Your Guide to the 2016 Tony Awards

The 70th annual Tony Awards will air on Sunday, June 12 at 8/7c, live on CBS and will be broadcast to four continents. James Corden is hosting this year and presenters include: Barbra Streisand (her first appearance at the awards since 1970), Oprah Winfrey, Cate Blanchett, Steve Martin, Carole King, and Audra McDonald. This Broadway season featured a slew of powerful, diverse, and moving new and revival productions. Here's a rundown of what's up for Best and Revival Plays and Musicals. 

BEST PLAY

"ECLIPSED"

Written by Danai Gurira, who you may know as “Michonne” on the Walking Dead, Eclipsed is the first play to feature an all female cast, writer, and director, and tells the story of five women in the second Liberian civil war, four of which are wives of a Commanding Officer in the rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). Lupita Nyong’o makes her Broadway debut as “The Girl (Wife #4)” and the show has received rave reviews: Huffington Post called it “essential theatre” and Deadline called it a “major achievement." I was lucky enough to see this production in March and the reviews are spot on: Eclipsed is impactful, stunning, and deeply important. The production has also set up a campaign called “10,000 Girls,” which aims to bring 10,000 women, aged 16-24, from the Tri-State area to see the show. 

Other nominations for Eclipsed:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Lupita Nyong'o, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Pascale Armand, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Saycon Sengbloh, Best Costume Design of a Play: Clint Ramos, Best Direction of a Play: Liesl Tommy

"THE FATHER"

Florian Zeller’s play, “Le Pére”, premiered in Paris in 2012 and has been translated into English by Tony Award winner, Christopher Hampton. Three time Tony winner Frank Langella portrays “Andre,”  “a retired dancer living with his adult daughter Anne and her husband. Or is he a retired engineer receiving a visit from Anne who has moved away with her boyfriend?” The play won the Molière award for Best Play in 2014 and may be well on its way to winning the 2016 Tony.

Other nominations for The Father:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Frank Langella

"THE HUMANS"

Written by Stephen Karam and directed by Joe Mantello, The Humans focuses on a family Thanksgiving dinner in Manhattan and “as darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex, and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the Blake clan’s deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare.” The cast features three previous Tony nominees: Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, and Arian Moayed. In his New York Magazine review of the production, Jesse Green claims that “it is the most, well, human play I’ve ever seen about fear and disappointment and the attachments that transcend them.”  Regardless of whether it wins the Tony for Best Play, The Humans is slated to become an American classic.

Other nominations for The Humans:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Reed Birney, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Jayne Houdyshell, Best Scenic Design of a Play: David Zinn, Best Lighting Design of a Play: Justin Townsend, Best Direction of a Play: Joe Mantello

"KING CHARLES III"

Directed by Rupert Goold, Mike Bartlett’s play, written in blank verse, explores Prince Charles's ascension to the throne after the Queen has died. First premiering at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2014 (where Goold serves as the Artistic Director), it later transferred to the West End in September 2014, culminating in the Olivier Award for Best New Play. The production closed on Broadway on January 31, 2016.

Other nominations for King Charles III

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Tim Pigott-Smith, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Richard Goulding, Best Costume Design of a Play: Tom Scutt, Best Direction of a Play: Rupert Goold

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY

"Blackbird"

Jeff Daniels returns to Blackbird after having played the role of “Ray” in the Off Broadway production in 2007. The play revolves around Una (Michelle Williams) and Ray (Jeff Daniels), who meet each other again, fifteen years after their sexually abusive relationship. The production is directed by Joe Mantello (The Humans) and has been adapted into a film, “Una”, which will be released in 2016, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn. 

Other nominations for Blackbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Jeff Daniels, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Michelle Williams

"The Crucible"

Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials, which won the Tony for Best Play in 1953, is back for its fifth Broadway incarnation, this time helmed by Ivo van Hove, whose production of Miller’s A View From the Bridge is also nominated for Best Revival of a Play. This production of The Crucible features Ben Whishaw as "John Proctor", Sophie Okonedo as "Elizabeth Proctor", Saoirse Ronan as "Abigail Williams", and Ciarán Hinds as "Deputy-Governor Danforth'. Sophie Okonedo, who you have most recently seen as Queen Margaret in the Hollow Crown series, is the heartbreaking pulse of the show. I saw this production in March while it was still in previews and while it may not be my favorite Crucible, it certainly deserves a spot on the Best Revival list.

Other nominations for The Crucible:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Sophie Okonedo, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Bill Camp, Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jan Versweyveld 

"Long Day's Journey Into the Night"

This production marks the fifth revival of Eugene O’Neil’s masterpiece, partly based on his own life, which follows the Tyrone family over the course of a single summer day. The play first opened on Broadway in 1956, after Eugene O’Neil’s death in 1953, winning the 1957 Tony for Best Play. Roma Torre describes this revival production featuring Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Shannon, and John Gallagher, Jr. as “the perfect balance - both in the writing and performances - that speaks to the emotional interdependence defining so many American families.” 

