The Tony Awards are set to take place on June 8; those without tickets can watch at home on CBS. We’ve compiled some fascinating facts about this year’s nominees to prepare you for the big show.
ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID
Sure, Audra McDonald gets all the publicity — she’s won so many Tonys that if she snags lead actress in a play for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” she’ll be the first woman to have won in all four acting categories and will tie Julie Harris’ record of six awards (although Harris’ sixth was a special lifetime achievement kudo).
But there are plenty of Susan Luccis on the Main Stem, too. Most notable is Kelli O’Hara (“The Bridges of Madison County”), with five nominations but no wins. Danny Burstein also has five noms but nothing on his mantle. His “Cabaret” co-star Linda Emond is on her third nod, as is Celia Keenan-Bolger of “The Glass Menagerie.”
None of them compare to costume designer Jane Greenwood, notching her 16th nomination for “Act One.” Whatever happens with that show, though, she’ll go home with a trophy: She will receive a special lifetime achievement Tony.
TONYS LOVE TYROS TOO
For all the Broadway regulars nominated this year, plenty of debuts are recognized as well. Bryan Cranston? He’s making his Broadway bow with “All the Way.” Ditto Chris O’Dowd in “Of Mice and Men,” Mary Bridget Davies in “A Night With Janis Joplin,” Sophie Okonedo in “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lauren Worsham in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Sarah Greene in “The Cripple of Inishmaan” and Paul Chahidi in “Twelfth Night.” Costume designers Arianne Phillips (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) and Isabel Toledo (“After Midnight”) are Rialto rookies, too. Heck, so are the lead creatives of “Gentleman’s Guide” — writers Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak and helmer Darko Tresnjak, not to mention “Beautiful” book writer Douglas McGrath.
Also on the list? Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, well-known for their TV work (“Gilmore Girls,” “Bunheads”) but first-time producers for “Violet,” the Roundabout Theater Company revival for which they kicked in some funding.
Last summer they caught the one-night-only City Center Encores! revival of “Violet” — starring “Bunheads” lead Sutton Foster — and fell in love. “In TV you don’t get to a chance to support something that’s just great, because it’s a corporate thing that’s out of your hands,” Sherman-Palladino says. “Here was an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is and support something small and special.”
The duo threw themselves into the show. “We asked if we could sit in for as much of the process as we could,” recalls Palladino. “They were like, ‘OK, but a lot of it is boring.’ ”
THE WOODY FACTOR
Just as Oscar observers raised doubts about the kudo prospects of “Blue Jasmine,” some Tony pundits wondered if the recent accusations against Woody Allen would influence nominators against “Bullets Over Broadway.” Not so much: Although the show was left out of the top musical race, it scored six nods — including one for book writer Allen.
‘HEDWIG’ AND THE NEW KID
The majority of the nominees for Neil Patrick Harris starrer “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” have been a part of Team Hedwig for years. Producer David Binder also produced the show’s 1998 Off Broadway bow, for which lighting designer Kevin Adams was on board. Costume designer Arianne Philips and sound designer Tim O’Heir did the 2001 movie. Even director Michael Mayer had been slated to helm the show Off Broadway before he had to step away for another project.
The virgin of the bunch was nominated set designer Julian Crouch. “I was aware I was new,” he says. “‘Hedwig’ is more than a show for them; it’s their baby. You tread carefully and you do a lot of listening.”
‘GLASS’ FULL, FINALLY
It seems inconceivable that Tennessee Williams’ classic of modern drama, “The Glass Menagerie,” had never been nominated for a Tony Award, in any category, ever, before the fall revival earned seven from the play’s seventh stint on Broadway.
Part of that seeming anomaly can be explained by the fact that the show’s 1945 debut came a couple of years before the Tonys Awards launched. And then there’s no discounting the giant shadow cast by that original production and Laurette Taylor’s legendary perf.
This season, “Menagerie” thesps Cherry Jones, Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith each scored a nom (with only Zachary Quinto left out), and the production seems to have forged deep bonds among the four-actor cast. “Just a couple weeks ago we all had a night at Cherry’s until 5 in the morning,” says Keenan-Bolger. “Some plays are like that. We’re gonna be lifers.”
CO-STARS AND COMPETITORS
It was a fine year for ensemble acting, which helps explain why so many categories feature thesps competing with castmates. “A Raisin in the Sun” co-stars Anika Noni Rose and Okonedo fill two of the slots in the race for featured actress in a play, and “Twelfth Night” takes up three spots on the list for featured actor in a play: Chahidi, Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance.
The lead actor in a musical contest sees the two stars of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, facing off. It seems a particularly dangerous situation, given that the tuner itself is about a striver murdering off his competition for a family inheritance.
No homicidal thoughts backstage, apparently. Tony season is such a whirlwind it can be nice to have a friend in middle of it with you. “I’m just so glad Jefferson and I get to do this together,” Pinkham says.
WHO VOTES, ANYWAY?
An elite group — OK, relatively elite, compared to 6,000-plus who vote for the Oscars — of 868, including producers, presenters, actors, writers, directors, casting agents, press agents and critics.
Forty-six of those voters make up the nominating committee, each member of which serves a three-year term (with new members joining on a staggered schedule as others depart). The nominators, by all accounts, take their job very seriously, carefully weighing the season’s standouts of artistic excellence.
The balloting body, however, is a different can of worms entirely, with producers, road presenters and others all caught in a tangle of vested interests. Every year, then, raises concerns that the title that will make the most money for the largest percentage of voters will triumph over the show that is the most artistically deserving.
But then, it’s all a matter of taste: One voter’s cash-grab may be another’s creative fave. If everyone agreed, what would we all talk about?