If there were an awards show for awards shows, the Tonys would probably take the prize for the most rules (and then probably do something like read a sonnet about love in their acceptance speech — ah, theater people). In order for the chance to win one of those spinny statuettes at Broadway’s biggest night, productions have to leap through a whole series of hoops, including giving seats to the more than 800 voters and their plus-ones, and abide by the decision-making of the group’s administration committee. In advance of the nominations, which will come out May 1 this year, that committee makes a series of decisions about who exactly can be considered in which category.
According to the Tony rules, actors who are billed above the title on a show’s Playbill are automatically considered leads, but this is also the time where they can get moved to other categories. Now’s the time for shows to game the system, and move competitors in a single show away from each other. If you want to be prepared for Tuesday morning’s announcements, here’s your guide to which shows are eligible for what this year.
Andrew Garfield is Angels in America’s leading man
Garfield, who plays the AIDS-stricken Prior, will compete as a leading actor, while the rest of the cast — including the show’s other big name, Nathan Lane, who plays Roy Cohn — are all considered featured. Notably, Ron Leibman won the 1993 Tony for Best Actor for playing Cohn in Millennium Approaches (part 1 of the play), though Cohn’s role is smaller in the second half, Perestroika (this year, both parts of the revival compete as one unit). Stephen Spinella, who played Prior, won Tonys for Featured Actor in 1993 in part one and for Best Actor in 1994 for part two.
Expect a Tony for Bruce Springsteen, just not one of the cool Tonys
The Boss’s Broadway stint is one of the best-reviewed shows and hardest-to-get tickets around, but don’t expect it to crop up in the competitive categories. Despite a few extensions, Springsteen’s show still hadn’t sent out invites to Tony voters as of late March. Still, Bruce is pretty-much a shoo-in for a Special Tony, which would also give the awards a reason to have him perform at the ceremony.
Two very different productions — one dark Edward Albee play, the other a disco jukebox musical — both had three actresses play the same character at different ages. In both cases, the eldest actress will compete in the leading categories. Glenda Jackson, who plays A, the focal point of Three Tall Women, will compete (and probably get a nomination and win) for Best Actress in a Play while Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill are eligible for Featured Actress. LaChanze, who plays “Diva Donna” in Summer and narrates a lot of the show, is eligible for Leading Actress in a Musical, while Ariana DeBose (Disco Donna) and Storm Lever (Duckling Donna) are eligible as featured actresses. In another LaChanze-related note, Hailey Kilgore is eligible for Best Actress in a Musical in the revival of Once on This Island for playing Ti Moune, a role that got LaChanze a Featured Actress nomination in the show’s original 1991 run. Guess the committee was over the Moune for Kilgore’s breakout performance (I refuse to apologize).
Frozen has enough new music to compete for original score
Though the Broadway show’s biggest numbers (e.g. “Let It Go,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “For the First Time in Forever”) all hail from the film, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote enough new music to be eligible for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre. Though Robert is already a double EGOT winner, this could move his wife and collaborator Kristen closer to finishing her first EGOT lap, as she is yet to win a Tony or an Emmy.
Mean Girls and Frozen both have two female leads, and no leading actors
In both both movie-to-musical adaptations, both the dangerous blonde woman and the nicer not-blonde one are considered the leads of the show. Frozen’s Caissie Levy (Elsa) and Patti Murin (Anna) are both eligible for Lead Actress in a Musical, as are Mean Girls’ Taylor Louderman (Regina George) and Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron). Everyone else in both shows is eligible in the featured categories – including Frozen’s Kristoff Jelani Alladin, who recently got a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (that award show’s equivalent of lead).
Harry Potter is the lead of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the cursed child, whoever it is, is not)
Jamie Parker, who plays Harry Potter in the two-part British import, will be eligible for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play. It makes sense (he is Harry Potter), though the play focuses more on his son Albus (Sam Clemmett) and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius (Anthony Boyle). Anyway, expect the show, which cleaned up at London’s Olivier Awards, to make a strong showing Stateside as well, though it won’t be competing in one specific category. Imogen Heap’s score, which got Olivier and Drama Desk nominations, isn’t eligible.
Lobby Hero has no one hero
Though you could argue that Kenneth Lonergan’s play has a main (or at least titular) character in Michael Cera’s doorman, everyone in the show, including Chris Evans, Brian Tyree Henry, and Bel Powley, is eligible as a featured performer. (Maybe it’s a metaphor about how there are no heroes.)
1984 wasn’t eligible, until it was
In one of the stranger bits of theater drama this year, the Tony committee announced last December that the Scott Rudin–produced stage version of George Orwell’s novel wouldn’t be eligible after it refused to let Jose Antonio Vargas, a member of the nominating committee, see the play. The committee suddenly changed course this April without offering an explanation (according to the Times, Vargas recused himself from voting after missing another show, which would likely explain their decision).