“Shuffle Along” has been deemed a new musical in the upcoming Tony Awards race — thereby putting the freshly opened show, from a formidable team of creators and performers, in direct competition with “Hamilton.”
The decision was issued by the Tony Awards Administration Committee in its final meeting of the season, during which the group decided outstanding eligibility questions for Broadway’s 2015-16 shows. The classification of “Shuffle Along” had been one of the most talked about subjects of the season, since the ruling would determine whether “Shuffle Along” would compete at the Tonys in the new musical field, dominated by “Hamilton,” or in the musical revival race, which is also extremely competitive this year.
Producers of “Shuffle Along,” led by Scott Rudin, had lobbied the admin committee to label the project a revival, based on the fact that the musical is inspired by the 1921 musical “Shuffle Along” and draws many of its songs from that original show. In the end, though, the committee decided that the production incorporated too much new material (including new book elements by George C. Wolfe, chronicling the 1921 show’s backstory) to be considered a revival of a pre-existing work. (The committee does not formally comment on its rulings.)
Other decisions were largely unsurprising. The four male stars of “Shuffle Along” — Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry — will be considered featured actors, which puts fellow cast member Audra McDonald in the lead actress category. Carmen Cusack, who plays the central character in “Bright Star,” Jessie Mueller of “Waitress” and Sarah Charles Lewis of “Tuck Everlasting” will also be considered lead actresses in a musical.
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Michael Shannon and John Gallagher, Jr. of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” will compete in supporting actor categories, as will Ciaran Hinds and Saoirse Ronan of “The Crucible.”
“Fully Committed,” the solo comedy starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, will be considered in the play revival category. The show’s never been on Broadway before, but its high-profile Off Broadway run, starting in 1999, gave it enough of a profile in the theater community to consider it an established property.
With all the eligibility questions out of the way, the Tony nominations will be announced May 3 prior to the June 12 ceremony.