“A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s critically acclaimed theatrical meta-journey, garnered 11 Tony Award nominations Monday, as Broadway joined the national discussion on race by hosting a groundbreaking musical written and directed by black artists.
Jackson’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a black gay man who writes a play about a black gay man was nominated for best musical, best actor for newcomer Jaquel Spivey and best actress for L Morgan Lee, who goes on to being the first openly transgender artist nominated for a Tony Award.
Jesse Williams, the “Grey’s Anatomy” star who made his Broadway debut, earned a nomination for “Take Me Out,” as did his co-star, “Modern Family” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Playwright Lynn Nottage had two reasons to smile Monday morning: her play “Clyde’s” and her script for the musical “MJ” were both nominated.
The Tony Awards will be presented at Radio City Music Hall on June 12 at a ceremony hosted by Ariana DeBose that will air live on CBS and Paramount+ from 8 pm New York (0000 GMT).
Right behind “A Strange Loop”, there was a tie: With 10 nominations each are “MJ,” the biographical musical about Michael Jackson that includes the King of Pop’s greatest hits, and “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish and African-American immigrants struggling to survive in New York at the time. of the Civil War, directed by the Venezuelan playwright and director Moisés Kaufman.
The other nominees for best are musical “Six”, a feminist version of the six wives of Henry VIII of England; “Girl From the North Country,” which uses the songs of Bob Dylan to weave a story in Depression-era Midwest America, and “Mr. Saturday Night,” starring Billy Crystal as a sour old comedian looking for one last laugh.
Two of the nominees for best play are on economics: Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew,” about job insecurity at a Detroit auto plant in 2008, and Stefano Massini’s “The Lehman Trilogy,” which spans 150 years and features what took to the collapse of the financial giant Lehman Brothers.
There’s also “Clyde’s,” Nottage’s play about a group of ex-cons trying to restart their lives at a trucker’s diner, and Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen,” about a hangman-turned-pub-owner forced to deal with his past when capital punishment becomes illegal in the UK. “The Minutes,” Tracey Letts’ portrayal of a small-town council meeting that exposes the biggest backstabbing, greed and deception in American history, was also nominated for best play.
There were four revivals of musicals this season, but only three earned nominations: “The Music Man,” which celebrates America’s soul with a traveling hustler in a small Iowa town, starring two-time winners Tony Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster , also postulated on Monday.
The other two nominees for best revival of a musical are “Caroline, or Change,” the Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori show that explores America’s racial, social, and economic divisions in 1963 Louisiana, and “Company,” the exploration by Stephen Sondheim of a single person’s conflicted feelings about commitment, this time with a gender swap of the main character. That put “Funny Girl,” the classic American show starring Beanie Feldstein about the rise of a Ziegfeld Follies comedic star, out of the running; It only received one nomination, for Jared Grimes, for best actor.
Nominees for best revival of a play include Alice Childress’s “Trouble in Mind,” about a Broadway play that explores the racial divide in the 1950s, and “How I Learned to Drive,” a memoir by the winner. Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel narrated by a survivor of child sexual abuse and starring two nominees: Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse. Also receiving nominations were Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out,” an exploration of what happens when a baseball superstar comes out as gay, and the exploration of black femininity “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enough,” by Ntozake Shange.
The season, which included 34 new productions, represents a full return to theaters after almost two years of mandatory closure due to the pandemic. It is also notable for a wave of plays by black playwrights, reflecting the impact on Broadway of the global conversation about race following the death of George Floyd in 2020.
Neither Matthew Broderick nor his wife Sarah Jessica Parker got nominations for the revival of “Plaza Suite,” but Patti LuPone got one for “Company” and so did LaChanze for “Trouble in Mind.” Ruth Negga was nominated for “Macbeth,” but her co-star Daniel Craig was not nominated.
The musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” earned just one nomination, for Rob McClure, who took on the Robin Williams role of an actor who poses as his children’s burly Scottish nanny to spend time with them after a divorce.
The nominees for best actress in a musical are Sharon D. Clarke for “Caroline, Or Change”, Foster for “The Music Man”, Katrina Lenk for “Company”, Joaquina Kalukango for “Paradise Square”, Carmen Cusack for “Flying Over Sunset” and Mare Winningham for “Girl From the North Country.”
Along with Spivey, Jackman and McClure are up for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical Crystal for “Mr. Saturday Night” and Myles Frost, whose portrayal of Michael Jackson in “MJ” has been hailed as a triumph.
The eligibility deadline for the 2021-2022 season was pushed back to May 4 after several Broadway shows had to cancel performances due to reported cases of COVID-19 among cast and crew.