Other nominations for Long Day's Journey Into the Night:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Gabriel Byrne, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Jessica Lange, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Michael Shannon, Best Costume Design of a Play: Jane Greenwood, Best Lighting Design of a Play: Natasha Katz, Best Direction of a Play: Jonathan Kent

"Noises Off"

This is the second Broadway revival of Michael Frayn’s comedy revolving around the dress rehearsal and opening night of the farce “Nothing On” and with “lines being forgotten, love triangles unraveling and sardines flying everywhere, it’s complete pandemonium.” The uproarious play-within-a-play first opened on Broadway in 1983, was revived in 2001, and was adapted into a film in 1992 by Peter Bogdanovich. Terry Teachout’s review of the production proclaims that “if laughter is the best medicine, this flawless show is capable of curing double pneumonia;" Noises Off certainly stands out as the feel-good revival show this year.

Other nominations for Noises Off:

Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: David Furr, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Megan Hilty, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Andrea Martin, Best Costume Design of a Play: Michael Krass

"A View From the Bridge"

Directed by Ivo Van Hove, Mark Strong portrays “Eddie Carbone” in Arthur Miller’s play about a New York man obsessed with his underage niece, "Catherine", who incites his jealousy when she falls in love with an immigrant. This production began in 2014 at the Young Vic Theatre in London, winning the 2015 Olivier Award for Best Revival, Best Actor (Mark Strong) and Best Director (Ivo Van Hove). While Van Hove's Crucible opened to solid reviews, his View From the Bridge was, reportedly, phenomenal. In his review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley claimed that “at the end, you are wrung out, scooped up, and so exhausted that you’re wide awake. You feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the events you saw.” 

Other nominations for A View From the Bridge:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Mark Strong, Best Scenic Design of a Play: Jan Versweyveld, Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jan Versweyveld, Best Direction of a Play: Ivo Van Hove

BEST MUSICAL

"Bright Star"

Grammy and Emmy award winner Steve Martin and Grammy winner Edie Brickell’s new musical, inspired by real events, revolves around editor "Alice Murphy" and her relationship with a World War II soldier. The musical is set in the South in the 1920s and 40s and is full of gorgeous bluegrass music, such as "Sun Is Gonna Shine."

Other nominations for Bright Star:

Best Book of a Musical: Steve Martin, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Lyrics: Edie Brickell), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Carmen Cusack, Best Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen

"Hamilton: An American Musical"

Chances are, you’ve heard about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s most recent work of genius, based off of Ron Chernow’s book, Alexander Hamilton. The musical follows Alexander Hamilton and a handful of America’s founding men and women as they navigate revolution and how to run a government, set to some of the best raps of the decade. In fact, Miranda is working on a Hamilton mix-tape featuring songs from the show as well as new ones, with the help of artists like Chance the Rapper and Busta Rhymes. We’ve seen smash hits on Broadway recently (i.e. The Book of Mormon) but Hamilton transcends that and, like certain shows in the past (Show Boat, Oklahoma, West Side Story, and Company), is a milestone in American theatre and musical history. What makes Hamilton and its cast and crew even more special is their commitment to making the show as accessible as it can be due to its high demand: there are the Ham4Ham shows every week, the Hamiltome, and they have launched an education program that will bring 20,000 New York students to see Hamilton, after engaging in a specified curriculum, and it looks like the program will be following the touring productions as well. The production is also the first show in Broadway history to receive 16 Tony nominations. They’re certainly not throwing away their shot. 

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Other nominations for Hamilton:

Best Book of a Musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Leslie Odom, Jr., Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Phillipa Soo, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Daveed Diggs, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Jonathan Groff, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Christopher Jackson, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Renée Elise Goldsberry, Best Scenic Design of a Musical: David Korins, Best Costume Design of a Musical: Paul Tazewell, Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Howell Binkley, Best Direction of a Musical: Thomas Kail, Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire

"School of Rock"

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest musical, based on the 2003 Jack Black film, follows Dewey Finn, who poses as his substitute teacher roommate in order to make some cash. Once at the school, he throws away the normal curriculum in favor of creating a rock band with the kids. The musical has received dazzling reviews and is sure to rock audiences of every age. They even got Stevie Nicks to come give a surprise performance of Rhiannon during one of their curtain calls. I know. I’m jealous too. 

Other nominations for School of Rock:

Best Book of a Musical: Julian Fellowes, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre Music: (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: Glenn Slater), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Alex Brightman

"Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed"

Shuffle Along is a show about a show. Sissle and Blake’s original Shuffle Along appeared on Broadway in 1921 and, despite financial strains, was a smash hit, pulling in fans like George Gershwin, Fanny Brice, and Langston Hughes and “it was the first successful Broadway show with African American writers and an all African American cast.” Why is this musical not in the revival category? Because this version tells the story of how the musical came to be, while at the same time restaging the original, starring six-time Tony winner, Audra McDonald as “Lottie Gee.” In 2014, McDonald became the first performer to have won a Tony in all four performance categories and she holds the record for most Tonys won by a performer.

