Calculated, But Not Capricious: How the Number of Tony Play/Musical Nods Are Decided

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02 May 2014

The Tony Award
The Tony Award looks at the rules, and resulting math, behind the Tony Award nominations.

When the Tony Award nominations for 2013-14 season were announced on April 29, many observers were confused by discrepancies among the top four categories. The Best Play category contained five nominees: James Lapine's Act One, Robert Schenkkan's All the Way, Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina, Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons and John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar.

Best Musical, however, only included four shows: After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Best Revival of a Play, meanwhile, had four nominees, while Best Revival of a Musical had a mere three.

Was the Tony nominating committee being capricious? Inconsistent? Had they forgotten to name a fifth musical? Or had they not named a fifth simply because they didn't like any of the other contenders?

None of the above, it turns out. No drama was involved, no petty emotions, no urge to "snub" (a very popular word among Tony observers, including critics and reporters, in the days following the Tony nominations).

According to official Tony rules that were instigated in 2013, the number of nominees can vary between three and five in each of the four Best Show categories. That number is determined not by a fit of pique or acts of persuasion on the part of some nominators, but by a mathematical equation.

As the Tony rules state, "Where there are nine or more eligible shows in a Best Show category, at the Tony Nominating Meeting, the Nominating Committee will be instructed to cast one vote each for four eligible shows as nominees on his/her secret ballot. Such ballots shall be collected and tabulated by a representative of the Accounting Firm."


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