An Opinion Piece: Tony Predictions 2016

As we say, it’s only one person’s opinion, and a few categories are going to take each other to task, but there are still some things that we can probably say for certain.

Hamilton broke records left and right this season, including the 16 nominations it got from the award committee. I think the show will definitely dominate the majority of categories, but I’m not sure if it will go for a clean sweep like I’ve seen a lot of people say.

As far as shows with multiple nominees in the same categories, I feel Hamilton may surprise us and see Leslie Odom Jr. go home with the Best Leading Actor award, and Best Featured Actor is a toss up.

Noises Off I think will see the Best Featured Actress award go home with Megan Hilty, as Andrea Martin is still a newcomer and Hilty has been a favorite in recent years.

A View From The Bridge might pull off all tech awards it was nominated for, and The Crucible may pull in an acting nod for Sophie Okonedo, but A View will win more out of the two of them.

I predict Eclipsed getting a lot of attention as well, for both technical and acting, although I’m unsure about whether or not Liesl Tommy will come home with the Best Direction award. Both A View From The Bridge and Long Day’s Journey Into Night have been reviewed really favorably in that direction.

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I get the feeling that the opening number is going to feature riffs on James Corden shows and will most definitely poke fun at the Into The Woods movie. Host Neil Patrick Harris hadn’t starred in Hedwig by the time that he hosted, and last year saw ribbing of Kristin Chenoweth’s time in Wicked, so I think his roles are also fair game. The ceremony did the same with the Les Miserables movie a few years ago, and as someone who didn’t care for the Into The Woods movie, I’m looking forward to some laughs.

With the American Theatre Wing’s push for the recognition of diversity this season, I think onversations on the red carpet and off are going to focus heavily on diversity across all spectrums, though some conversation about “Tony can you hear me” may come up as another year passes without the sound awards.

PLAY:

Best: Eclipsed
Best Revival: Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Best Actor Leading: Mark Strong (A View From The Bridge)
Best Actor Feature: Reed Birney (The Humans)
Best Actress Leading: Jessica Lange (Long Day’s Journey Into Night)
Best Actress Feature: Pascale Armand (Eclipsed)
Best Direction: Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed)
Best Scenic Design: Jan Versweyveld (A View From The Bridge)
Best Lighting Design: Jan Versweyveld (The Crucible)
Best Costume Design: Clint Ramos (Eclipsed)

 

MUSICAL:

Best: Hamilton
Best Revival: The Color Purple
Best Actor Leading: Leslie Odom Jr.
Best Actor Feature: Daveed Diggs (Hamilton)
Best Actress Leading: Jessie Meuller (Waitress)
Best Actress Feature: Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple)
Best Direction: Michael Arden (Spring Awakening)
Best Book: Shuffle Along (George C. Wolfe)
Best Original Score: Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Best Scenic Design: Es Devlin and Finn Ross (American Psycho)
Best Lighting Design: Howell Binkley (Hamilton)
Best Costume Design: Ann Roth (Shuffle Along)
Best Choreography: Savion Glover (Shuffle Along)
Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton)

#TonysSoDiverse

In the wake of the 2016 Academy Awards and the #OscarsSoWhite debacle, many are looking to the Tonys this season as a potential beacon of light in the way of diversity.

Now, this isn’t to say that this season is the be-all-end-all for diverse stage works, and I know, like most other theatre fans, that the Tonys have had the same discriminatory history as the Academy Awards and the Emmys. But, when all four major acting awards in the musical camp could be won by actors of color, some credit is still due.

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Shuffle Along

Out of all of the eligible plays and musicals this season, 9 out of 36 staged central plots involving characters of color as the protagonists, and another 6 featured actors of color in general major and supporting roles. Again, the majority of focus is still spent on white stories and actors, but when I think about what the eligibility list looked like even 10 years ago, this is a step in the right direction.

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The cast of Waitress: The Musical

Though many shows featuring diverse casts were eligible, there were some shocking nominations left by the wayside in favor of less diverse works.

Allegiance, which opened to great critical reviews and starring the likes of Lea Salonga and George Takei, received no nominations from the awards committee. Before the announcement ceremony, I was sure that the musical would at least earn some acting nominations, as well as perhaps a costume nod or best book nomination. What was nominated in it’s place was not just surprising to me, but to a lot of people.

Having listened to the soundtrack and knowing that the story was based on George Takei’s own experiences with the Japanese-American WWII internment camps, Allegiance was a story previously left untold in an industry (and country for that matter) that largely ignores the narratives of Asian-Americans. Besides Philippa Soo in Hamilton, no other Asian-American actor or creative received a nomination. I may risk repeating myself, but there is still clear work to be done when it comes to nominations as well as the stories created on Broadway.