Other nominations for Shuffle Along:

Best Book of a Musical: George C. Wolfe, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Brandon Victor Dixon, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Adrienne Warren, Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Santo Loquasto, Best Costume Design of a Musical: Ann Roth, Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Best Direction of a Musical: George C. Wolfe, Best Choreography: Savion Glover, Best Orchestrations: Daryl Waters

"Waitress"

Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson’s musical, based off of the 2007 film Waitress, is the first musical in Broadway history to have an all-female top creative team (writer, composer, director, choreographer). The musical follows Jenna (played by Tony winner Jessie Mueller), a waitress, as she navigates an expected pregnancy, a dead marriage, a dream of owning her own pie shop, and a tempting new man. Mueller’s performance of “She Used to be Mine," according to Charles Isherwood’s New York Times review, brings the musical to “transporting heights, and sweeps up your heart along with it.” Waitress looks set to enjoy a long, healthy run on Broadway.

Other nominations for Waitress:

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre Music & Lyrics: Sara Bareilles, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Jessie Mueller, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Christopher Fitzgerald 

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

"The Color Purple"

Full disclosure: I adore this production. I was lucky enough to see it with the original cast in March and I’ve never had a theatrical experience quite like it. The audience nearly gave a standing ovation after the opening number, “Opening/Mysterious Ways”, and it’s the only production I’ve seen where an audience has given a standing ovation prior to the end of the show. Based off of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, the musical follows the life of “Celie,” as well as her loved ones. This is the first revival of the musical, which first premiered on Broadway in 2005, earning 11 Tony nominations. The show is so moving in part due to its wonderful cast. Cynthia Erivo, who also played “Celie” in London, is astonishing: her version of “I’m Here” had me weeping. Danielle Brooks, who plays “Taystee” on Orange is the New Black brings strength and humor to “Sofia.” 

Other nominations for The Color Purple:

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Cynthia Erivo, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Danielle Brooks, Best Direction of a Musical: John Doyle

"Fiddler on the Roof"

This marks the fourth revival of Fiddler on the Roof. The musical originally premiered on Broadway in 1964, going on to win the ten Tonys, including Best Musical and a special Tony for being the then longest running Broadway show, before becoming a film in 1971. The musical is based off of the series of short stories "Tevye the Dairyman and other tales" by Sholem Aleichem. Tony winner Danny Burstein, who TimeOut New York called “nothing short of a miracle," plays Tevye, the father of five daughters, who struggles with how to maintain Jewish traditions in Imperial Russia. The musical remains as touching as it was in the 60s and invites you to raise a glass to life

Other nominations for Fiddler on the Roof:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Danny Burstein, Best Choreography: Hofesh Shechter

"She Loves Me"

This is the second time the Roundabout Theatre Company has revived the 1963 musical, She Loves Me. The musical is based off of the play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszio. The original play also spawned adaptations in film: The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, and You’ve Got Mail are all based off of Laszio’s play. The story revolves around two store clerks who clash at work who are, at the same time, unbeknownst to them, writing to each other as pen pals. Variety described this production as “charming, you wish it would follow you home" and with a cast featuring Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, and Jane Krakowski, it’s no wonder.

Other nominations for She Loves Me:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Zachary Levi, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Laura Benanti, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Jane Krakowski, Best Scenic Design of a Musical: David Rockwell, Best Costume Design of a Musical: Jeff Mahshie, Best Direction of a Musical: Scott Ellis, Best Orchestrations: Larry Hochman

"Spring Awakening"

Deaf West’s production of the 2006 musical is the most original revival on the list: this production is simultaneously sung in English and performed in American Sign Language. The musical, based off of Frank Wedekind’s often banned play Spring Awakening (Frülings Erwachen in German), tells the story of “the rift between the lost and longing teenagers and the adults who refuse to hear them.” As Jesse Green points out in his New York Magazine review, the revival works so well, especially in light of it coming less than a decade after the original closed on Broadway in 2009, because in the original, “in their struggle to be heard in their own language, the teenagers of Spring Awakening were all but making a Deaf-power argument even without that context." In this production, form and content directly affect and change each other and it works brilliantly. Due to the fact that the production has already closed on Broadway, Deaf West needs help raising the money needed to get back to New York from L.A. to perform at the Tony Awards. You can help by donating to their Kickstarter.  

Other nominations for Spring Awakening:

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Ben Stanton, Best Direction of a Musical: Michael Arden

So what do you think? Who are you rooting for at the Tony Awards this year? 


All images used in this column are by Joan Marcus

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Comments

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 8, 2016 - 7:36am

Everything Hamilton. Because Lin-Manuel Miranda is Puerto Rican and I am Puerto Rican, and if I don't vote for him, I'm not allowed back on the island.