Best Play, Musical nominees await Tony results

By Daniel Morgan, Editor

The annual Tony Awards is practically the only time that we get to see what Broadway has to offer, unless you count bootleg recordings. This year, the 70th ceremony will be hosted live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City and broadcast on CBS by Tony winner James Corden on June 12 at 8 p.m. Here is a look at the nominees for Best Play and Best Musical; each title is hyperlinked to a short preview of the production on The Tony Awards YouTube page.

Eclipsed” takes place in a compound in 2003 Liberia as five women try to survive and make sense of the second Liberian civil war. Written by Danai Gurira and starring Best Actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o, the play, which is nominated for six awards, “hits the sweet spot for the serious New York theater crowd — the ideal audience for this intense drama — that often feels overlooked and underserved on Broadway,” according to Variety’s Marilyn Stasio.

The Father,” written by Florian Zeller, stars Best Actor nominee Frank Langella as 80-year-old André who is living with dementia. “As André goes from wily and irascible to groping and helpless, the fall is all the more powerful because of Langella’s strong physical presence. Andre’s last-minute moment of clarity is a punch in the gut for him — and us,” New York Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz said.

The Humans” by Stephen Karam, which is also nominated for six awards, revolves around the conversations of a middle-class American family during Thanksgiving. “The title may sound generic, but there’s nothing blurry about Mr. Karam’s scorching drama,” The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood said. “With or without those ominous suggestions that the American family as we know it is under existential threat, ‘The Humans’ is a major discovery, a play as empathetic as it is clear-minded, as entertaining as it is honest.”

King Charles III” imagines England’s “future history” as Prince Charles takes the crown after the passing of the Queen Elizabeth II. Written by Mike Bartlett and nominated for five awards, the controversial play speculates explores the politics and mindsets of the royal family. According to The Guardian’s Alexis Soloski, “Bartlett’s dark vision of a monarchy no longer content with being quite so ceremonial deserves a long Broadway reign.”

Bright Star,” written by Best Book of a Musical nominee Steve Martin and Best Original Score nominee Edie Brickell (shared with Martin), takes place in the American South before and after World War II as a woman develops an interesting relationship with a young soldier who reminds her of her past. “‘Bright Star’ untangles all the knots in its story in something of a rush, with a startling reunion and not one but two weddings,” according to The New York Time’s Isherwood. “It may strain credulity, but one can easily point to a celebrated writer who often ended his plays in the very same fashion, with startling revelations, wedding bells set to peal for more than one couple, and perhaps tears in a few eyes. This would be William Shakespeare.” The show has five total nominations.

Hamilton,” the Broadway show to beat with a record 16 Tony nominations, tells the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton through the rap, hip-hop, operetta, and more musical stylings of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda is a triple nominee (Best Leading Actor, Book, and Score) representing the revolutionary show that has had everyone talking. “So it should: ‘Hamilton’ is the best and most important Broadway musical of the past decade,” The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout said. “Why important? Because it sounds as though it had been written last week instead of a half-century ago.”

School of Rock – The Musical” is another title that should sound familiar as it is based off of the hit Jack Black film of the same name. Failing rock performer Dewey Finn (Best Actor nominee Alex Brightman) poses as a substitute teacher and transforms a class of prep school kids into a rock band in this musical with four nominations. This adaptation, with 14 new songs by nominees Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater along with original music from the film, involves Finn falling in love with the principal as well. “While paying his respects to that manic role model, Alex Brightman maintains his own appealing brand of scruffy charm as Dewey Finn, amiably ceding the spotlight to a cast of super-talented kids who rock out on the kind of songs you always wished had been in the movie,” according to Variety’s Stasio.

Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed” tells the behind-the-scenes story of the 1921 show that changed the musical scene forever. Led by record six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, the musical is nominated for ten awards. “As designed by a top-drawer team…the show always looks terrific, evoking in eye-catching shorthand both the riches and privations of its characters’ lives,” according to The New York Times’ Ben Brantley.

Waitress,” which is based off of the 2007 film of the same name, stars Best Actress nominee Jessie Mueller as a diner server who dreams of a better life. Sara Bareilles made her first theater venture with the show, with four total nominations, by supplying the music, and is a first-time nominee for Best Original Score. “Mueller is ideally matched to Bareilles’ lilting melodic flights with their supple key transitions,” according to The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney. “Even when the musical veers toward preciousness, Mueller’s performance grounds it in unimpeachable emotional authenticity.”

Tune in live on Sunday to watch the sure-to-be excellent performances and see which shows win!

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