Tony Nominations Eligibility: Don’t Count Out ‘Cabaret’

How about another wild card thrown into an anything-goes Tony race?

The Tony Awards Administration committee, which meets periodically to decide eligibility questions regarding the season’s Tony contenders, had at least one surprise in store for awards pundits and armchair prognosticators: The Roundabout Theater Company revival of “Cabaret” — essentially a remount of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s Tony-winning 1998 production — will be eligible in the musical revival category.

It’s a relatively minor shakeup in one of the season’s less competitive categories, but the decision nonetheless runs counter to the expectations of most in the industry, who anticipated that the show wouldn’t be eligible in the production category since it had been nominated, and won, the first time around. The ruling follows a precedent set by recent revivals of “A Chorus Line” and “Les Miserables” that were also remounts of earlier stagings.

Alan Cumming, who plays the same part in “Cabaret” for which he scored a Tony in 1998, won’t be eligible for a lead musical actor nomination, but the fresh members of the cast — including Michelle Williams — will be.

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Among other rulings, the admin committee deemed that “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” the Billie Holiday bio that features Audra McDonald singing a number of Holiday standards, is a play rather than a musical. In its original Off Broadway run, the 1986 show was initially categorized as a musical as reflected by the awards for which it was eligible at the time.

The ruling matches up with the eligibility specifics of another recent stage bio with a lot of music, Judy Garland backstager “End of the Rainbow.” It also moves McDonald, a legit awards fave, out of the highly competitive lead actress in a musical race and puts her in the lead play actress category — which is shaping up to be fairly crowded as well, with LaTanya Richardson Jackson of “A Raisin in the Sun” among those just ruled eligible for a nomination in that category.

As expected, tuners “Violet” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and play “The Cripple of Inishmaan” join “Lady Day” as shows that have been deemed revivals despite the fact that none of them have appeared on Broadway before. That decision is based on a regulation that stipulates that if a show has entered the theatrical canon without a Broadway run — as was the case with “Driving Miss Daisy,” which in 2010 was deemed a revival in a first Rialto engagement — then the show should be classified as a revival rather than a new title.

The producers of “Inishmaan” had angled for it to be considered a new play, since it was the show’s first time on the Rialto. But the Tony committee didn’t bite, instead slotting the production into the crowded play revival category.

All along Broadway, the best actress in a musical race is widely considered the most competitive of the season, with divas on the list of potential nominees including Idina Menzel (“If/Then”), Kelli O’Hara (“The Bridges of Madison County”), Jessie Mueller (“Beautiful”) and Sutton Foster (“Violet”), plus Hollywood awards regular Williams. McDonald has now been crossed off that list, and so has Marin Mazzie, the “Bullets Over Broadway” actress and industry fave who might arguably have been classified as either a lead or a supporting thesp. The admin committee decided to consider her eligible in the supporting category.

The season’s final meeting of the Tony admin group was held the day after the April 24 eligibility cutoff for the 2013-14 season. Nominations will be announced April 29.



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