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George Takei, Lea Salonga, and Telly Leung in Allegiance

But, one thing I have noticed is the diversity in the creative fields, as well as diversity beyond race. This season saw women of color (Danai Gurira and Liesl Tommy) nominated for directing, and writing (Eclipsed). Clint Ramos’ nomination for costume design, Sergio Trujillo’s nod for choreography, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recognition for book and original score shone a well deserved light on the men of the Latino community.

Across the board, women of all races have been nominated in almost every creative category, from Sara Bareilles for original score, to Ann Roth in costume design, to Natasha Katz and Peggy Eisenhauer with their respective nods for lighting design. Michael Arden, a member of the LGBTQ community, garnered a best director nomination, and though his revival of Spring Awakening received no specific acting nods, it was still nominated for best revival. This means that for the first time, an actress in a wheelchair and an ensemble of deaf actors has been recognized by the awards committee.

It’s clear to see that the trend of recognizing and awarding diversity is on the upward climb and has been placed in the spotlight. Even with just the nominations, the course is set in the right direction, and I hope that the award ceremony itself continues on this path. Here’s to hoping that the next few seasons will offer even more.

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Jennifer Hudson and Cybthia Erivo in The Color Purple

Why Eclipsed is making Tony history and breaking glass ceilings

Nominated for 6 Tony Awards this season, Eclipsed truly is one of a kind. Penned by Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed offers something completely unique to both the Tonys and current stage politics: and all female cast and female lead creatives.

Last year the team behind Fun Home made history as the first female writing team to win for Best Original Score. That revelation took a lot of people off-guard, including myself. However, it came as no surprise to me that Eclipsed premiered at The Public Theater, where Fun Home and Hamilton also launched. The Public, along with a good portion of Off-Broadway theatres have become hubs for diverse stage work, and have slowly been pushing that trend towards larger Broadway stages.

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In recent years, the move and trend towards diversity in stage work  has been bumpy to say the least, but Eclipsed offers yet another milestone- not only are the cast all women, but they are all women of color. This extends to the creative team too, where all members are either a person of color or female, something almost completely unheard of on Broadway either historically or currently.

The show itself is based in Liberia during the country’s still ongoing civil war. Four of the women featured are all wives of a rebel general who’s lives are turned upside down when a new wife is brought to the compound.

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Rather than focus on the war at large, Gurira chose to focus on those it still affects most: the women captives, the wives of war, and female soldiers. I discovered that Gurira wrote the script after research and a trip to Liberia, where she interviewed women who would become the basis for her characters. These women have been captured by Liberian rebel forces and forced to become soldier wives to strengthen the rebel cause. Many are raped and assaulted, all are held hostage.

Read about Danai Gurira’s trip: here

This tie to reality allowed me to become completely engrossed in the script, as the women struggle to live, hope for peace, and find comfort in each other. Often times, scripts fall prey to the “strong woman” stereotype, but the way that Gurira writes these characters and Liesl Tommy directs them never feels contrived. The conflict that the protagonists face feels real because it is literally rooted in reality.

Many critics have pointed to Eclipsed as revolutionary because the voice it gives to the unheard, and I have to agree. All female casts are rare enough, but combined with this subject matter puts the play in another league. Both Gurira and Tommy are African born, and their passion for African women and their voices is clear. They say, and I agree, that shining a light on the Liberian struggle through performance allows audiences to access the hardships in a more meaningful way.

Having only read the script and not seen a full performance, I can only comment about the writing of Danai Gurira and direction of Liesl Tommy, but the acting nominations point to a strong cast as well.

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Lupita Nyong’o already has an Academy Award for her work in 12 Years A Slave, so her nomination for Leading Actress here seems to reflect her ability. Also nominated in the acting categories are Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh for Featured Actress. Clint Ramos is also nominated for Costume Design.

Out of all Tony eligible new plays, Eclipsed has the most nominations (tied with The Humans at 6 each). Movie, television, and theatre critics alike have historically pointed to the lack of female driven performances and reasoned that the gap exists because these pieces aren’t engaging or entertaining. Eclipsed has provided the next brick in the wall of female driven performances, and with 6 nominations and critical acclaim, it is a strong brick indeed.

Tony Awards Rules Round-up

With the Tony Nominations Ceremony just around the corner (broadcast tomorrow!), it’s now time to dive into how it becomes possible for a show to be nominated. Ever wondered what classifies a show as “being on Broadway”? How about what qualifies a person to be on the voting committee? We’ve got it covered here.

