Top 5 shockers in Tonys nominations: Aaron Tveit alone in category, no musicals in score race, …

The nominations for the 2020 Tony Awards announced on October 15 honor the best of the shortened Broadway season. Plenty of theatre artists had much to celebrate as James Monroe Iglehart reeled off the roster of nominees. But while expected names like Adrienne Warren (“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”) and Tom Hiddleston (“Betrayal”) were cited, the results also provided several jaw-dropping surprises and snubs.

Below, the top 5 most shocking moments from the Tony nominations announcement.

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The Lightning Thief gets zapped
Tony nominators issued a strong rebuke of “The Lightning Thief,” which failed to earn a single nomination. Pundits were worried that this would happen. The Broadway outing earned a chilly critical reception, especially compared to the original intimate Off-Broadway staging, and the show is squarely aimed at teens. Still, the failure to nominate Ryan Knowles, who gave the funniest musical performance of the year, truly stings.

Aaron Tveit can start practicing his acceptance speech
Speaking of “The Lightning Thief,” Chris McCarrell was excluded from the Lead Actor in a Musical category which dramatically changes this year’s race. Aaron Tveit (“Moulin Rouge!”) was the only nominee cited for that race, meaning he (and not McCarrell) earned a simple majority of support on the nominators’ “yes/no” ballots. As the only nominee, Tveit has essentially clinched his first Tony win by acclamation. That’s quite a turn around after the actor was overlooked for standout performances in “Next to Normal” and “Catch Me if You Can.’ Technically, Tveit still has to get the stamp of approval from at least 60% of voters to clinch a win. But that is all but certain to occur.

SEE 2020 Tony Awards full list of nominations

No musicals in Best Score
For the first time ever, the Best Score category is made up entirely of music from plays. “The Lightning Thief” was the only musical in the shortened season with an original score. That tuner’s failure to register with nominators also means that a play will win this category for the first time ever. “A Christmas Carol,” “The Inheritance,” “The Rose Tattoo,” “Slave Play,” and “The Sound Inside” will duke it out for a place in the Tony Awards history books.

“Sea Wall/A Life” overperforms
I thought I was crazy to predict Jake Gyllenhaal to receive a nomination for “Sea Wall/A Life.” While his performance was outstanding, the double header play opened over a year ago on August 8, 2019. Turns out I wasn’t crazy enough, as the nominators had great memories this year. The play snagged four nominations in total. Tom Sturridge managed to bump Kyle Soller (“The Inheritance”) from a competitive Lead Actor in a Play race to join Gyllenhaal; Daniel Kluger is cited in Sound Design; and the show broke into Best Play. Considering the two one acts were from acclaimed playwrights Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, perhaps we should have seen this coming.

SEE 2020 Tony Awards nominations: ‘Jagged Little Pill,’ ‘Moulin Rouge!’ lead musicals, ‘Slave Play’ sets record for plays with 12

“Slave Play” sets a new record
The 2018 revival of  Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” set a record as the play with the most Tony nominations, at 11. This year, Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance” matched that but “Slave Play” by Jeremy O. Harris went one better earning 12 nominations. Since both productions have multiple nominees in the featured acting races, it will be impossible for either to win all of their nominations. But we should expect a competitive race for the top award between these two juggernauts. Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia” is the winningest play with 7 Tonys. Could that record be smashed as well?

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