On your mark, get set, go.
The race for the Tony Awards has officially begun with the announcement of the 2022 nominations on Monday. In honoring and highlighting the work in a crowded, COVID-disrupted season, nominators surprised, snubbed and gave observers plenty to chatter about. Here are the biggest takeaways.
Look for two musicals to get a big box office boost.
Sales for “A Strange Loop” were already on the rise thanks to the hype around the critically acclaimed production’s opening week. Now that the show is the most-nominated of the season — and the frontrunner for the award — that much-needed momentum will continue to build. If any other show looks likely to benefit from the nominations buzz, it’s “Paradise Square.” That one got little critical love and has notably struggled at the box office, but it managed to surprise with 10 nominations including one for best musical. That should help turn the heads of ticketbuyers — enough to perk up those sagging sales figures, although not necessarily enough to significantly extend the musical’s lifespan.
Big-name stars did…so-so.
Billy Crystal, Hugh Jackman, Ruth Negga, Mary-Louise Parker, Phylicia Rashad, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jesse Williams: There were plenty of film and TV names who made the cut this year. But in jam-packed season, just as many were left out in the cold including Daniel Craig, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Beanie Feldstein, Debra Messing and Laurence Fishburne.
The 2021-2022 season encompassed an unprecedented number of shows by Black creators, and the nominations list reflects that history-making representation.
Two of the five contenders for new play (“Clyde’s,” “Skeleton Crew”) were written by Black women. Three of the contenders for lead actress in a play (Gabby Beans, LaChanze, Ruth Negga) are Black, and so are half of the actors (Chuck Cooper, Ron Cephas Jones, Jesse Williams) in the six-person category for featured actor in a play. In general, the pool of nominees confirms the logic that when more diverse work is produced on Broadway, more diverse talent is elevated come awards seasons.
Michael Jackson’s legacy may have a shadow over it, but “MJ” still cleaned up.
The King of Pop bio-musical “MJ” has caught flack from critics and some observers for not directly addressing the allegations against the late Jackson, but nominators still found plenty to admire, giving the show 10 nods, right behind the 11 for “Strange Loop” and tying it with “Paradise Square.”
“The Music Man” overcame muted critical response and an entertainment-industry fall from grace.
There was a time when the star-driven revival of “The Music Man” looked like the next “Hello, Dolly!” — but the road was bumpier than expected. In addition to the disruptions of COVID, the show lost its lead producer when the Scott Rudin allegations led the mega-producer to step away from all of his work in the industry, including from “The Music Man.” Once the production finally did open, critical reaction was decidedly mixed. But none of that has mattered at the box office, where the show has become one of the season’s most massive sellers, and nominators handed the show six total noms including nods for musical revival and for stars Jackman and Sutton Foster.
The vote for the leading actor in a play category was unusually tight.
According to Tony regulations, each acting category is made up of five contenders unless a near-tie on the nominators’ ballots necessitates the addition of one more name. A six-name category happens fairly regularly, but this year’s category for leading actor in a play ballooned to seven, which means there were not one but two additional contenders with enough support among nominators to muscle in. Among those making the list are all three of the actors in the cast of “The Lehman Trilogy”: Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester.
In a season filled with new plays, “The Minutes” got less than expected.
The new Tracy Letts play earned some notable raves from the critics, and the playwright has gotten plenty of Tony love before (“August: Osage County”). But in a crowded field, “The Minutes” earned only a single nod for play, leaving its ensemble cast and Tony-winning director (Anna D. Shapiro) out of contention.