Let’s be real. Everything about Broadway and the Tony Awards currently lives in uncharted territory. This is the longest shutdown in the history of the industry (going on seven months). So we all expected the nominations for the 74th Annual Tony Awards to be bizarre—that much we could predict.
We were supposed to have a season with 28 new productions; the abbreviated season meant 18 eligible shows, instead. Of those 18, four are musicals and four are play revivals.
Though we do not yet have a date for the awards ceremony, records have been set (Slave Play is now the most Tony-nominated play in history with 12 nods), questions have been raised (did Aaron Tveit just win a Tony?), and more.
Below we break down the history-making decisions and explain how the rules affected this year’s crop:
Jukebox Musicals Reign Supreme
For the first time in Tony Awards history, all of the nominees for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations are jukebox musicals, meaning they contain previously released songs not specifically written for the musical (Jagged Little Pill does have two new numbers from Alanis Morissette).
The music and the way it was incorporated is as varied as any other year. Moulin Rouge! serves up medley after medley of pop, rock, disco, and R&B hits for a Bohemian story set at the turn of the 20th century. Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a bio-musical featuring The Queen of Rock N’ Roll’s catalog like “Proud Mary” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” And, Jagged Little Pill uses Morissette songs (most from the Grammy-winning album of the same title) to tell a modern story that tackles a number of issues many Americans face today. Jukebox shows dominated the “...in a musical” categories across the board.
Also of note: This is also the first time in the ceremony’s history that no musical has been nominated for Best Original Score. The entire category is filled with scores written for plays. Nominated this year are Christopher Nightingale for A Christmas Carol, Paul Englishby for The Inheritance, Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb for The Rose Tattoo, Lindsay Jones for Slave Play, and Daniel Kluger for The Sound Inside. Whichever production wins will be the first play to take the category in Tony history. Without the shutdown, Diana, Flying Over Sunset, Mrs. Doubtfire, Sing Street, and Six would have been eligible for Best Original Score.
The Lightning Thief Strikes Out
Of the 18 productions eligible for Tony Awards this year, three received no nominations: the plays The Height of the Storm and The Great Society, and the new musical The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. The Lightning Thief was one of four new musicals to open in the condensed season, and normally, would appear in a number of categories by default (though not in Best Musical, which can limit nominees to three if there are five or fewer eligible productions). However, the Tony Administration Committee determined earlier this year that due to the shortened season, performance and creative categories would abide by the same rule, allowing nominators to limit the number of nominations “to ensure broad recognition of excellent work…while also protecting the integrity of the Award.”
All You Need Is Love…and 60% of the Vote - The Case of Aaron Tveit
As the sole recipient of a Best Leading Actor in a Musical nomination, Moulin Rouge! star Aaron Tveit is presumably a soon-to-be Tony Award winner. But the spinning medallion is technically not his yet. Per Tony rules, if a category contains only one nominee, the award is given if 60 percent of the ballots cast vote in the affirmative (rather than abstain from the category entirely).
A single nomination in a category isn’t entirely unheard of: Sunset Boulevard won Best Book and Best Original Score in 1995 when no other productions were nominated in either category. Ten years prior, the Leading Actor in a Musical category wasn’t presented at all due to no nominees. However, this is the first time ever an actor has been nominated alone in the Leading Actor in a Musical category. Whether he wins or not, Tveit made history.
No Revival of a Musical
Since the category was invented in 1994, this is the first year in the history of the Tony Awards in which there is no category for Revival of a Musical. No revivals opened on Broadway ahead of the new cutoff date (West Side Story opened a day later). Revivals of Company and Caroline, or Change were slated to open Spring 2020, but were derailed when Broadway shut down March 12.
Double the Fun!
As is common, multiple people earned double nominations. (And isn’t it nice to have one thing happen the way it usually does?) Dede Ayite earned two nominations for Costume Design of a Play (A Soldier’s Play and Slave Play); Bob Crowley earned nominations for Scenic Design of a Play and Costume Design of Play (both for The Inheritance); Rob Howell received nominations for Scenic and Costume Design of a Play (both for A Christmas Carol); Derek McLane got nods for Scenic Design of a Play (A Soldier’s Play) and Musical (Moulin Rouge! The Musical); Clint Ramos earned nominations for Scenic Design of a Play (Slave Play) and Costume Design of a Play (The Rose Tattoo); Daniel Kluger earned two nominations for Sound Design of a Play (Sea Wall/A Life and The Sound Inside); Justin Townsend earned two nominations for Lighting Design of a Musical (Jagged Little Pill and Moulin Rouge!); and Lindsay Jones earned Sound Design of a Play and Best Original Score nods (both for Slave Play).
Notable First Time Nominees
Nearly all of the Best Play contenders are being honored for their Broadway debut. The diverse lineup features a woman (Bess Wohl for Grand Horizons), two gay men of color (Matthew López for The Inheritance and Jeremy O. Harris for Slave Play), and a man who’s been an industry darling for over a decade (Adam Rapp for The Sound Inside). Rounding out the list are the double-header team of Simon Stephens and Nick Payne for Sea Wall/A Life. Also notable are the five nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. While some of these performers have already been on Broadway, Kathryn Gallagher, Celia Rose Gooding, and Lauren Patten from Jagged Little Pill, Robyn Hurder from Moulin Rouge!, and Myra Lucretia Taylor from Tina: The Tina Turner Musical all earned their first Tony nomination this year. Joining Gallagher, Gooding, and Patten were most of the principal cast of Jagged Little Pill, who are also first timers: Elizabeth Stanley, Derek Klena, and Sean Allan Krill.