The 2022 Tony Award nominations have been unveiled and, per usual, we have opinions! Susan Haskins joined us in a lively discussion to dissect this crop of nominees. We reveal what we think were the cruelest snubs, most pleasant surprises, and analyze how this set of nominees may change the Tony race as we head towards the June 12th ceremony. Watch the full video above.
While our panel was happy overall with how much the Tony nominators were able to spread the wealth this year, not every production made the cut. Sam noted that “all the plays were standouts this year,” but five stellar new works were totally skunked: “Birthday Candles,” “Chicken & Biscuits,” “Is This a Room,” “Pass Over,” and “Thoughts of a Colored Man.” There’s not enough slots for everyone, but when we saw so many categories expand due to ties in voting (“how many ties can you have?” exclaims Susan of the eight expanded categories), it’s a shame that Best Play was stuck with just five nominees. We also lament the absence of past Tony winner Katrina Lenk, who was omitted from a tough Lead Actress category despite overall love for “Company,” and Johanna Day, a beloved Broadway veteran and the only returning original cast member of “How I Learned to Drive” who didn’t score a nomination.
SEE Mary-Louise Parker (‘How I Learned to Drive’) poised to make Tony Awards history
It’s not all sadness though. We were thankful that the nominators found room for not one, but two women from the late-breaking “POTUS.” David championed Julie White, whom he thinks “can do no wrong,” while Susan is ecstatic for Rachel Dratch. “She brought the house down!” says Baskins of the “SNL” alum’s delightfully deranged performance. And since the title song from “Flying Over Sunset” has been playing on a constant loop in my head since the winter, I was glad that Carmen Cusack edged her way into Lead Actress in a Musical. David also makes a point to highlight the inclusion of Lileana Blain-Cruz, who pulled off a directing nomination even though “The Skin of Our Teeth” was kept out of the race for Revival of a Play.
Speaking of the nominated play revivals, only two of the five nominees have a corresponding director nomination: “for colored girls” (Camille A. Brown) and “American Buffalo” (Neil Pepe). So are those our two new frontrunners for the Revival of a Play trophy? David admits that “the Director of a Play category was very confusing,” since it didn’t pan out as expected, but he still sees Ntozake Shange’s choreo-poem as the favorite. Susan doesn’t buy it however, and believes “How I Learned to Drive” is leading the pack, “no question about it.” She could be on to something, as Paula Vogel is the only playwright in the category who appears on the ballot. So voters have the opportunity to reward the revered writer a Tony that feels long overdue.
As for new works, it’s tough for any of us to imagine “The Lehman Trilogy” losing Best Play. “It’s so brilliantly done and so beautifully produced,” explains Susan of why it deserves to be the frontrunner. Whereas its spring challengers missed key nominations (“Hangmen” failed to earn a bid for director Matthew Dunster while “The Minutes” failed to score anywhere outside of Best Play), “The Lehman Trilogy” showed immense strength with seven nominations. That includes bids for all three of its lead actors. If anything comes close to dethroning “Lehman,” it might surprisingly be Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s.” The timely play balances comedy and drama, and managed acting nominations for Ron Cephas Jones and Kara Young when Gold Derby’s odds only forecasted a bid for Uzo Aduba.
Lynn Nottage is also the book writer for the bio-musical “MJ” which shattered expectations by reaping 10 nominations, including Best Musical. Sam posits that this highly polished show might be the new challenger for “A Strange Loop,” which remains far out front in our minds. Susan is wary though, as past controversies surrounding Michael Jackson could ultimately prevent some Tony voters from embracing it, no matter how many exceptional artists are behind its success. In that case, “SIX” is the high octane tuner voters might vote for. The only problem is that it was shut out of the important Book of a Musical category, and misguided category placements prevented any of the six performers from scoring a nomination.
Ultimately, if some prudish voters are turned off by “A Strange Loop,” it’s difficult to predict what alternative they would support instead. “I think this has become a much more interesting race,” says David, also referencing a surprise surge in nominations for “Paradise Square. “There is broad support for a few of these shows. So Best Musical is a kind of multiple candidate race.”
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