got a nice surprise with a brand-new book for the current revival of Camelot, penned by West Wing creator and To Kill a Mockingbird playwright Aaron Sorkin. Even though the production is a revival, Sorkin’s wholly new book (adapted from Alan Jay Lerner’s original) was ruled eligible for Best Book of a Musical. A nomination felt to many like a lock with Sorkin being such a high-profile name, but apparently the Tony Nominating Committee disagreed.
This shouldn’t be seen as any slight on Sorkin. The musical, while beloved, has always been tricky. The original production, Lerner and Loewe’s follow-up to their smash hit My Fair Lady, was itself quite successful when it opened, despite lukewarm critical response. But even with audiences queuing for tickets at the box office in droves, the creative team was never pleased with the version of the show that played opening night. In a rare move, Lerner, Loewe, and director Moss Hart continued to tinker with the musical after opening night, making fairly dramatic changes to the book and songlist even after the Broadway cast album had itself become a runaway hit. (Read more about Camelot's post-opening night revisions here.) In the years since, many different iterations of the book and score have been performed. Camelot is one of those musicals that has never found its “definitive” version, with legions of directors and writers searching for their own fleeting wisp of glory that might “fix” the original, and with varying degrees of success. Sorkin’s absence from the Best Book category is more of a continuing trend than an all-out snub.
Everyone Except the Directors
For shows that receive multiple nominations, it’s always noticeable when certain elements of a production are recognized over others. This year, two directors were left off the list of nominees even though their shows received plenty of love with design, acting, and production categories. Both Sweeney Todd and New York, New York received ample nominations, with eight and nine nominations, respectively. Sweeney received nominations in acting, choreography, design, and for Best Revival of a Musical; while New York, New York received nominations for its book, choreography, design, acting, and Best Musical. This is why it's glaring that those shows’ directors—Thomas Kail for Sweeney Todd and Susan Stroman in New York, New York—did not receive recognition for bringing the different elements in their respective shows together. Perhaps it reflects that this season, between the legion of strong contenders for new musicals and revivals, there were simply too many directors to choose from.
The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window’s Unusual Tony Performance
A Raisin in the Sun playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s seldom performed The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window became a late addition to the Broadway season, transferring from an Off-Broadway run at Brooklyn Academy of Music at the literal last minute so it could still be eligible for this year’s Tony Awards. The move was likely a happy combination of circumstances. The James Earl Jones was vacated after Ohio State Murders’ run was cut short and the subsequent play Room needing to stop production because of a financing issues.
And it certainly helped that the Hansberry revival had been fully mounted in Brooklyn with superstars Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan leading the cast. In other words, space was available, and producers likely thought the production could become candy for the Tony Awards. And they were partially right. Miriam Silverman got a nod for Featured Actress in a Play, but, in an unusual move, the production’s only other Tony nomination was for Best Revival of a Play.
It’s pretty uncommon for shows to get nods in production categories but not for its direction and designs. But in a play-filled season that saw nominations more evenly distributed amongst the eligible productions, that’s how things shook out this time. We look forward to June 11, to see who will take home the statues.