Some of the biggest names in film, television and the Broadway stage won’t be making the coveted pilgrimage to Radio City Music Hall this June when the 75th annual Tony Awards are handed out, as such high-profile performers as Daniel Craig, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Katrina Lenk, Beanie Feldstein, Jane Lynch and Patrick J. Adams were not among the nominations announced Monday morning.
And at least as surprising as the snubs was the strong showing of Paradise Square, a musical that received fairly mixed reviews and has been struggling at the box office since opening April 3. The musical, a comeback for producer Garth H. Drabinsky, scored 10 nominations (tying with MJ and second only to A Strange Loop). Among Paradise Square‘s are Best Musical, Joaquina Kalukango’s nom for Best Lead Actress/Musical, and A.J. Shively’s nom for Featured Actor/Musical.
Among the biggest surprises and take-aways of today’s nominations:
- Funny Girl‘s near shut-out. Notwithstanding the well-deserved nomination for Jared Grimes in the Featured Actor/Musical category, the much-anticipated (and box office powerhouse) revival was perhaps the most glaring snub of the day. The revival was mostly panned by critics, who offered lukewarm encouragement at best, but the lack of a showing for the well-regarded director Michael Mayer, not to mention the popular stars Feldstein, Lynch and lead actor Ramin Karimloo still comes as a sting. Not even the beloved Harvey Fierstein, who revised Isobel Lennart’s original book (but perhaps not enough) could get nominators’ attention. Funny Girl — the first major Broadway production of the musical without Barbra Streisand – proved critic-proof at the box office, but this Tony snub might hurt long-term prospects;
- Along with Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig was the biggest male movie star name to grace a Broadway marquee this season, but unlike Music Man‘s Jackman, he won’t be attending the Tony ceremony as a nominee. Critics were not particularly impressed with either Craig or Sam Gold’s bare-bones revival of Macbeth — nor were nominators — but some Tony-watchers speculated that the James Bond franchise star would sneak by just on glitz-factor alone. A more solid bet was on his co-star Ruth Negga, who stole the show and got a Lead Actress/Play nomination, one of three for the production (along with sound and lighting);
- Another high-profile production, John Benjamin Hickey’s revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, was largely ignored today, garnering a single nomination (for Jane Greenwood’s often witty, era-correct costumes). Broderick and Parker, the real-life married couple making a rare co-starring appearance (interrupted for a bit by Covid), failed to impress both nominators and critics alike. Audiences, however, have been filling seats;
- Three actors in Take Me Out were nominated, though probably not the three most would have predicted. Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse Williams both scored Featured Actor/Play nominations, but lead actor Patrick J. Adams didn’t. The third cast member to score? Michael Oberholtzer, who plays the pivotal role of a racist and homophobic baseball wunderkind and all but steals the show with an explosive, chilling emotional outburst as his world comes crashing down near the play’s end;
- The Marianne Elliott revival of Sondheim’s Company made a strong showing with nine nominations, including the Best Musical Revival, direction, the all-but-guaranteed Featured Actress nod for the iconic Patti LuPone and well-deserved nominations for performers Matt Doyle and Jennifer Simard. Left out was Katrina Lenk, the lead actress who plays the re-gendered Bobbie. Lenk, a major Broadway star since her Tony-winning performance in The Band’s Visit, polarized critics and Sondheim devotees with her Company role, the naysayers unimpressed with her less-than-powerhouse turn at the musical’s big number, “Being Alive,” while those of us who were more impressed thought she found her own way into the song. Nominators sided with the naysayers.
- Several other big-name stars failed to make a showing on the nomination roster, some more surprising than others. Debra Messing received lukewarm reviews for Birthday Candles, but both Laurence Fishburne and Darren Criss drew strong notices for American Buffalo. Chalk up their absences to very crowded categories;
- That crowded play field (the brilliant Lehman Trilogy did much of that crowding) no doubt hurt The Minutes, which drew just a single nomination (for Best Play). Ignored were Noah Reid, the Schitt’s Creek star making a very fine Broadway debut, and Austin Pendleton, giving perhaps the funniest performance on Broadway this season;
- Tony nominators were not dissuaded from MJ, the Michael Jackson musical, by any negative pre-show publicity. The musical, with a book by two-time Pulitzer winner Lynne Nottage that sets the action in the early 1990s and before, steers clear of the child molestation accusations that would dog the King of Pop through much of his later life. The high-energy musical scored a whopping 10 nominations;
- The season kicked off last fall with much attention on the long-in-coming arrival of Black creators and performers as Broadway took steps to reckon with its largely unwelcoming history. Today’s nominations largely reflect those advances: Clyde’s, Skeleton Crew, A Strange Loop, MJ, Paradise Square, for colored girls…, Trouble in Mind, The Skin of Our Teeth, and Lackawanna Blues made showings on the roster, with both Clyde’s and Skeleton Crew written by Black women. Only the sadly overlooked Thoughts of a Colored Man by Keenan Scott II, a much-heralded part of last fall’s vanguard of Black productions, failed to score a a deserved nomination.
As for my own own reactions: I’m thrilled for the strong showings by the marvelous A Strange Loop, MJ, Girl From the North Country, Hangmen, Dana H. and The Lehman Trilogy; baffled at the near shut-out of The Minutes; and very disappointed that the risky and unnerving Is This a Room was overlooked entirely (particularly the lead performance of Emily Davis as Reality Winner).
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And while the underloved Flying Over Sunset scored a respectable four nominations (Carmen Cusack, Lead Actress/musical, scenic design, lighting design and original score), I was hoping against hope that this strange, beautiful musical about Aldous Huxley, Cary Grant and Clare Boothe Luce would surprise everyone with a Best Musical nomination. I would have given it the slots of either Paradise Square or Mr. Saturday Night, but that’s the nomination game — you can’t win ’em all.