The annual race for Broadway’s most commercially important awards has begun in earnest, with the announcement of the nominations yesterday for this year’s Tony Awards.
It saw an impressive showing for two imports from the West End particularly: the transfers of the Shakespeare’s Globe productions (which had also transferred to the Apollo under Sonia Friedman’s auspices, who then took them on to New York) of Twelfth Night (which got seven nominations) and Richard III (one nomination). and for the Michael Grandage company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (which got six nominations).
Mark Rylance scored a first by becoming the first actor ever to be nominated in both the leading and featured actor categories in the same year (the first for the title role in Richard III, the second for his Olivia in Twelfth Night). His Richard III nomination sees him go head-to-head with another Globe leading man (or rather man playing a woman), Sam Barnett who is nominated for leading actor for playing Viola in Twelfth Night. And in the featured actor category, Rylance has competition from not one but two Globe actors – Stephen Fry and Paul Chahidi for their Malvolio and Maria respectively, the latter recognised at last for a truly astonishing performance (He got my own nod for best Shakespearean performance on my ballot for the Critics’ Circle Awards).
It was pleasing, too, see the Michael Grandage Company, in its inaugural Broadway outing, take six nominations – though I was sorry to see that the main reason — at least commercially – that it transferred at all, namely Daniel Radcliffe, was passed over. This is young Radcliffe’s third Broadway appearance, after Equus and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, and he’s been snubbed each time. I know he’s always in competitive categories, but his performance in Inishmaan is his best to date.
Still, he’s in good company by being excluded: also left out from this year’s Tony’s are such stars as Denzel Washington (who won the Tony the last time he was on Broadway in 2010 in a revival of August Wilson’s Fences, and this time was passed over for his performance in A Raisin in the Sun); both Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (who reprised their West End Waiting for Godot, in rep with a new production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land), Zachary Quinto (the only star of The Glass Menagerie not to be nominated); and the entire company of last autumn’s stellar revival of Pinter’s Betrayal, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall.
Also passed over were Scrubs TV star Zach Braff (appearing in Bullets Over Broadway), Mary-Louise Parker (in Outside Mullinger), James Franco (appearing in Of Mice and Men, though his Irish-born co-star Chris O’Dowd was nominated), the entire company of The Realistic Joneses that comprised Michael C Hall, Tony Collette, Marissa Tomei and Tracy Letts; Michelle Williams (making her Broadway debut in Cabaret), and Rebecca Hall (who was seen in Machinal).
But if these individuals were left out, there were several shows that were left out entirely: as well as Betrayal and The Realistic Joneses, also already forgotten were three musicals – the big-budget Big Fish, as well as the more modest Soul Doctor and First Date.
Charles Isherwood, who reviewed The Realistic Joneses for the New York Times, has already penned a riposte to that show’s “almost comically ostentatious snub”, which he declared “far and away (IMNSHO) the most stimulating, adventurous and flat-out good play to be produced on Broadway this year. (I should probably translate that wacky acronym for the nominators, whose average age is probably, um, well, never mind. It’s a joke on the text shorthand IMHO, meaning “in my humble opinion”; you can guess what the NS stands for?)”
It may be a matter of his not-so humble opinion, but he’s right to say:
What’s disappointing, of course, is the pernicious possibility that by ignoring this challenging new play the nominators may have discouraged producers from presenting anything other than the benign, bland fare that did make the cut.
I’m even more depressed by the fact that in the best musical category only one show features an entirely original score: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (which topped the list of most nominated shows, with 10 overall), joining the revue After Midnight, the film-to-stage version of Disney’s Aladdin, and Beautiful, the Carole King bio-musical. That means that Rocky, If/Then and The Bridges of Madison County, all of which are still running, were passed over, though at least the scores of the latter two were recognisd in the best original score written for the theatre (which also included a nod to Aladdin, since it had new additional songs).
But if we can always niggle about what’s left out, let’s at least celebrate what’s in, and there was a nice showing for British talent and/or originated shows. Brits led the way in both the best director of a play and best scenic design of a play, taking three out of those categories’ four slots each, with nominations for best director to Tim Carroll, Michael Grandage and John Tiffany, and best designer to Bob Crowley, Es Devlin and Christopher Oram.
Other Brits recognised include Inishmaan actress Sarah Green, Sophie Okonedo (starring in A Raisin the Sun), designer Julian Crouch (Rocky), lighting designer Paule Constable (Inishmaan), sound designers Alex Baranowski (Inishmaan) and Mick Potter Les Miserables), and choreographer Steven Hoggett (Rocky). The UK-originated production of Les Miserables was nominated for Best Revival and its Canadian star Ramin Karimloo, who was a long-time resident of London, has been nominated for Leading Actor in a Musical.
The nominations will now see an urgent race to the finishing line of the awards themselves on June 8. But already the first show that failed to get enough Tony love yesterday has fallen over: the producers of The Velocity of Autumn, which got a sole nomination for star Estelle Parsons, promptly announced its closure this Sunday.