Playbill assesses the artists and productions excluded from this year’s Tony Award recognition.
The 2018–2019 Broadway season arguably provides a more open field for Tony Awards competition than years past (what with the Hamilton-dominated 2016, 2017’s Dear Evan Hansen, and the The Band’s Visit sweeping last year).
Still, between the 13 eligible musicals and 21 eligible plays this season, nine productions were shut out of the 2019 nominations. Pretty Woman, the stage adaptation of the beloved 1990 romantic comedy, is the only overlooked show currently still running.
The other eight shows excluded are musicals Head Over Heels and Gettin’ the Band Back Together and plays American Son, Straight White Men, The Lifespan of a Fact, The Nap, The New One, and True West—the last of the bunch the only revival to have been left out.
Perhaps the most noticeable omission was Aaron Sorkin for his stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, which was left out of the Best Play category. The play received nine total nominations, including a nod for director Bartlett Sher, but Sorkin did not manage to clinch what would have been his first Tony nomination. Also of note in the Best Play category: Lucas Hnath (nominated for his Broadway debut A Doll’s House Part 2 in 2017) was not nominated for Hillary and Clinton, nor was the history-making Young Jean Lee—the first Asian-American female playwright on Broadway—with her Straight White Men. As for star-led properties, the Kerry Washington-led American Son didn’t make the cut, but it will still get to audiences via Netflix.
It seems there was only room for one jukebox musical in the Best Musical category, as nominators chose Ain’t Too Proud over both the Go-Go’s-infused Head Over Heels (which closed January 6) and The Cher Show. But the shocker here, particularly for younger and media-savvy theatre aficionados, is the lack of love for Be More Chill. Composer-lyricist Joe Iconis received the sole nomination for the show, whose audience demand drove it to the Main Stem.
Which brings us to Featured Actor in a Musical. Another surprise: Be More Chill’s George Salazar was not nominated. His song “Michael in the Bathroom” has become the show’s breakout anthem and his performance lauded; he recently received a Drama Desk nomination. Kiss Me, Kate’s Corbin Bleu had also received a Drama Desk nod but no Tony nomination, as is the case for Oklahoma!’s Patrick Vaill.
Vaill’s co-star Rebecca Naomi Jones received a Drama Desk nomination for Lead Actress in a Musical, but was not one of the five Tony nominees in that complementary category. (There were nine eligible actors in that category.)
When it comes to Lead Actor in a Musical, Reeve Carney was excluded from the Hadestown party. Hadestown was nominated in every one of its eligible categories with the sole exception of Carney; the production leads the nominations with 14.
Best Featured Actress in a Musical features two pairs of ladies nominated against each other: Lilli Cooper and Sarah Stiles for Tootsie and Ali Stroker and Mary Testa for Oklahoma!. But the double nod meant trouble for Beetlejuice’s Leslie Kritzer and Be More Chill’s Stephanie Hsu—both of whom were Drama Desk-nominated and left out here. It should also be noted that The Cher Show’s Stephanie J. Block was included for her lead performance, but her co-Chers Micaela Diamond and Teal Wicks did not fare well in this Featured category.
Though Beetlejuice was nominated for eight Tony Awards, the man behind the vision, director Alex Timbers, was locked out of Best Direction of a Musical. Scott Ellis’ Kiss Me, Kate did earn a nod for Best Revival of a Musical—one of two eligible productions—but there was no nod for his direction. (He was nominated, however, for Tootsie.) All of the other musicals nominated for Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical see their directors recognized.
When it comes to plays, Best Direction of a Play had 20 possible nominees (17 men and three women). Past Tony winner Jack O’Brien was left out of the category, though his production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons impressed enough to earn a nod for Best Revival of a Play. Lila Neugebauer was also overlooked for her work on The Waverly Gallery, which also received notice for Best Revival of a Play.
Surprisingly, Glenda Jackson (who won last year for Three Tall Women) was not acknowledged for her title performance in King Lear—despite the fact that Best Lead Actress in a Play included six nominees. Big names Kerry Washington, Cherry Jones, and Keri Russell were also excluded from that category. And though three big names were included in Best Lead Actor in a Play, omissions include Nathan Lane for Gary, Tracy Letts for All My Sons, John Lithgow for Hillary and Clinton, Ethan Hawke for True West, and Daniel Radcliffe and Bobby Cannavale for The Lifespan of a Fact. (Interestingly, only one half of many notable onstage couples were nominated: Adam Driver but not Keri Russell, Laurie Metcalf but not John Lithgow, Annette Bening but not Tracy Letts, Kelli O’Hara but not Will Chase.)
And while the Best Featured Actor in a Play category was stacked, Drama Desk nominees Hampton Fluker of All My Sons and Tom Glynn-Carney of The Ferryman were not recognized by Tony. Similarly, Best Featured Actress in a Play failed to recognize past Tony winners Mercedes Ruehl for Torch Song and Joan Allen for The Waverly Gallery.
In the Design categories, David Rockwell, who conceived the three-tiered set for Kiss Me, Kate and the homage to the Theatre District in Tootsie, was left out entirely. His Kiss Me, Kate cohort Jeff Mahshie was also ignored for his costume design of Kiss Me, Kate. David Zinn, who won a Tony last year for SpongeBob SquarePants, was also noticeably left out for Best Scenic Design of a Play for his jewel box set design of The Boys in the Band. Six-time Tony winner Natasha Katz was not recognized for her lighting of All My Sons, Burn This, or The Prom.
When it comes to Best Choreography—another packed category—Spencer Liff was overlooked for Head Over Heels. Though his choreographic work in 2015’s Spring Awakening and 2016’s Falsettos were also noteworthy, none of these three shows made it past January of their seasons, which could be a contributor to his lack of a nomination to date. King Kong’s two choreographers Drew McOnie and Gavin Robbins (who choreographed the King’s Company of puppet operators) were left empty-handed, as well—though the puppet team behind the show is set to receive a Special Tony Award.
This season was busting with incredible performances, craft, and showmanship, and there is no way the Tony Awards committee could have recognized everyone. We look forward to seeing who will win the trophies on June 9 at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards.