#TonysNotSoWhite? After a notably diverse season on Broadway, the 2016 Tony Awards nominations set up the real possibility that for the first time in Tony history, all four musical acting categories will be won by actors of color.
In the lead actor in a musical race, Leslie Odom, Jr. is seen as the frontrunner for his turn as Aaron Burr in “Hamilton” — and his main competition is co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda. In the lead actress category, Cynthia Erivo has looked like the one to beat since “The Color Purple” opened in December. And in featured acting competitions, there’s a strong chance that Renee Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs, both of “Hamilton,” will walk away with prizes. (The featured actor slate includes three actors of color, with Christopher Jackson of “Hamilton” and Brandon Victor Dixon of “Shuffle Along” joining Diggs in the contest.)
Should all those wins occur, the June 12 telecast would serve as the latest rebuke to the Academy Awards, which earlier this year became embroiled in a controversy (dubbed #OscarsSoWhite) over the lack of diversity among the 2016 Oscar nominees. That potential turn of events would echo the outcome of the 2016 SAG Awards, where the notable diversity of the winners there also stood in stark contract to the Oscars.
Actors of color have won Tonys in musical categories before: In 2013, for instance, both the lead-acting musical prizes went to African-American performers, Patina Miller and Billy Porter. (That year, too, Cicely Tyson and Courtney B. Vance won in play categories.) But it’d be a first for all four musical acting trophies to go to non-white artists.
Of course, there are still plenty of white people in the running for Tonys this year, and Broadway acknowledges it still has a long way to go in terms of diversity. Next season, for instance, is so far shaping up to include far less across-the-board diversity than the 2015-16 slate.
But this year’s Tony nominations — and the potential for a historic string of wins — nonetheless underscores the fact that when it comes to diversity, there are areas of the entertainment industry making strides even as the Oscars stumble.