The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiralling out of control, earned a leading 15 Tony Award nominations Thursday, as the Broadway community took the first steps to celebrate a pandemic-shortened season that upended the theatre world.
There are three best musical nominees: “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge: The Musical” and “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” And there are five best play nominees: “Grand Horizons,” “The Inheritance,” “Sea Wall/A Life,” “Slave Play” and “The Sound Inside.”
Tom Kitt, honoured for orchestrations for “Jagged Little Pill,” thanked Morissette and his collaborators, but also graciously nodded to the more than a dozen shows that were unable to open due to the pandemic.
“I also want to acknowledge all of the shows that were not able to open, so today I’m thinking of all of the great artists who were supposed to be a part of the ’19-'20 season, and I can’t wait to see all of their beautiful work when Broadway returns,” he said in a statement.
“The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century.
In a statement, the playwright mourned the fact that the pandemic has left people without a vital resource to gather together and examine themselves and the nation.
“Theater, at its best, helps call us to those better instincts of our nature. I look forward to the day we can all return safely, joyfully to those sacred spaces and to tell each other stories of our lives and of our nation,” Lopez said.
Nipping on the heels of “Jagged Little Pill” for overall numbers of nominations is “Moulin Rouge!,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, that got 14 nods.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Carmen Pavlovic, a lead producer of “Moulin Rouge!” “It’s obviously not the year any of us imagined. At the same time I feel honoured to have the opportunity to be part of such a history-making moment – I think we will all remember this year for many decades to come.”
She added: “I really just feel pleased to be standing with the rest of the Broadway community at this moment and to have a moment to come together and celebrate the work and just remind ourselves of everything it is we’re fighting for and fighting to get back to.”
Two very different offerings are tied with 12: “Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris' groundbreaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, exploring the legacy of slavery in interracial sexual dynamics, and “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary.”
The nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals, a fraction of the 34 shows the season before. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories; this year there are 25 with several depleted ones.
The category for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical had just one actor – Aaron Tveit from “Moulin Rouge!” One category – best musical revival – had no eligible shows at all and was cut.
Pavlovic joked that Tveit deserved the Tony because he’s “in a class all of his own anyway.” She added: “It’s his moment, for sure.”
In another sign of a strange season, the best score category – an honour for the music and lyrics that is usually dominated by musicals – is filled this year with five plays.
In the performance categories, Adrienne Warren got a best leading actress in a musical nomination for inhabiting the lead character in “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” She is joined by Elizabeth Stanley for playing a woman battling addiction in “Jagged Little Pill” and Karen Olivo for bringing down the house with Katy Perry’s “Firework” in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”
“I am humbled to be telling the messy story of a fierce mother, a fighter, a survivor, and an addict,” said Stanley. “I’m thrilled that our show has been recognized, and I feel very proud to be a part of a production that is doing what I think art does best: helping us see ourselves and encouraging us to heal – which feels more necessary than ever.”
In the best actress in a drama category, Mary-Louise Parker earned a nod with “The Sound Inside” and is joined by Laura Linney, who is looking for her first Tony win with the solo show “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and Joaquina Kalukango, who gave a wrenching performance in “Slave Play.” Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald wasn’t denied a spot because her revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” closed early.
“I am so proud to be one of a small handful of great actresses representing the past Broadway season, truncated as it was,” said Linney. “Now more than ever, we need to value the power and necessity of the performing arts, especially the theatre, in American culture.”
Some Hollywood actors got to celebrate Thursday, with Blair Underwood, David Alan Grier, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Sturridge all getting nominations. Broadway mainstays like Danny Burstein and John Benjamin Hickey also were recognized.
Broadway theatres abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows – including 16 that were still scheduled to open in the spring. The cut-off for eligibility for all shows was set at Feb. 19.
The nominations came from 10 new plays, four new musicals and four play revivals. Two high profile shows – “Freestyle Love Supreme” and “David Byrne’s American Utopia” – did not provide free tickets for Tony voters and weren’t eligible.
The 2020 Tony Awards ceremony will be broadcast digitally and take place later this year, at a date still to be announced. It’s one of few bright spots for theatre fans – Broadway will be shut down until at least May 30.
“Theater will survive,” James Monroe Iglehart, the Tony-winning nominations host, promised during Thursday’s announcement.
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