Can Anything Stop Hamilton’s Tonys Juggernaut?
Hamilton scored a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations today. But don’t let its achievement obscure the brilliant work of the other nominees.
His juggernaut musical Hamilton broke the record this morning for the most Tony nominations ever, with 16 nods including Best Musical. Seven of the performers also got nominations. (A full list of nominations is here.)
In the best actor category, the duel will be between Hamilton (Miranda) and Aaron Burr, played by the wonderful Leslie Odom Jr. Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo was nominated for best actress, but will most likely be challenged by Cynthia Erivo from The Color Purple.
Three featured actors from Hamilton all got nominations—Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, and Christopher Jackson. It will be hard for Tony voters to pick among the actors who brilliantly portray Thomas Jefferson, King George, and George Washington.
Hollywood stars got well-deserved attention, with both Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams nominated for the powerful two-person play Blackbird. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o got a best actress nod for Eclipsed, where she’ll be up against Williams as well as Jessica Lange, who gives a breathtakingly perfect performance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Sophie Okonedo received a nomination as best actress for her role in The Crucible, though Oscar nominated Saoirse Ronan was stunningly snubbed for what was probably a far more impressive performance in the same play.
Also missing out this year was Audra McDonald, starring in Shuffle Along. It’s virtually the first time McDonald has been on Broadway without a nomination—her six previous Tony performance wins are the record for an actor.
The new musical American Psycho was also snubbed, with only two nominations in minor categories.
Tony voters might have been put off by the bloody story of a Wall Street trader turned serial-killer, but it’s hard to explain how Benjamin Walker as Patrick Bateman was overlooked. He gave an original and pitch-perfect performance.
While this was the year of #OscarsSoWhite, for the Tony’s it’s a year of #SoDiverse. The Hamilton cast single-handedly guaranteed that would be the case, but shows including Eclipsed, The Color Purple, and Shuffle Along brought different stories, races, and viewpoints to Broadway.
Spring Awakening, nominated for musical revival, had a cast that included many deaf actors, and their sign language was so beautifully incorporated it felt like its own kind of gorgeous music.
The director Ivo van Hove has two best play nominations, for his extraordinary revivals of The Crucible and A View from the Bridge. But he won’t have to compete against himself; he was nominated for best director only for View.
And then there’s the quirky matchup of Lin-Manuel Miranda versus Steve Martin, both of them nominated for book of a musical and original score. Martin is the talent behind the new musical Bright Star, a charmingly old-fashioned story with a fresh sound of banjos and fiddles. So it’s Hamilton hip-hop versus Martin’s bluegrass.
Bright Star was also nominated for best musical, along with School of Rock, Shuffle Along, and Waitress. None of them really have a chance against Hamilton, but the nomination alone can be a box-office boost.
The producers of Shuffle Along tried to avoid the competition by declaring the show was a revival, but the Tony board saw it otherwise. (The show’s subtitle: The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed pretty much settled the case.)
Hamilton has already won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy, tickets are sold-out (and wildly expensive), and the show has become part of the cultural conversation. But last year at this time, the producers took a gamble, deciding to transfer the show from the Public Theater to Broadway when it was too late for the 2015 Tony awards. Could a hip-hop show about the Founding Fathers survive on Broadway without the imprimatur of the Tonys?
We now know the answer is yes. But the Tonys will be a nice bonus.