Congratulations to this year’s Tony nominees and to all the people who crafted their witty, self-deprecating reaction statements or are telling their clients that awards don’t really matter and everything will be fine. Now that we’ve had a moment to process the list, it’s time to break down what it means for the shows in contention this season. Meanwhile, our hearts go out to the producers trying to figure out how exactly to monetize it.
The biggest winner: A Strange Loop, somewhat as expected, with 11 nominations, including Best Musical, Actor in a Leading Role, and Featured Actress for John-Andrew Morrison and L Morgan Lee. Lee’s “A Sympathetic Ear” has always been a real highlight of the show to me, and she is the first openly trans performer to be nominated for a Tony. The show itself is clearly the front-runner for Best Musical.
Mostly a winner: Six, which has blown up commercially, got eight nominations but with one awkward turn: Six’s six queens were individually eligible for the Best Lead Actress award, yet none made it into this tight category, and I have no idea how you would choose one from this group anyway. (At the Oliviers, the British cast members were nominated en masse for Actress in a Supporting Role, and I wish there were some sort of ensemble recognition at the Tonys.)
Huh: Ten nominations apiece for MJ: The Musical and Paradise Square. MJ is up for its lead, direction, choreography, and book, and it could have earned an 11th for its careful dancing around the most questionable aspects of Michael Jackson’s life. The producers of Paradise Square, which has been squeaking along on barely there ticket sales, have to be seeing this as their best possible lifeline (apart from an actual Best Musical win, which seems really unlikely).
Parades, rained-on: One nomination each for Funny Girl, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Diana. Funny Girl’s Beanie Feldstein, in particular, has been pretty badly battered by the critics, but it’s still a little surprising to see such a high-profile and anticipated show nearly shut out. Same goes for Mrs. Doubtfire, shut out except for its star, Rob McClure. Diana, a full-on bomb that opened and closed in two weeks, was recognized only for its costume designer (which, uh).
It’s nice that the Tonys remembered: Sharon D. Clarke and Caroline, or Change, a show that closed months ago. There was also some unexpected support for Flying Over Sunset’s Carmen Cusack and the back-from-the-dead not-exactly-a-jukebox-musical Girl From the North Country. Over in the plays, the nominating committee recognized the expected juggernaut Lehman Trilogy eight times, as well as Clyde’s five times, Trouble in Mind four, and Skeleton Crew and Dana H. three. Yet two of the more experimental plays of 2021 that transferred to Broadway didn’t make it onto the list: Is This a Room and Pass Over, which opened last October. Recency bias lives on.
They’re celebrities, get them out of here: The big stars dropping down to earth on Broadway did not get the love they might have expected. Macbeth’s Daniel Craig strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage in pajamas to no avail. The Parker-Broderick Plaza Suite will have to settle for recognition primarily focused on its hats, along with making a fortune at the box office. (Birthday Candles, starring Debra Messing, faced a full shutout.)
Yet another case for an ensemble award: The dismissed queens of Six perhaps noted that the three bros of Lehman each got a Lead Actor in a Play nomination, choking up that category. How do you, Tony voter, choose among them? You probably end up choosing someone else.