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Mark Shenton: The Tony Awards 2016 nods are in, and Hamilton leads with 16 nominations

Hamilton. Photo: Joan Marcus A scene from Hamilton on Broadway. Photo: Joan Marcus
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The two most important dates of the Broadway theatre season are May 3 and June 12. The first is when the nominations for this year’s Tony Awards are announced, and the second is when the ceremony for the results takes place (this year at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side, where it last took place in 2011 and 2012 when Radio City Music Hall was booked with Cirque du Soleil’s summer shows, and this year is unavailable because of the New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes).

Nothing galvanises Broadway quite as much as the Tonys, the street’s highest honours; though there are other awards — the Drama Desks, the New York Critics Circle, the Outer Critics Circle — the only ones that have any meaning, economically speaking, are the Tony Awards, and money is what counts.

In the year of the juggernaut that is Hamilton, the result – at least in the commercially all-important best musical category – is a foregone conclusion. (And Hamilton, true to form, has led the pack, earning a whopping 16 nominations overall). But that means, paradoxically, that the nominees are even more important and exciting, to find out which other shows are in its company.

Again, there’s a direct economic impact, not least because there are 11 shows that qualify for best musical, and only the ones nominated will get the priceless opportunity to perform an extract on the live, nationally broadcast Tony Awards ceremony (and in perpetuity online). So there are, inevitably, a lot of losers, even at the nominations phase.

Joining Hamilton in the Tony line-up this year for best musical are Shuffle Along, Waitress, School of Rock and Bright Star. That means that recently opened American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, and Disaster! have all been passed over, as have On Your Feet (which opened last November) and the already shut Amazing Grace and Allegiance. (Not all those shows went entirely unnominated: American Psycho got a scenic design nod for Es Devlin and Finn Ross and a lighting design nod for Justin Townsend; Tuck Everlasting saw Gregg Barnes nominated for best costume designs and Disaster! got a nomination for featured actress in a musical for Jennifer Simard. But none of those nominations will help those shows at the box office).

Broadway’s most powerful producer Scott Rudin is behind Shuffle Along, as well as a host of other plays this year including the transfer of The Humans (a shoo-in, I think, for best play) and revivals of The Crucible, Blackbird and the transfer of the Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge. He sought to shift Shuffle Along, his latest opening, designated as a musical revival, given that it is based on a 1921 musical of the same name. That would have taken it out of contention for best musical and instead into the far less crowded revivals category, but the Tony nominations committee ruled against him.

The revivals category instead comprises Fiddler on the Roof, Spring Awakening, She Loves Me and The Color Purple, which means that only Dames at Sea among this season’s revivals lost out (though Randy Skinner earned the show’s sole nomination for his choreography).

Among the handful of shows that originated in London, A View from a Bridge and King Charles III scored five nominations each, including for leading actors Mark Strong (Eddie Carbone in Bridge) and Tim Pigott-Smith (the title role in King Charles III), alongside the Menier Chocolate Factory’s The Color Purple (four, including British star Cynthia Erivo, who’ll be the leading lady to beat, and director John Doyle) and the Almeida-originated American Psycho (two). Other Brit nominees include director Jonathan Kent (for Long Day’s Journey into Night) and Rupert Goold (for King Charles III but not American Psycho), set designer Christopher Oram (for the short-lived Hughie) and designer Tom Scutt (for costumes in King Charles III).

Photo: Darren Bell
Photo: Darren Bell

After the all-white Oscars, it’s nice to see so many people of colour nominated for Tonys, including playwright Danai Gurira (for Eclipsed), composer/book writer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (nominated for each of those three roles for Hamilton), director George C Wolfe and choreographer Savion Glover (both for Shuffle Along), and actors Lupita Nong’o and Sophie Okonedo (leading actress for Eclipsed and The Crucible respectively), Saycon Sengboh (featured actress for Eclipsed), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom (leading actor in a musical), Phillipa Soo (leading actress in a musical), Daveed Diggs (featured actor in a musical) and Rennee Elise Goldsberry (featured actress in a musical), Shuffle Along’s Adrienne Warren (featured actress in a musical), Brandon Victor Dixon (featured actor in a musical) and our own aforementioned Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks (both for The Color Purple).

And the biggest surprise of the list: no nomination for Audra McDonald, a six-time nominee who only has to go on stage to get nominated and usually win. But at least it leaves the category completely free for Cynthia Erivo to secure the win.

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