Broadway has been abuzz for months about the strength of this 2015-2016 season. With so much talent and creativity in every arena, the nominating committee was bound to overlook some work. In most cases, the categories were simply stacked—others were true surprises.
Amazing Grace and Allegiance rank among the musicals from this season that did not receive any nominations, while for plays The Gin Game, Sylvia and Manhattan Theater Club’s Fool for Love and Our Mother’s Brief Affair went home without recognition.
We all knew the competition would be tight. Hamilton, Shuffle Along and Waitress seemed locks. The coveted fourth and fifth slots went to Bright Star and School of Rock—The Musical, which means Tuck Everlasting, On Your Feet!, Disaster!, American Psycho and the fall’s Allegiance and Amazing Grace were all left out of the race.
Best Revival of a Play
This is a strong category with five worthy nominees, but noticeably missing is the Broadway mounting of Becky Mode’s Fully Committed starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, which was eligible as a revival due to its 1999 New York debut.
Best Book of a Musical
Alongside the four nominees for best book, Waitress’s Jessie Nelson was overlooked. Nelson adapted the story from the 2007 movie of the same name by Adrienne Shelly. Interesting to note that the show received nominations for Best Musical and Best Original Score. Overall, Waitress only received four nominations: Best Original Score, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Role in a Musical and Best Musical. The omission of the Waitress book was ironic, considering it was the only Broadway libretto nominated by the Drama Desk Awards. The Drama Desks had initially dropped the category altogether, but restored it after a protest. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s form-breaking book for American Psycho also failed to make the cut.
Newcomers did fairly well this year, with Bright Star’s Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and Waitress’ Sara Bareilles earning nods. However, Tuck Everlasting’s Nathan Tysen and Chris Miller were left out, as was American Psycho’s Duncan Sheik. Sheik is still represented by the nomination of his Spring Awakening in the Best Revival of a Musical category, for which he wrote the score.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
This was a tough category, and will prove to be an excellent race. It seems the nominators didn’t have a taste for comedy, as Jesse Tyler Ferguson was left off for his one-man-does-it-all in Fully Committed. Ben Whishaw was also ignored for his portrayal of John Proctor in The Crucible in his Broadway debut. (Sophie Okonedo as his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, did earn a nomination.) Master actor James Earl Jones was omitted for his performance in the revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gin Game.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
While critics loved Annaleigh Ashford’s take on Sylvia, in which she played a sassy mutt, the Tony-winner was not nominated this year. Cicely Tyson was also excluded for her work in Gin Game.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Another strong category (actually, you can probably insert that phrase before every category), we wouldn’t say there were any gaffes made, but Austin P. McKenzie’s moving performance as from the fall’s Spring Awakening and Benjamin Walker’s Broadway homecoming as the title character in American Psycho were excluded.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Notably, the six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald was not included in this year’s nominations for her portrayal of Lottie Gee in Shuffle Along. Joining her in the ranks of the excluded is Broadway newcomer Ana Villafañe, who takes on the role of Latin pop queen Gloria Estefan eight shows a week in On Your Feet! She’s clearly in good company, and we have high hopes for the actress’ future. Another onetime Tony-winner, Lea Salonga, was passed over for her work on Allegiance.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
All of the actors in Long Day’s Journey Into Night were nominated for their performances with the exception of John Gallagher, Jr. (in the role that mirrors playwright Eugene O’Neill). Bill Camp was nominated, representing The Crucible, but his fellow Salem-ite Ciaran Hinds was notably left off. Forgotten from the fall, Gabriel Ebert’s performance from Roundabout’s Thérèse Raquin.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in Play
Talk about a category brimming with talent. The five nominees came from three shows (with both Eclipsed and Noises Off earning two nods a piece), so actresses were bound to be left out. Among them, Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan in her Broadway debut in The Crucible and Broadway veteran Judith Light for Thérèse Raquin.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Hamilton managed to snag three spots in this category of five nominees. Edged out were Billy Porter, Joshua Henry and Brian Stokes Mitchell of Shuffle Along (though Brandon Victor Dixon will represent the show here). Mitchell has been honored with this year’s Isabelle Stevenson Award, so while his performance was not recognized his contributions to the theatre community will be. Nick Cordero’s take on the abusive husband, Earl, in Waitress was not nominated; his co-star Christopher Fitzgerald will carry the banner in this category. Also excluded: Gavin Creel in She Loves Me and one of the highest-profile bloggers of the summer and fall, George Takei in Allegiance.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
With great performances by up-and-comers and veterans alike, this category will be another tight race. Excluded from the nominations are Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery in The Color Purple, Andréa Burns of On Your Feet! for her portrayal of Gloria Fajardo, Carolee Carmello as Mae Tuck in the new Tuck Everlasting, Keala Settle and Kimiko Glenn as Jessie Mueller’s fellow servers in Waitress, and Jessica Hecht for her Golde in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Anyone who saw Fully Committed knows about the eye-popping set for the revival. Complete with a swirling staircase of chairs and a floor-to-ceiling wine wall, the Tony nominating committee did not go for Derek McLane’s design.
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Chairs apparently weren’t the thing this year, as The Color Purple’s set design was also ignored. (It’s set is peppered with columns of hanging wood-backed chairs.) Although Tuck Everlasting was recognized for its costume design, its set design by Walt Spangler did not fair as well. Many people were delighted by the chair-filled pie shop and proscenium made of pies in Waitress—but not the Tony nominators, apparently.
Best Direction of a Musical
While Waitress and Bright Star were both nominated in the Best Musical category, directors Diane Paulus and Walter Bobbie, respectively, were not nominated here. Also excluded was Bartlett Sher for his work on the sixth Broadway incarnation of Fiddler on the Roof.
This year’s nominees represent a vast array of dance styles, but Spencer Liff’s groundbreaking choreography merging dance with American Sign Language in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening is noticeably missing.