Tony Award Nominations

The nominees for the 2016 Tony Awards have been announced. Herein, the full list of nominees.

Best Play
What a wonderfully competitive category. I could make arguments for each of the three plays I've seen. Eclipsed is a powerful recent history play, telling a story that hasn't been told (definitely not on Broadway and definitely not this way). King Charles III is an imaginative, fascinating, and possibly prophetic future history play; I mean, Bartlett created his own genre. And The Humans is so deeply felt and deceptively simple, yet it is actually layered and complex, and a statement of, well, humans. I'm not sure I could pick a favorite (my favorite, that is; not the odds-on favorite); if pressed, I'd probably go with The Humans
Best Revival of a Play
For me, this comes down to Noises Off and A View from the Bridge. The former is a pitch-perfect production of a hilarious farce. It can be difficult to pull off farce, and so Noises Off should be taken seriously in this category. The latter, however, is a complete reimagining of a classic play, allowing audiences to see it in a new light. I'd say that gives A View from the Bridge the edge.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
All four performances that I've seen were/are great, but my vote is for Mark Strong. Not that Jeff Daniels isn't tearing into his role, or that Tim Pigott-Smith wasn't thoroughly effective as a powerless king, but Strong was so damn compelling.  
Best Performance by An Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
This is a toss up. Michelle Williams gives a brutal performance of a woman unraveling, and Lupita Nyong'o is fearless in her portrayal of a girl trying to find herself amid utter brutality, but I'd have to go with Jessica Lange, who seems to have been born to play Mary Tyrone. 
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
When I first looked at this slate, I thought Richard Goulding was the prime minister, as that's the featured role performance that was most memorable in King Charles III. When I reviewed my review, I saw Goulding was Prince Harry. He was good, but he doesn't hold a candle to my favorite, Reed Birney. Birney is one of the finest stage actors working today, and he gives such a touching, authentic performance in The Humans.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Talk about an embarrassment of riches. There are strong arguments for each of these women, all of whom left an indelible impression with their performances. No matter who wins, the person will deserve it. I'm choosing Megan Hilty, though, because she truly stood out in the chaos of Noises Off.
Best Direction of a Play
I'm torn, but I'm going with Ivo van Hove for breathing new life into a classic. 
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Here, I'm picking David Zinn's cramped New York City apartment. It's a rather sparse playing space, but it serves the story.
Best Costume Design of a Play
I'm not sure I have a favorite here. There's the grandeur of some of the costumes in King Charles III, and the theatrical garb in Noises Off. The costumes in Long Day's Journey into Night help to define the characters, but not quite in the way Clint Ramos's designs for Eclipsed do. His costumes help define not just the characters, but their circumstances.
Best Ligting Design of a Play
Another tough decision. Given the role light plays in The Humans, I have to give Justin Townsend the edge.