 

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Rules: New Play or Musical

For this award, a new play or musical is considered one that hasn’t previously been produced on Broadway and isn’t determined to be “classic” (in the historical repertoire). This decision is made by the Tony Admin. Committee, who were discussed in our previous post. proj-shufflealongThe “classics” rule was decided on in 2002, and says that shows transferred from Off-Broadway or the West End are eligible as “new”, as are productions based closely on films or books. This is certainly the case this season, where many shows, including School of Rock, Misery, and Tuck Everlasting, are all based off of priorly published material.

This rule has been the subject of some controversy, as some feel that allowing plays and musicals that have been frequently produced to be eligible as “new” gives them an unfair advantage, because they are more familiar with the Tony voters. On this flip side of this in the current season is Shuffle Along, which although based on the 1921 show of the same name, features a plot about the production of the original show, as well the legacy the show had in the theatre world.

 

Voters

There are approximately 868 eligible Tony Award voters, which is a number that changes slightly from year to year.

 

Eligible Tony voters include the board of directors and designated members of the American Theatre Wing, members of the Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, United Scenic Artists, and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. There are also members of the Theatrical Council of the Casting Society of America and voting members of The Broadway League.

Eligibility Season

To be eligible for Tony Award consideration and nominations, a show must have officially opened on Broadway by the eligibility date established by the Management Committee. Like the number of eligible voters, this date also changes from year to year. For the 2015-2016 season, the cut-off date for opening was April 28, 2016.

“Broadway” Theatre

rrogers_08A Broadway theatre is currently defined as having 500 or more seats, among other requirements. While the official rules define a Broadway theatre in terms of its size, not its geographical location, the list of Broadway theatres is determined only by the Tony Admin Committee. As of the 2015-2016 season, the list of eligible “Broadway” theatres consists of 40 theatres in the New York Met area, almost all in the Theatre District.

Meet the Eligible Shows (Part 1)

As the cut-off date for eligibility is coming up this week on April 28th, let’s take a look at the shows that have made the official jump to being Tony Eligible!

Able to be entered for Best Play:

An Act of God an-act-of-god-large-643x441

Written by David Javerbaum, this play is an adaptation of his The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. Billed as a “comedy in which the Almighty and his devoted angels answer some of the” questions that have “plagued” the human race since the dawn of time.

Where: Studio 54
Run: May 28 2015-August 2 2015

 

 

China Doll china-doll

Written by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino, China Doll brushes with “big money, fast planes, and other objects of desire.” It follows the life of Pacino, a “man of means” who is on the brink of running away with his fiancée, but the world has other plans.

Where: Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
Run: December 4 2015-January 31 2016

 

 

Eclipsed eclipsed-102015

Originally staged at the Public Theatre, Eclipsed is written by Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame. The show is set in the midst of the Liberian Civil War, and follows the trials and tribulations of a “fragile community” formed by the captive wives of a rebel officer.

Where: Nederlander Theatre
Run: March 8 2016-

 

 

 

 

The Father 80651-3

Starring 3-time past Tony winner Frank Langella, The Father captures a “fascinating” look inside the mind of a retired tap dancer now living with his adult daughter and her husband, but the mundane has a way of creeping up and clouding his mind.

Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Run: April 14 2016-

 

 

 

 

The Humans the-humans-poster

Written by Stephen Karam, The Humans take place entirely over the course of the Blake family Thanksgiving dinner. The show features the “angst, anguish, and amity” of a middle class American family as an inside slice of the new Americana.

Where: Helen Hayes Theatre
Run: February 18 2016-

 

 

King Charles III 13715-3

Written by Mike Bartlett, King Charles III takes a controversial look at Britain’s royal family. “After a lifetime of waiting”, the current Prince Charles ascends to the throne. The play explores the “people beneath the crowns” and “the unwritten rules of (British) democracy.”

Where: Music Box Theatre
Run: November 1 2015- January 31 2016

 

 

 

 

Misery misery

Based on the Stephen King thriller novel of fame, Misery was adapted for stage by William Goldman and starring Bruce Willis in his Broadway debut. Following a near-fatal car crash, an author is saved by one of his most avid fans.

Where: Broadhurst Theatre
Run: November 15 2015- February 14 2016

 

 

Our Mother’s Brief Affair 14766-3

Written by Richard Greenberg, Our Mother’s Brief Affair takes a look at “who our parents are when they’re not being our parents.” The show follows a family after their matriarch confesses on her deathbed to a past affair.

Where: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Run: January 20 2016- March 6 2016

 

 

 

 

Thérèse Raquin 13758-3

Based on the Émile Zola novel of the same name, Thérèse Raquin stars Keira Knightly in her Broadway debut as the titular character, trapped between a loveless marriage and a passionate affair that threatens to spin their world “violently out of control.”

Where: Studio 54
Run: October 19 2015- January 3 2016

 

 

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