The most anticipated event in the New York theater community occurred on May 2, when the American Theatre Wing announced its nominees for the 71st annual Tony Awards.
What is unique about the Tony Awards is that the nominations are more nerve-wracking than the actual awards. Receiving a nomination can extend the life of a show for another month and possibly bring recognition to a struggling production.
In a year where the competition is so intense, a nomination is not just a pleasant recognition, but also an honor.
The leader in this year’s race for the Tony Awards is a new musical, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. An unorthodox adaptation of Russian master Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus, War and Peace, the musical gathered 12 nominations—the most this season. This musical is competing for the night’s most prestigious award—Best Musical.
Other nominees include the stage adaptation of Groundhog Day, a 1993 cult film, Come from Away, a story of passengers affected by 9/11, and Dear Evan Hansen, a millennial sensation about teenage issues gone wrong.
The most unpleasant aspect of this year’s nomination process is a smaller number of nominees. Last year, despite the fact that Hamilton was an absolute frontrunner from the day it opened on Broadway, there were still five entries in this category.
This year has seen the highest number of new musicals since 1981.
A total of 12 original musicals opened this season, yet the number of nominees have been reduced to the traditional four, with many well-deserving shows like Anastasia and Bandstand getting snubbed. Both of these musicals received only two nominations each.
The same thing happened with the Best Revival of a Musical category, in which nominees were reduced to three.
Following The Great Comet for the most-nominated show is the sold-out revival of the beloved classic Hello Dolly! with 10 nominations.
Hello Dolly! is competing with the revivals of Falsettos and Miss Saigon, although Hello Dolly! is a frontrunner in this category. Falsettos, despite closing in January, has received four more nominations.
Two-time Tony award-winners Stephanie J. Block, Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells and Brandon Uranowitz all received nominations in musical acting categories. Borle is currently starring as Willy Wonka in the sold-out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—a new show that unfortunately did not receive any recognition.
In the drama categories, the Best Play category is full of political pieces that are relevant to current world issues.
The nominees include A Doll’s House, Part 2, a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s classic play that explores the roles of women in a family; Indecent, a play with music that deals with homosexuality and censorship; Oslo, a fictional recollection of Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat, which about blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania.
The Best Revival of a Play category demonstrates a wide spectrum of classic U.S. plays that show a variety of American life with shows such as August Wilson’s Jitney, Noel Cowards’s light comedy Present Laughter, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation and Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. The latter is a favorite in this category due to its creative casting.
Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate the roles of Regina Hubbard Giddens and Birdie Hubbard every night, making the show truly different every day. Both Linney and Nixon are nominated, with Linney competing for Best Actress and Nixon for Best Supporting Actress based on the opening night’s casting.
The Best Actress in a Musical category is the highlight of the show. In their Broadway debuts are Eva Noblezada, nominated for her role as Kim in Miss Saigon, and Denee Banton for Natasha in The Great Comet.
The leading ladies of War Paint—both two-time Tony winners Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone—are facing off with each other in the roles of cosmetic moguls Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, respectively.
The legendary Bette Midler is up for her lively portrayal of Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! Although Midler has already received an honorary Tony in 1974, this is her first competitive nomination that will probably end up being a triumphant win.
The 2017 Tony Awards are nowhere close to the diverse representation seen in the past season. However, there is enough of it in this category. Noblezada is a Filipino-American, Benton is African-American and Ebersole, LuPone and Midler are all in their 60s and 70s.
The stellar cast of Doll’s House, Part 2 have all gotten Tony love. Emmy-winner Laurie Metcalf is up for Best Actress, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper for Best Actor and Tony-winner Jayne Houdyshell and Tony nominee Condola Rashad for Best Supporting Actress.
Two-time Oscar-winners Cate Blanchett and Sally Field are competing for the Best Actress in the Play category for their roles in modern adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s The Present and Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, respectively.
Pitch Perfect sweetheart Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen is up against Borle, pop singer Josh Groban from the The Great Comet, David Hyde Pierce from Hello Dolly! and Andy Karl from Groundhog Day.
Celebrated stage and film actor James Earl Jones will receive the season’s Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. The prestigious 2017 Isabelle Stevenson Award will be awarded to Baayork Lee.
The ceremony will take place on June 11 at Radio City Music Hall and will be hosted by Oscar-and Tony-winner Kevin Spacey.