Drama League nominates 8 new plays, 7 new musicals … and 60 performers

Like the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors.

However, with so many shows and performers included in Tuesday’s nominations, chances are they cover most of the contenders for the upcoming Tony Awards.

Indeed, six of the League’s eight new play nominees — “The Assembled Parties,” “I’ll Eat You Last,” “Lucky Guy,” “The Nance,” “The Testament of Mary” and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”   — are frontrunners at the Tony Awards. Last year, “Other Desert Cities” won here but was bested by “Clybourne Park” at the Tonys. Two years ago, “War Horse” took both prizes. 

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Broadway fare that played earlier failed to make the cut with the League nominating committee, which is comprised of both theater professionals and the public. Instead, two off-Broadway productions — “Old Hats” and “The Whale” — fill out the ballot, with the winner to be announced during the League luncheon on May 17.

On the new musical side, only three of the potential Tony nominees are in the running — “Kinky Boots,” “Matilda” and “Motown.” The slate is filled out with four off-Broadway hits: “Dogfight,” “Here Lies Love,” “Murder Ballad” and “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” Last year, “Once” won here before pulling off an upset at the Tonys. Two years ago, “The Book of Mormon” claimed this prize before sweeping the Tonys. 

While the League gives prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre, it is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance. And once won, the performer cannot contend again.

Last year Audra McDonald won for her performance in the revial of “Porgy and Bess” before claiming her record-tying fifth Tony. Two years ago, Mark Rylance picked up this prize for his performances in “La Bete” and “Jerusalem” before winning the Best Actor Tony for the latter. Three years ago, Alfred Molina won over the League with his work in “Red” but went on to lose the Best Actor Tony to Denzel Washington (“Fences”). And four years ago, Geoffrey Rush took home this award several weeks before prevailing at the Tonys for his performance in “Exit the King.”

This year, 60 actors are competing for the honor first given to Katharine Cornell in 1935. They range from B (Alec Baldwin, “Orphans”) to W (Vanessa Williams, “The Trip to Bountiful”). 

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