And the Winner Isn't: Famous Tony Award Snubs Through the Years

By Carey Purcell
May 14, 2013

The 2012-13 Tony Award nominations were announced April 30, and discussions about those recognized and those snubbed began immediately. With ongoing discussions about who made the list and who didn't, we compiled our own list of some of the most notorious oversights in Tony history.



Chita Rivera, who has two Tony Awards and seven nominations under her belt, did not receive a nomination for her performance as Anita in Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's musical West Side Story. Rivera was described in the 1957 New York Times review as one of several actors giving a "terse and vigorous" performance as the opinionated immigrant who extolls the virtues of America.

Following the success of My Fair Lady, expectations were high for Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s next project, a musical adaptation of "The Once and Future King." But despite the past successes of these partners and a stellar cast that included Robert Goulet and Julie Andrews, Camelot was not considered royalty by the Tony nominators during “the lusty month of May.” While the leading actor and actress, as well as the scenic design, costume design, conductor and musical director were honored with nominations, the show itself was not. But the publicity for Camelot resulted in an unprecedented advance sale of three-and-a-half million dollars, and the show ran for three years. Even without a Best Musical nod, fans seemed to agree with Lancelot’s sentiment, “No, never could I leave you at all.”

Barbara Cook's performance as Amalia in She Loves Me, the 1963 Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical, was widely praised, but Cook, who already had one Tony Award under her belt for her role as Marian in Meredith Willson's The Music Man, was not nominated for playing the fiesty perfume salesclerk who is smitten with her anonymous pen pal (who happens to be her co-worker). Cook received accolades for both her soprano and her personality, but she failed to nab a nomination. Perhaps she consoled herself with some vanilla ice cream?

Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman.
Photo by Inge Morath

"Attention must be paid!" could have been said of Dustin Hoffman's performance as Willy Loman in the 1984 production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. "This daring actor has pursued his own brilliant conception of the character," said Frank Rich in the New York Times. And while Hoffman was awarded the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, he was not nominated for the Tony. Even though the Tony eluded him, a TV movie of the play was made, and Hoffman went on to win the Emmy and the Golden Globe for the role.

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets—at least, in the locker room. But Bebe Neuwirth's turn in the role of Lola, the seductive aide-de-camp to the Devil, inspired mixed reviews from the critics and did not receive a Tony nomination. The role had previously been performed and immortalized by Gwen Verdon in the original production and movie adaptation of Damn Yankees, by Douglass Wallop and George Abbot with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. While the New York Times reviewer David Richards was not a fan of her performance, John Simon at New York magazine praised her performance lavishly. Sometimes scoring a nomination takes more than just a little brains and a little (or a lot of) talent.

As the daffy, flirtatious Lois Lane/Bianca in the 1999 revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, Amy Spanger received great notices and was credited with stealing every scene she was in. But despite her being almost "too darn hot" for the stage to handle, Tony voters were not "always true" to her, and she did not receive a nomination for the role. Perhaps Spanger wondered of the nominators, "Why can't you behave?"

Kristin Chenoweth in The Apple Tree.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Laura Benanti shared the stage with many a talented woman in the 2003 revival of Nine, but her passionate performance of Claudia, the actress and muse to Antonio Banderas' filmmaker Guido Contini, was not nominated for a Tony Award, leading many to conclude that the nominators overlooked her in a very "unusual way."

Kristin Chenoweth, a previous nominee and winner, gave a tour-de-force performance in three different roles in the 2006 revival of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's musical The Apple Tree, but despite her proudly declaring, "I'm gorgeous!" every night (and hitting a famously high note in said song), she did not receive a nomination for the role.

In his first role after the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe bared all when making his Broadway debut in Peter Shaffer's Equus, but, despite receiving positive reviews from both critics and the sell-out crowd, his performance as Alan, the troubled teenager, was not nominated for a Tony Award.

Aaron Tveit was considered a life force in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's musical Next to Normal, where he played the mysterious son Gabe and declared, "I'm Alive" every night, and critics and fans both agreed, but he was the only actor in the onstage family not nominated for a Tony Award. Two years later, many expected him to receive a nomination for his role as Frank Abignale Jr. in the musical adapation of Catch Me If You Can, but he came up empty-handed a second time around. He went on to console himself by playing Enjolras in the "Les Miserables" film and headline a sell-out concert engagement at 54 Below where fans gathered in droves to see him "live in living color."

Alan Rickman in Seminar.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Alan Rickman received strong reviews for his role as a terrifying literary professor in the 2011 play Seminar, by Theresa Rebeck, but he didn't make the grade for a nomination; neither did Samuel L. Jackson for his performance as Martin Luther King in The Mountaintop. Nominators did not find Matthew Broderick's performance in Nice Work If You Can Get It to be "s'wonderful" enough for a nomination, and neither John Laroquette nor Eric McCormack were found to be "the best man" in the play of the same name.

But snubs regarding the Tony Awards have not been one-sided; the silver statue has been snubbed by nominees as well. When nominated for Best Featured Actor for his performance as John Adams in Sherman Edward and Peter Stone's musical 1776, William Daniels refused the nomination on the grounds he was a leading actor in the production. And, perhaps most famously, Julie Andrews declined her nomination as Best Actress in Victor/Victoria because she felt the musical, by Henry Mancini, Blake Edwards and Leslie Bricusse, had been "egregiously overlooked," not receiving any other nominations.

Read Playbill's coverage of the press conference.