The Best Original Score prize is always one of the most coveted prizes at the Tony Awards. This year, the race is also one of the most competitive, pitting Michael R. Jackson’s music and lyrics for “A Strange Loop” against Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ work for “SIX: The Musical.” In recent weeks, “A Strange Loop” has pulled ahead of “SIX” in our combined odds as the clear frontrunner for Best Musical, so does that mean it has an edge in the contest for score as well? How often do the two awards go hand in hand?
WATCH our exclusive video interview with Tony nominee L Morgan Lee (‘A Strange Loop’)
Although it might seem intuitive that the show crowned Best Musical would also take the prize for Best Score, recent history shows how the awards often diverge. Since 2000, only 13 prize-winning shows have also won for their score, which is a slim majority of the time: “The Producers” (2001), “Hairspray” (2003), “Avenue Q” (2004), “Spring Awakening” (2007), “In the Heights” (2008), “Memphis” (2010), “The Book of Mormon” (2011), “Kinky Boots” (2013), “Fun Home” (2015), “Hamilton” (2016), “Dear Evan Hansen” (2017), “The Band’s Visit” (2018), and “Hadestown” (2019). While this data seems to show some correlation between the prizes, the details of some of those other races make the relationship less clear cut.
Of those eight Best Musical winners that did not prevail for their scores, four had music and lyrics that were not even eligible. Back in 2000, director and choreographer Susan Stroman’s dance show “Contact” won Best Musical, but its score consisted of previously existing music and was therefore ineligible; Elton John won instead for the rock opera “Aida.” A similar situation occurred in 2006, when “Jersey Boys” was crowned Best Musical, but since it draws on the catalogue of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it could not compete in score and “The Drowsy Chaperone” prevailed instead. In 2012, the musical “Once” won the top honor, but since the majority of its music came from the film that inspired the stage show, it did not contend for score; that award went to “Newsies” instead, another show based on a film that added enough new music and lyrics to be deemed eligible. Just last year, all three nominated Best Musicals were jukebox shows: “Moulin Rouge!” was named best, but the play “A Christmas Carol” won for its score in a historic first.
WATCH our exclusive video interview with Tony nominee John-Andrew Morrison (‘A Strange Loop’)
In the past 21 Broadway seasons, only four shows have won Musical but lost Score. In 2002, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” won the top honor of the night, but its score by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan lost to “Urinetown.” Three years later, “Spamalot” prevailed as the best new musical, but Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza” beat it for score. In 2009, Elton John returned to Broadway with Best Musical winner “Billy Elliot the Musical,” but he lost the Tony for his score to Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey for “Next to Normal.” Most recently, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” claimed the top honor but lost score to Jason Robert Brown’s “The Bridges of Madison County.” In all four of these cases, the shows that won Musical and Score were both nominated in both categories, making these all head-to-head contests for both awards that yielded different victors.
It looks fairly safe to predict “A Strange Loop” for Best Score, then, as the Best Musical has only lost Score in four of the past 21 years. It doesn’t hurt that with the exception of last season, the trophies have gone hand-in-hand for five consecutive years, from 2015 with “Fun Home” through 2019 with “Hadestown.” The only thorn in its side might be just how much of a sensation the score of “SIX” has become. The show is less of a conventional “book musical” than “A Strange Loop,” of course, as the conceit of the whole show is the six wives of Henry VIII telling their stories through pop songs. The score is front and center throughout, is entirely infectious, and has now been captured on two cast recordings that have become juggernauts in terms of sales and streams. Even though recent Tony history points to “A Strange Loop” winning, “SIX” is just the kind of history-smashing success to buck this trend.
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