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2016 Tony Award Nominations: What’s Eligible, What SHOULD Be Nominated

Tony Awards StatuetteThe Tony nominations will be announced tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 3, which will launch weeks’ worth of predictions, preferences and objections.

Let’s start a day early!

Below is the list of eligible shows in four categories, and my list of which of them should (not will) be nominated, with links to my reviews.

For basic information about the theater award landscape, check out

2016 NYC Theater Award Guide — Why Hamilton Won’t Sweep Them All

Eligible for Best Play

An Act of God

China Doll

Eclipsed

The Father

The Humans

King Charles III

Misery

Our Mother’s Brief Affair

Therese Raquin

 

Which should be nominated for Best Play

Eclipsed

The story of captive and abused women during the Liberian civil war, which marks the Broadway debut of playwright Danai Guirira and actress Lupita Nyong’o, culd easily have been a noble, grim and largely unwatchable testament to man’s inhumanity towards woman in wartime. But it turns out to be a well-acted ensemble piece and a thought-provoking drama that is surprisingly vibrant, and sometimes even whimsical

The Father

This translation of a French play by Florian Zeller employs the kind of effect perfected by absurdist playwrights to show the effects of dementia from the point of view of the person suffering from it. It is a showcase for another extraordinary performance by Frank Langella, who creates a character with whom we are made to feel literal empathy.

The Humans

The Broadway debut of playwright Stephen Karam, this play about a family gathering for Thanksgiving, who each suffer in some way from the troubled economic times in which we live.  There re some supernatural grace notes, but the play is most noteworthy for the exquisite performances by some of New York’s finest stage actors…For all the problems the characters face, these actors are superb in communicating an affection and good humor that feels genuine and that draws us in.

King Charles III

This clever play imagines what will happen after Queen Elizabeth II has died and Prince Charles has ascended the throne.   Playwright Mike Bartlett uses Shakespearean-sounding language and director Rupert Goold has deepened the sense of an Elizabethan drama with a superb cast, led by Tim Pigott-Smith…The acting helps elevate the plot to the feel of tragedy, despite some tabloid-tawdry goings-on.

Therese Raquin

Keira Knightley made her  Broadway debut in a new adaption of the Emile Zola novel about a woman driven to murder to escape a loveless marriage, only to be haunted by her act. If only four nominees are chosen, Therese Raquin is likely to be the one omitted, since the reaction to it seems to have been split evenly between those who love and those who hated the production. I thought it gorgeously designed and magnetically performed.

 

There is unlikely to be surprises in the selection of nominees in this category, since so many of the other eligible plays simply do not measure up.

 

Eligible for Best Musical

Allegiance

Amazing Grace

American Psycho

Bright Star

Disaster

Hamilton

On Your Feet

School of Rock

Shuffle Along

Tuck Everlasting

Waitress

 

Which should be nominated for best musical?

Hamilton

This musical about the Founding Father whose face is on the ten dollar bill has prompted enthusiasm that’s spread far beyond the usual Broadway precincts, but there’s good reason. It’s both groundbreaking and breathtaking, thrilling to watch, always in motion, thanks to a creative team including director Thomas Kail, and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler.

School of Rock

Andrew Lloyd Webber has chosen to adapt a movie with a plot that could hardly be sillier, about a loser who stumbles onto teaching and changes the lives of his students by training them to be rock stars. Lloyd Webber supplies a new score that could hardly be more addictive

Shuffle Along

George C. Wolfe’s has produced a musical that is half a revival of a landmark 1921 all-black musical, and half puts it in historical, biographical and sociological context. It’s an ambitious, not completely successful mash-up, but Savion Glover’s thrilling choreography is enough alone to make it a wondrous entertainment.

Waitress

The sweet and tart new musical confection is about a waitress in a loveless marriage, and her two co-workers who are also searching for love. It is deliciously performed by a cast led by Jessie Mueller.

The winner in this category may be the most predictable in the history of the Tony Awards. But this is the most competitive category for the other nominees. There is an interesting split here.  Many of the musicals were trying for a serious message, and they turned the Broadway season into what many people consider the most inclusive in memory. But they also tended to be less polished than those that had less interesting things to say.

I’ll be happy if, instead of one of my picks, On Your Feet is a nominee, and unhappy if American Psycho is.

Eligible for Best Revival of a Play

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

Blackbird

Fool for Love

Fully Committed

The Gin Game

Hughie

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Noises Off

Old Times

Sylvia

What should be nominated as best revival of a play

 

Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

Ivo van Hove’s aggressively abstract, barefoot production of Miller tragedy’s  took liberties that others appreciated more than I, but the outstanding cast delivered powerful performances.

The Gin Game

he two characters in ‘The Gin Game’ do little more than play card games and, once, (spoiler alert) dance. But they’re portrayed by James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson – with some 130 years of acting experience between them – and that’s enough to turn this Broadway revival into a stellar outing

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Jessica Lange’s performance and a first-rate design team help make the revival of Eugene O’Neill’s most respected play one that demands attention.

Sylvia

Annaleigh Ashford was a delight as a dog in A.R. Gurney’s comedy.

A confession: My selections in this category have less to do with an enthusiastic embrace than in a desire to  avoid the productions I actively disliked — Blackbird and Fool for Love. I also felt that van Hove’s approach in The Crucible undermined the point of the play.

To slip into prediction here, The Crucible will probably be chosen over The Gin Game, and Noises Off, which was well-executed, will probably be nominated in place of Sylvia;  I just didn’t find Noises Off as funny as everybody around me did.

 

Eligible for Best Revival of a Musical

 

The Color Purple

Dames at Sea

Fiddler on the Roof

She Loves Me

Spring Awakening

 

What should be nominated as best revival of a musical

The Color Purple

This musical of a beaten-down black girl in the rural South finally gaining self-respect has become something close to a spiritual experience in this stripped-down production by director John Doyle capable of both exquisite nuance and shattering power, thanks in part to its star, Cynthia Errivo.

Fiddler on the Roof

Danny Burstein as Tevye the milkman is the reason to see director Bartlett Sher’s dark interpretation of this supremely tuneful and well-structured Harrnick and Bock musical about shtetl life based on Sholom Aleichem’s Yiddish stories.

She Loves Me

This comic musical is about two bickering clerks in a perfumery who don’t realize they’ve fallen in love with each other as lonely hearts pen pals.  The same team that would later create Fiddler on the Roof put together a terrific score, and the revival is well-designed, and superbly performed in particular by Laura Benanti an Jane Krakowski.

Spring Awakening

The Deaf West theater company’s production of this musical about teenage rebellion cleverly paired deaf actors who are signing with hearing actors who are singing, making the show the most accessible on Broadway, but also forging it into something theatrically exceptional

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About New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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