Best Musical
I mean, nothing is a given, but...
Best Revival of a Musical
From everything I hear, The Color Purple is the favorite to win, but I haven't seen it. Fiddler isn't actually a great revival, it just boasts a great performance by its leading man. I thrilled over Spring Awakening, and I appreciated the way this iteration clarified themes. Still, I'm going with She Loves Me for being a simply resplendent production—earnestly sweet and hopeful—of a lovely show.
Best Book of a Musical
This, in the process/design categories, is where Hamilton's inevitability comes into question. Particularly because Hamilton is sung through (which doesn't mean there's no book; the book is not just the dialogue but the story and story arc), and particularly because George C. Wolfe's book had to tell us so much we did not know, my vote is for Shuffle Along...
Best Original Score Written for the Theatre
  • Bright Star, music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, lyrics: Edie Brickell
  • Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • School of Rock, music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics: Glenn Slater
  • Waitress, Sara Bareilles 
Definitely Hamilton. It's one of the thoroughly incredible scores in recent years. It's good as a piece of musical theatre; it's good as pure hip-hop; it's good as just plain old music. Best score, hands down.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein is the best thing about this revival of Fiddler; it's like everything else has just been prep for this role. I'm delighted to see the relative newcomer Zachary Levi garner a nomination. He is charming and winning in She Loves Me. While Lin-Manuel Miranda is an unparalleled songwriter, Leslie Odom, Jr.'s performance is out of this world. Burr is our narrator, our guide. We have to like him, but he's also the villain in our history books. Odom taps into something inspired. Jefferson may have Hamilton's vote, but Odom gets mine.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
I'm at a loss because I haven't seen The Color Purple. Everyone who has raves about Cynthia Erivo's performance, and wouldn't be surprised to see her walk away a winner. But I can only justifiably comment on the performances I've seen. Carmen Cusack gives a star-making performance, and Phillipa Soo does nice work in one of the least flashy roles in Hamilton. Laura Benanti and Jessie Mueller (both already Tony winners) are my favorites of the group, with Mueller being my sentimental favorite. (But also: Where's Audra McDonald?)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
This is a strong group, but I'm surprised and a little disappointed that none of Brandon Victor Dixon's cast-mates (like Joshua Henry, Brian Stoke Mitchell, and Billy Porter) are also contenders. (I'm also bummed that Gavin Creel is not in the race; I loved his performance in She Loves Me.) Even if they were, though, Daveed Diggs is going for the gold. No one has more resilience or matches his practical tactical brilliance.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
It's Renee Elise Goldsberry with a key and a kite, you see it right? What she is able to do in "Satisfied" will absolutely blow your mind.

Best Direction of a Musical
Oy vey. How to choose? Michael Arden illuminated things in Spring Awakening, and Scott Ellis once again delivered on She Loves Me. George C. Wolfe brought his creative vision to life, but Tommy Kail... In every article about Hamilton, the show's creator talks about how instrumental Kail was in getting Hamilton to where it is. No doubt his leadership made this epic tale tight, affecting, and astonishing, rather than some unwieldy mish-mosh of sights, sounds, and story.
Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography might have seemed like a shoe-in when we first saw Hamilton at the Public, and it continues to thrill at the Richard Rodgers, but Savion Glover is not giving up without a fight. His syncopated choreography is integral to the story—not just the storytelling but the story itself. That rhythm was revolutionary in the 1920s, and it's revelatory in 2016.
Best Orchestrations
I certainly don't know the original charts for She Loves Me or the songs used in Shuffle Along..., but I do know that every time I listen to Hamilton, I hear something new, something unexpected, like that banjo in "The Room Where it Happens," that solidifies Alex Lacamoire's brilliance.   
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
The way David Rockwell's set opens up (literally) is a sight to behold, but I'm going with David Korins's design for Hamilton. Everything about his set says, "We're building a new nation," seamlessly allowing the story to continue, without pause, as we move from location to location.
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Could this be another upset for Hamilton? It's possible, with Jeff Mahshie's and Ann Roth's designs. Still, much in the same way David Korins's conceptual set helps tell a tale of a nation beginning, so do Paul Tazewell's costumes. They are period enough to let us know when we are, but they are blank enough to suggest there is more to be done, more nation-building to do.
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
How to choose? Honestly, the threatening lighting at the beginning of American Psycho is effective, and the lights complemented the direction in Shuffle Along... But the designs in Hamilton and Spring Awakening really help tell the story. Just to spread the love, I'm throwing my support to Spring Awakening, but make no mistake: Hamilton wouldn't be Hamilton without Howell Binkley's designs.

Non Competitive Awards and Honors
  • Sheldon Harnick and Marshall W. Mason, Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Awards
  • National Endowment for the Arts, Special Tony Award
  • Paper Mill Playhouse (Millburn, NJ), Regional Theatre Tony Award
  • Brian Stokes Mitchell, Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
  • Seth Gelblum, Joan Lader, and Sally Ann Parsons, Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre

And there you have it. Be sure to tune into CBS on June 12 to watch James Corden host the Tony Awards!