Tony awards 2020: unusual Broadway year leads to restricted nominations

A year on stage cut short by Covid has resulted in delayed nominations with Moulin Rouge, Jagged Little Pill and Slave Play out in front

Jagged Little Pill, Slave Play and Moulin Rouge! The Musical lead the nominations for the 74th annual Tony awards, celebrating the best in Broadway, in an unusual year for theatre.

The delayed announcement saw Jeremy O’Harris’s controversial three-act drama Slave Play, about race, sex and trauma, score 12 nominations, including for best play where it will compete with The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s two-part saga about gay life which scored 11 nominations.

“The closing of Broadway theatres (indeed almost all American theatres) this year has left us without a vital resource to gather together and examine ourselves and our nation and has reminded us just how important live theatre is to our personal and civil lives,” Lopez said in a statement. “In its absence, I urge everyone in these next three weeks to channel their energies into electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

The category also features The Sound Inside, Sea Wall/A Life and Grand Horizons.

A truncated year on stage saw theatres shutter in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result, many categories featured fewer nominees than usual. There were only 18 plays and musicals eligible this year compared to 34 in 2019.

In particular, the category of best musical was reduced to just three contenders: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge! The Musical and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. The thee picks also dominated all of the other musical-related categories such as best costume design and best book of a musical. The category of best lead actor in a musical was reduced to just one nominee: Aaron Tveit for his role in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which picked up 14 nominations overall, just one behind the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill.

The category of lead actor in a play saw Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge pick up nominations for Sea Wall/A Life as well as Tom Hiddleston for a revival of Betrayal. The three will face off against Blair Underwood for A Soldier’s Play, Ian Barford for Linda Vista and Andrew Burnap for The Inheritance.

Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play
Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play. Photograph: Matthew Murphy/AP

Lead actress in a play saw six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald score another nod for her role in a revival of Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Line alongside Laura Linney for her role in My Name is Lucy Barton. The pair are up against Slave Play’s Joaquina Kalukango and The Sound Inside’s Mary Louise-Parker.

There remains no confirmation on when the virtual ceremony will take place. “Theater has always and will always survive,” said Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart as he delivered the list. “Theater is constant.”

The nominations land during a difficult year for Broadway. Many shows which had been expected to open in time for eligibility, such as Diana, Hangmen Company and a starry revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, were either postponed or cancelled.

An official reopening for Broadway was recently rescheduled for June 2021. “With nearly 97,000 workers who rely on Broadway for their livelihood and an annual economic impact of $14.8bn to the city, our membership is committed to reopening as soon as conditions permit us to do so,” said Charlotte St Martin, president of the Broadway League. “We are working tirelessly with multiple partners on sustaining the industry once we raise our curtains again.”

Last year’s awards were dominated by folk opera musical Hadestown, which won eight awards.


Benjamin Lee

The GuardianTramp

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