Larry David may be a knock-out star on TV, but his play Fish In the Dark was completely shut out at the Tony nominations, announced this morning. Same with producer Harvey Weinstein’s musical Finding Neverland, which is winning adoring audiences but no Tony love.
Weinstein may be a genius at Oscar campaigns, but the tight-knit theater world prefers to honor its own.
Some of the most awarded shows prove that Broadway isn’t afraid to go in new directions. The musicals An American in Paris and Fun Home received twelve nominations each, and Wolf Hall Parts 1 and 2 topped the list of plays with eight.
At six hours in length, Wolf Hall, based on the best-selling novels by Hilary Mantel, recently interviewed by the Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman—takes place in the court of Henry VIII and focuses on the rise of Thomas Cromwell and the fall of the King’s wives.
The gripping production was a success in London and got nominations for both leading actor Ben Miles as Cromwell and supporting actor Nathaniel Parker as the King.
Wolf Hall may be an unusual undertaking for tourist-seeking Broadway, but it’s nothing compared to Fun Home.
The ground-breaking musical, based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, tells the story of lesbian growing up with a dad who killed himself rather than confront his own homosexuality.
The story may be unexpected, but the songs about desire, suicide, and growing-up, are touchingly beautiful. The show also includes an almost-perfect cast. Three different actresses play the heroine at different ages—and all got nominations, as did the parents, played by Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn.
An American in Paris continues the trend of movies being turned into Broadway musicals—but with a very different twist.
The lead roles, played in the 1952 Oscar-winning movie by Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, were given to dancers—Robert Fairchild, a principal with the New York City Ballet, and Leanne Cope of the Royal Ballet.
Both stars got Tony nominations for their wonderful Broadway debuts—richly gorgeous, and proving that ballet stars can also sing and act. Brandon Uranowitz and Max von Essen, as the other two men who fall in love with Leanne’s character, also got nominations.
The prestige of a Tony win usually pays off at the box-office receipts in the category of Best Musical. In addition to Fun Home and An American in Paris, contenders The Visit, and Something Rotten! are also not standard Broadway fare.
The raucous Something Rotten!, about the world’s first musical, pulled in an impressive ten nominations, including for its stars Brian D’Arcy James (lead actor) and Christian Borle (supporting). The Visit is a darker musical starring 83-year-old Chita Rivera as an extremely rich woman set on avenging an old love, who got her own nomination.
If Harvey Weinstein is licking his wounds over Finding Neverland being ignored for best musical, he can call Sting. The rock star’s beautiful The Last Ship closed early and also didn’t make the list. Sting did get nominated for Best Score, which may be some consolation (though not to the show’s producers, who reportedly lost their large investments).
Hollywood stars weren’t completely ignored. Bradley Cooper got a well-deserved nomination as best actor in a play for his touching and transforming performance as the deformed title character in The Elephant Man.
Bill Nighy also received a nomination for his mesmerizing character portrayal in David Hare’s acclaimed Skylight, which delicately deconstructs a relationship.
The category could have looked like Oscar night but other Hollywood stars including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Cera were snubbed. They gave lovely performances on Broadway this season—but it was a strong category.
Familiar names did get nominations for best actress in a play. Helen Mirren chalked up another nomination as Queen Elizabeth II facing a succession of British Prime Ministers in The Audience. Having already won Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Olivier Awards for playing English queens, she has learned to wear the crown lightly.
Carey Mulligan, another English actress of supreme versatility, grabbed a nom for her role opposite Bill Nighy in Skylight.
Elizabeth Moss (Peggy on Mad Men) gave a subtle, moving performance as the title character in The Heidi Chronicles, and got the nomination she deserved. The same goes for Ruth Wilson (of Showtime’s The Affair) who got a nomination for her role in the two-person drama Constellations, even though co-star Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t.
Geneva Carr of Hand to God, the deliciously profane comedy about a demonic puppet controlling his owner, rounded out the category.
Stars who didn’t get nominated in the category include Glenn Close, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mia Farrow, and Gretchen Mol. Opera diva Renée Fleming made a charming Broadway debut in Living On Love—but not charming enough for a nomination.
Three shows got nominations for Best Revival of a Musical—The King and I, On the Town, and On the Twentieth Century. Notably missing was the only other revival still playing—Gigi, starring Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical.) It’s hard to call this a snub, since it was surely the weakest show in contention. Like the ingénue she played, Hudgens just didn’t seem quite ready for the big time.
The four shows nominated as Best Play—The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Disgraced, Hand to God, and Wolf Hall—also proved that Broadway can do its best when it takes chances.
Curious Incident follows a teenage boy with Asperger’s, while the teenage boy in Hand To God has his own problems—a dead father, a repressive religion, and a hand puppet who’s out of control. Somehow, both stories ended up riveting—and entertaining.
Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, peeled away the layers of an assimilated Pakistani lawyer in America and his pretty blonde wife. As more and more truths are revealed about who we are versus who we pretend to be, the action on stage—centered around a dinner party—gets more heated and the tension builds.
At least at this nomination stage, the Tony voters seem ready to give laurels to thoughtful, original shows that also hit emotional chords.