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Tony Awards: Eligibility Rulings on ‘Blackbird,’ Jennifer Hudson

The current Broadway production of “Blackbird,” starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels, has been deemed a revival by the Tony Awards Administration Committee, while Jennifer Hudson’s performance in “The Color Purple” will be eligible for a nomination in the featured actress category.

In a largely surprise-free session, the Admin Committee, the group that meets periodically throughout each Broadway season to address questions of eligibility, considered shows that opened between early December (starting with “School of Rock”) and stretching through “She Loves Me,” which opened March 17.

Although “Blackbird” has never played on Broadway before, the David Harrower play first appeared in New York in a 2007 Off Broadway run that also starred Daniels. The Admin Committee decided that thanks to that production and subsequent productions around the country, the title had entered the theatrical canon enough for its Broadway staging to be considered a revival.

Hudson’s status as a featured player falls in line with the “Color Purple” eligibility precedent set by the original 2005 production of the show, when Elizabeth Withers-Mendes was nominated for featured actress in the role of Shug Avery, the part currently played by Hudson (and soon to be portrayed by Heather Headley).

In most cases, actors billed above the title are considered lead performers while those below the title are deemed featured. Hudson’s eligibility was singled out for “Purple” because the Oscar winner is billed above the title. Also slotted into featured categories were Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel (both in “She Loves Me”), Jessica Hecht (“Fiddler on the Roof”), and the entire cast of the Roundabout’s revival of “Noises Off.”

Meanwhile, Alex Brightman (“School of Rock”) and Linda Lavin (“Our Mother’s Brief Affair”) will be considered leads.

The Tony Admin committee will meet one more time, soon after the last show of the season (“Shuffle Along”) opens, to consider the final batch of 2015-16 shows. Among the open questions: Will “Shuffle Along” be deemed a new musical or a revival? The answer will decide whether that title goes up against “Hamilton” in the Tony race.

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