Just five days after the 2014-2015 Broadway season officially came to an end with the simultaneous openings of The Visit and Airline Highway (which were preceded by countless other opening nights throughout April – too many to remember in full), the Tony Award nominations were announced on the morning of Tuesday, April 28 by stage veteran Mary-Louise Parker and stage novice Bruce Willis (who will come to Broadway next season in Misery).
The new musicals Fun Home, An American in Paris and Something Rotten! all reaped a large number of nominations, with Fun Home and An American in Paris at 12 and Something Rotten! at 10. All were nominated in the key category of Best Musical, with the fourth slot going to The Visit. Although The Visit is a dreary, creepy, rather weak musical, it is the last work by the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret). It also just opened, thus giving it an edge over musicals that have already closed, including Honeymoon in Vegas and The Last Ship.
There is no immediate front runner among Fun Home, An American in Paris and Something Rotten!, which ought to make it a very interesting and lively race. Although I favor (and have every intention of casting my Tony ballot for) Fun Home, which received the strongest reviews of all three, at this point, I can imagine An American in Paris pulling off an upset. In spite of Craig Lucas’ problematic book, the direction and choreography of Christopher Wheeldon is undeniably stunning. And who doesn’t love those classic Gershwin songs? It’s also starting to produce healthy weekly grosses at the Palace Theatre. Its producers have also revealed preliminary plans for a national tour – news that ought to appeal to the many voters outside New York.
Wolf Hall, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two-part history of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, scored eight nominations – the most of any play. The revival of David Hare’s Skylight with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan got seven nominations. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which has been playing to full houses since opening to great reviews in the fall, received six nominations. All things considered, it was a pretty good day for the British, though two of the nominees for Best Play – Disgraced and Hand to God – come from American writers.
The category of Best Revival of a Musical contains three well-reviewed productions of great American musicals: On the Town, The King and I, and On the Twentieth Century. On the Town might gain some sympathy in light of the fact it is the only one being produced commercially, but The King and I does have the prestige and largess of Lincoln Center Theater.
Singer-songwriter-superstar Sting received a well-deserved nomination for his Celtic-style score of The Last Ship, but it’s not hard to imagine Fun Home taking both Best Score and Best Book, which it absolutely deserves – and which would make performer-playwright Lisa Kron a two-time Tony winner overnight.
Alex Sharp, the young Juilliard grad giving an extraordinary performance in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as an English teen with Asperger’s, could beat out celebs like Bradley Cooper and Bill Nighy for Best Actor in a Play. But no less worthy of the accolade is Steven Boyer, who in Hand to God plays a shy Texan teen whose inner rage becomes personified in the form of a foul-mouthed, violent hand puppet.
A particularly interesting category is Best Actress in a Musical. Kelli O’Hara, playing Anna in The King and I, has now been nominated no less than six times for a Tony Award. While her Anna may be less exciting than her Nellie in South Pacific, I think the voters will give her the award in light of her entire body of work. However, Kristin Chenoweth is giving her best performance in years in On the Twentieth Century. And even if you dislike The Visit, there’s no disputing the extraordinary presence of 82-year-old Chita Rivera.
I have no problem with shows like Finding Neverland, Living on Love (now set to close), It Shoulda Been You, Doctor Zhivago and Fish in the Dark receiving no nominations – or the poor showings for Gigi, It’s Only a Play and The Heidi Chronicles. But the absence of any nominations for Honeymoon in Vegas and the revival of Side Show (which both received big raves from the Paper of Record) is deeply troubling. In recent weeks, many people have complained about how the openings of so many shows are stacked together in April – rather than being spread out throughout the year. But considering this clear proof that plays that open early and then close will probably fare poorly in terms of nominations, that unhealthy, nauseating practice is likely to keep getting worse.
At the very end of the nominations announcement, it was revealed that this year’s awards ceremony will be co-hosted by Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. In other words, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman are not available. Here’s a prediction I feel very confident about making: really low television ratings.