The New York Drama Critics Circle has named family drama “The Humans” the best play of the season, with “Shuffle Along” taking the award for musical.
That’s a big win for Scott Rudin, the busy producer who brought both those Tony-nominated titles to Broadway. Voted on by a group of New York-based theater critics, the awards serve as quantifiable validation from the critical community as both productions head into the Tony Awards. (The winners’ list this year doesn’t represent a dis on the Broadway juggernaut “Hamilton”; that show won the NYDCC trophy last year, in its Off Broadway incarnation.)
“The Humans,” Stephen Karam’s nuanced look at the tensions and anxieties that undermine one family’s Thanksgiving dinner, originated in a much-lauded Off Broadway production at the Roundabout Theater Company. Rudin then swiftly sherpherded the show to Broadway, where it opened in February.
“Shuffle Along,” meanwhile, opened cold on Broadway this spring, also under Rudin’s aegis. That show, conceived and directed by George C. Wolfe, chronicles the backstage story of the influential 1921 jazz musical of the same name. Reuniting Wolfe and Savion Glover (“Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk”) and starring Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter, “Shuffle Along” opened last month to notable raves in the press.
The NYDCC also awarded special citations to Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis, actress Lois Smith (“John,” “Marjorie Prime”) and director-designer duo Ivo van Hove and Jan Versweyveld (“The Crucible,” “A View from the Bridge”).
Although the NYDCC win seems unlikely to shift the Tony momentum away from “Hamilton,” the award for “Humans” could indicate a strong base of support that would push the play out in front of its main Tony competition, “Eclipsed.”
The NYDCC awards and citations will be handed out in a ceremony set for May 17.