Tony Awards shocker: ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ withdraws from contention

Jake Gyllenhaal just can’t seem to catch a break with American awards shows. After missing out on an Oscar nomination two weeks ago for his performance in “Nocturnal Animals,” Gyllenhaal will be denied the opportunity to even contend for a Tony Award nomination for his work in the upcoming revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George.”

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In a statement last week, the producers of the musical communicated their decision to not submit the show for awards consideration, claiming that in “a season so full of tremendous, soon-to-be-long-running new musicals and revivals, the producers feel this extremely limited, special run of ‘Sunday’ stands more appropriately outside of any awards competition.”

While their intention to shift the Tony spotlight onto shows that could benefit from an awards-related box office bump is certainly noble, there may be another financial factor behind the shocking decision. According to the official American Theater Wing’s Rules and Regulations, “the producer of the production must invite, in a timely manner and free of charge, each of the eligible Tony voters… to attend a performance of the production” in order for the production to contend. With approximately 846 Tony voters to accommodate and only 10 weeks of performances, the producers of “Sunday” may have opted to try to recoup their investment, the primary concern of any good theater producer, rather than compete for the theater’s top accolade.

Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ revival will be strong Tony Awards contender

Prior to its withdrawal from contention, this mounting of “Sunday” seemed poised to reap numerous Tony nominations, most likely including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, and Best Actress in a Musical for previous Tony-winner Annaleigh Ashford (“You Can’t Take it With You”). In addition to Ashford, the upcoming revival, which begins preview performances on February 11, features a large number of Tony-winning thespians, including Ruthie Ann Miles (“The King and I”) and Robert Sean Leonard (“The Invention of Love”), as well as previous Tony nominees Brooks Ashmanskas (“Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me”), Phillip Boykin (“The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess”), Michael McElroy (“Big River”), and Penny Fuller (“Applause”).

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Previous productions of the show have certainly performed well at the Tonys. The original production of “Sunday,” which starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, earned ten Tony nominations in 1984, winning two. A revival of the show 2008 performed almost on par with nine nominations, but ended the night empty handed.

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