In the quest for a best musical Tony Award nomination, the Gershwins and Kander and Ebb came out ahead of Tupac Shakur and Sting.
The 2015 Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning at the Paramount Hotel in New York, and the hotly anticipated category, which can often lead to a spike in ticket sales, gave nods to An American in Paris, a Gershwin-scored stage adaptation of the 1951 Oscar-winning film; The Visit, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s final full musical together which premiered in 2001 and is on Broadway for the first time this season; Fun Home, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir; and Something Rotten!, a show business spoof about the authoring of the first musical in Elizabethan England.
The only of those four to feature a chart-topping songwriter is the last, which is by brother duo Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. Wayne Kirkpatrick is known for his work with Eric Clapton, Faith Hill, and Garth Brooks.
While Sting’s The Last Ship, based on his 2013 album of the same name, received strong reviews, the box office struggled, with the songwriter ending up stepping into the role of shipyard runner Jackie White, first played by singer/songwriter Jimmy Nail, to generate more interest. The show closed in January. Sting did receive a nomination for his score, and the show also received recognition for its orchestrations, by arranger Rob Mathes.
Holler If You Hear Me, which took Shakur’s songs as the basis for an original story, was never a strong contender for the nod, having opened last June to negative reviews, but many saw it as a milestone for hip-hop on Broadway. Next season, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton will bring a different beat to the Great White Way, with his sung-through, history-infused rap score about founding father Alexander Hamilton, a smash hit currently at the Public Theater set to open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August.
British pop star and Take That frontman Gary Barlow’s score for Finding Neverland, adapted from the 2004 film and the first lead producing endeavor of Harvey Weinstein, received no love, and the musical as a whole was shut out from receiving any awards recognition on Tuesday. Other new musicals that also didn’t receive a single nomination include Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon In Vegas, based on Bergman’s 1992 film; It Shoulda Been You, a wedding comedy written by Brian Hargove and Barbara Anselmi and directed by Hargrove’s husband, David Hyde Pierce; and Dr. Zhivago, a musical adaptation of the 1957 novel and subsequent film about civil war-ridden Russia.
But Fun Home, which led the field with the most nominations alongside American in Paris — each with a total of 12 — could become the first show to win best musical which was entirely written by women. The show was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize last year and was a critical hit on Broadway, when it opened this month after playing downtown at the Public Theater last season. In 2013, Cyndi Lauper? became the first women ever to win the Tony for composing a Broadway score for Kinky Boots, which also won best musical that year, but the show’s book was by Harvey Fierstein. So Fun Home, which many believe to be the favorite in the category, could make history.
In recent years, shows like Lauper’s Kinky Boots and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which was a frontrunner last year ultimately losing the best musical title to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, have brought a pop sound to the Great White Way, and while this season may have boasted the most mainstream names yet — with Sting, Tupac, and Barlow — none packed the same staying power and critical recognition.
However, three of the four musicals nominated for best musical feature original scores, which is contrary to last season when three out of the four nominated featured already existing music, with Beautiful, Disney’s Aladdin, and the Duke Ellington-inspired After Midnight. (The one with the original music, Gentleman’s Guide, won.) There is also only one musical based on a film in this season’s best musical nominees, another oft-critique of Broadway shows.
In the acting categories, Vanessa Hudgens was edged out for her Broadway debut in the title role in the revival of Gigi, which only received one nod for supporting actress for Victoria Clark. However, rockstar John Cameron Mitchell, who returned to the role he created in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway this spring, will receive a special Tony Award. Mitchell created the role downtown in the late ’90s, but Neil Patrick Harris opened the show on Broadway last season, winning a Tony for his performance. To be eligible for a Tony, a performer must originate the role on opening night, so replacements are not considered. Hedwig was lumped in the revival category last year, where it won best revival of a musical, but as a result, neither Mitchell’s book for the show nor Stephen Trask’s score were eligible for recognition, despite it being the work’s first time on Broadway.
Some Hollywood stars fared well, with Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Ruth Wilson, Bradley Cooper, Elisabeth Moss, and Ken Watanabe all receiving nominations. However, Jake Gyllenhaal, who many predicted would be recognized for his Broadway debut in Constellations, was not included, and neither were stars like Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Larry David, Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammar, Glenn Close, Hugh Jackman or other bold-faced names that graced stages this season. Though, aside from Jake Gyllenhaal, none of these were expected to be nominated.
The Tony Awards have received a fair amount of flack in recent years for applauding A-list celebrities too highly — Broadway star Hunter Foster started a Facebook group in 2010 called “Give the Tonys Back to Broadway,” after Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johannsson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones won that year. And with a new musical being such a risk these days, it’s encouraging to see so many strong contenders in the category. Although there are theories about frontrunners, at this point, it’s still anyone’s game.
To see the full list of nominations, click here.