The Tony Awards' 7 Deadly Sins: Actresses Who Were Nominated in the Wrong Category

By Ben Rimalower
07 Jun 2014

Mary Beth Peil and Yul Brynner in The King and I.
photo by Henry Grossman

7. Mary Beth Peil

1985 Tony Award nominee, Best Featured Actress In A Musical for The King and I

Should have been nominated for Best Actress In A Musical

I'll start with something really basic, a simple break with precedent. There are really two title roles in The King and I and they're both clearly leading roles. Broadway legend Gertrude Lawrence starred as Anna ("I") in the original 1951 production and Yul Brynner became a Broadway legend playing the King of Siam. Because his billing was below the title, he was nominated for Best Featured Actor In A Musical in the 1952 Tony Awards, while Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress In A Musical.

Years later, after the policy prioritizing billing over role size had shifted, Mary Beth Peil was nominated for Best Featured Actress In A Musical for her Anna in 1985 revival. Why? The leading actress category was eliminated that year due to slim pickings. This was insane! Why not just nominate her for Best Costume Design? Lump her in with the Best Actor In A Play nominees — heck, give her the Special Tony Award for Regional Theatre! Maybe it was payback for the opposite situation in 1952, but it was ridiculous.