Arts

The 2020 Tony Awards

The 2020 Tony Awards should be about saving theater, as well as trophies

Website:
The Daily Beast

Date:
October 15, 2020

The Tony nominations have been announced for a Broadway year cut short. The hosts and winners should emphasize the financial support theater and its workers desperately need.

Alanis Morissette-inspired musical Jagged Little Pill and Moulin Rouge! The Musical lead the 74th annual Tony nominations, with 15 and 14 nominations apiece. Moulin Rouge’s Aaron Tveit will win lead actor in a musical because there is no one else in his category. Slave Play leads the play categories, with 12 nominations (the same number as Tina—The Tina Turner Musical), while The Inheritance has 11.

This—and all the other nominated shows, performers, and production staff—should be celebrated. Just hearing their names reminded this critic, who has seen and reviewed all the shows nominated, of much-missed nights at the theater. Even when the shows are bad. (Oh, to see a bad show now.)

Coronavirus means this is a Tonys year unlike any other. There were only 18 shows eligible, because of the Broadway lockdown which went into effect March 12, just as the opening nights of Tony-eligible shows were peppering the calendar. Indeed, that night the show Six was set to open, and never did. Shows like West Side Story and Girl from the North Country were deemed ineligible because they did not open by the announced cutoff date of Feb. 19. It was decided that not enough Tony voters got to see shows that opened after that date.

Two wonderful shows which deserve laurels of some kind—Freestyle Love Supreme (co-created by Lin-Manuel Miranda) and David Byrne’s American Utopia—chose not to invite Tony voters.

Broadway remains closed, and will do so until June 2021 at the earliest—and this reopening date has been set back further and further since March 12. Theater itself—its workers on stage and off—is in crisis, with scant funds available to support those who work in it, and a bill to support culture workers frozen and unmoving in the Republican-controlled Senate. The British government recognizes the importance of the arts, and has made emergency financial support available to them. Not so in America.

And so, with no shows for the public to see and those who make the shows in dire need of financial help, the Tony nominations were announced by previous winner (Aladdin, 2014) James Monroe Iglehart, who said that “every society has theater at its core,” that theater would survive, that theater was “constant,” and that Broadway will return.

Yes, it will. But when and how? The issue—and one hopes the Tony Awards themselves will raise it overtly and repeatedly—is that theater and those who make it urgently need financial aid. Theater and performance are often seen as luxuries rather than a social necessity. Broadway, and theaters across America, are also formidable economic engines—not only sustaining themselves but a myriad of businesses like hotels, shops, museums, and restaurants that orbit around its magnet for audience.

The date of the Tony Awards has not yet been announced, but whoever takes part should make as much noise as possible about the economic imperatives at play—and the social and human consequences for those who work within and outside our theaters.

There were four musicals eligible for awards, with one completely cut out of all categories—the critically unloved (and the day I was there, the kids around me seemed pretty bored by it too) The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. Ironically, this was the only musical under consideration with an original score. The best musical category is a three-way joust between three very different—but all extraordinarily mounted and performed—shows: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.

The best play category is competitive and intriguing, with Grand Horizons, The Inheritance, Sea Wall/A Life, Slave Play, and The Sound Inside. Slave Play, Jeremy O. Harris’ play about race, memory, racism, and power, undoubtedly gave Broadway its most urgent and necessary social awakening of the abbreviated theatrical year; The Inheritance, which got mixed reviews, aimed to tell an epic, cross-generational story of gay desire and loss (anyone who left a gay gathering where it was discussed alive, congratulations!). The others are all worthy competitors too; the winner will, as always, reveal something about the demographics of the Tony voters, if nothing else.

The best revival of a play category is equally meaty, with Betrayal, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and A Soldier’s Play in contention. All three featured performances that roared and compelled.

The acting categories all include worthy nominees, with Tveit’s standalone nomination the most striking reminder of an off-kilter year—a source of pure joy for the “Aaron Tveit Nation” watching the announcement on YouTube.

The best actress in a play category includes Laura Linney (My Name is Laura Barton), Audra McDonald, and Mary-Louise Parker, and Joaquina Kalukango, for her amazing performance in Slave Play. Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge (Sea Wall/A Life), Blair Underwood (A Soldier’s Play, and Tom Hiddleston (Betrayal) are up for best actor, alongside Steppenwolf actor Ian Barford (for Linda Vista) and Andrew Burnap (for The Inheritance).

In the musical category, Adrienne Warren—who played Tina Turner with utterly barnstorming command—in the musical that bears the icon’s name is up against Karen Olivo (Moulin Rouge!) and Elizabeth Stanley (Jagged Little Pill). The latter show’s Lauren Patten, who literally stops the show, is in the featured actress in a musical category, alongside castmates Celia Rose Gooding and Kathryn Gallagher, as well as Robyn Hurder (Moulin Rouge!), and Myra Lucretia Taylor (Tina).

Expect rousing speeches and performances when the Tonys are awarded at an unknown later date, most likely in December. For that night at least, theater will come back very much alive.

 

2020 TONY AWARD NOMINATIONS

BEST MUSICAL
“Moulin Rouge!”
“Jagged Little Pill”
“Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST PLAY
“Grand Horizons”
“The Inheritance”
“Sea Wall / A Life”
“Slave Play”
“The Sound Inside”

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
“Betrayal”
“Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”
“A Soldier’s Play”

BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Karen Olivo in “Moulin Rouge!”
Elizabeth Stanley in “Jagged Little Pill”
Adrienne Warren in “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Aaron Tveit in “Moulin Rouge!”

BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ian Barford in “Linda Vista”
Andrew Burnap in “The Inheritance”
Jake Gyllenhaal in “Sea Wall / A Life”
Tom Hiddleston in “Betrayal”
Tom Sturridge in “Sea Wall / A Life”
Blair Underwood in “A Soldier’s Play”

BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Joaquina Kalukango in “Slave Play”
Laura Linney in “My Name is Lucy Barton”
Audra McDonald in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”
Mary-Louise Parker in “The Sound Inside”

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Jagged Little Pill by Diablo Cody
Moulin Rouge! The Musical by John Logan
Tina—The Tina Turner Musical by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
“A Christmas Carol”—Music by Christopher Nightingale
“The Inheritance”—Music by Paul Englishby
“The Rose Tattoo”—Music by Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb
“Slave Play”—Music by Lindsay Jones
“The Sound Inside”—Music by Daniel Kluger

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Ato Blankson-Wood in “Slave Play”
James Cusati-Moyer in “Slave Play”
David Alan Grier in “A Soldier’s Play”
John Benjamin Hickey in “The Inheritance”
Paul Hilton in “The Inheritance”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Jane Alexander in “Grand Horizons”
Chalia La Tou in “Slave Play”
Annie McNamara in “Slave Play”
Lois Smith in “The Inheritance”
Cora Vander Broek in “Linda Vista”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Danny Burstein in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Derek Klena in “Jagged Little Pill”
Sean Allan Krill in “Jagged Little Pill”
Sahr Ngaujah in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Daniel J. Watts in “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Kathryn Gallagher in “Jagged Little Pill”
Celia Rose Gooding in “Jagged Little Pill”
Robyn Hurder in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Lauren Patten in “Jagged Little Pill”
Myra Lucretia Taylor in “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Bob Crowley in “The Inheritance”
Soutra Gilmour in “Betrayal”
Rob Howell in “A Christmas Carol”
Derek McLane in “A Soldier’s Play”
Clint Ramos in “Slave Play”

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Riccardo Hernández and Lucy Mackinnon for “Jagged Little Pill”
Derek McLane for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Mark Thompson and Jeff Sugg for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dede Ayite for “Slave Play”
Dede Ayite for “A Soldier’s Play”
Bob Crowley for “The Inheritance”
Rob Howell for “A Christmas Carol”
Clint Ramos for “The Rose Tattoo”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Emily Rebholz for “Jagged Little Pill”
Mark Thompson for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”
Catherine Zuber for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Jiyoun Chang for “Slave Play”
Jon Clark for “The Inheritance”
Heather Gilbert for “The Sound Inside”
Allen Lee Hughes for “A Soldier’s Play”
Hugh Vanstone for “A Christmas Carol”

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bruno Poet for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”
Justin Townsend for “Jagged Little Pill”
Justin Townsend for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paul Arditti & Christopher Reid for “The Inheritance”
Simon Baker for “A Christmas Carol”
Lindsay Jones for “Slave Play”
Daniel Kluger for “Sea Wall/A Life”
Daniel Kluger for “The Sound Inside”

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Jonathan Deans for “Jagged Little Pill”
Peter Hylenski for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Nevin Steinberg for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
David Cromer for “The Sound Inside”
Stephen Daldry for “The Inheritance”
Kenny Leon for “A Soldier’s Play”
Jamie Lloyd for “Betrayal”
Robert O’Hara for “Slave Play”

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Phyllida Lloyd for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”
Diane Paulus for “Jagged Little Pill”
Alex Timbers for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for “Jagged Little Pill”
Sonya Tayeh for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Anthony Van Laast for “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS
Tom Kitt for “Jagged Little Pill”
Katie Kresek, Charlie Rosen, Matt Stine and Justin Levine for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical”
Ethan Popp for “Tina—The Tina Turner Musical”