2020 Tony Award nominations: Broadway’s attempt to bounce back

The 74th Tonys will be held on an undetermined date virtually. Broadway has been shut down since March 12.

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The 74th Tony’s will be held on an undetermined date virtually. Broadway has been shut down since March 12.

The 74th Tony Award nominations were recently announced for the 2020 award season. With COVID-19 having rocked the theater world by prematurely ending many shows’ runs and indefinitely shutting down Broadway, many were anticipating the eligible nominations. And the results are surprising, to say the least.

Of the many changes to be brought on this year due to the pandemic, the biggest surprise was the list of shows eligible for nomination. Only shows that ended pre-shutdown were viable. 

Highly anticipated shows like “MJ: The Musical,” “Six: The Musical” and revivals of “The Music Man” and “Carousel” never got to see their opening date — rendering the list of nominations to a small few. This led categories like best revival to have no nominations, and for best actor in a leading role to have only one.

Only three of the four eligible musicals were even nominated, and this is also the first year that a musical has not been nominated for best original score. All the musical nominations are considered jukebox musicals, meaning their scores consist of previously established songs by other artists. 

This is particularly upsetting for fans of “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” as many believe that it was snubbed of a nomination, being the only non-jukebox musical eligible.

The nominees for best play include “Sea Wall/A Life,” starring best actor in a leading role nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, “Slave Play,” starring best actress in a leading role nominee Joaquina Kalukango and ”The Inheritance,” which was also nominated for best scenic design and original score. 

“A Soldier’s Play,” starring David Allen Grier, and “Betrayal,” starring Tom Hiddleston, are two nominations for best play revival. “Slave Play” set the record for most Tony nominations for a play, a record previously set by the 2018 revival of “Angels in America.”

Jagged Little Pill” led the board this year with 15 nominations, followed by “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” with 14. “Slave Play” and “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” tied with 12. 

Jagged Little Pill” is based on Alanis Morisette’s 1995 album of the same name. Its nominations include best musical alongside “Moulin Rouge!” and “Tina,” best actress in a leading role in a musical and best book of a musical.

“Jagged Little Pill” actress Celia Rose Gooding is the youngest black woman to ever be nominated for a Tony award at age 19. She is going up against castmates Kathryn Gallagher and Lauren Patten for best actress in a featured role category. Gooding’s nomination is special considering only 13 of the 34 nominations in the best actor categories have been people of color.

Broadway’s consistent lack of diversity led to criticism during the 2019 Tony Awards, over the overwhelming white, able-bodied male presence that usually dominates the theater realm. The Asian American Performers Action Collection (AAPAC) recently put out a report on the demographics of the past few Broadway seasons and revealed 80% of writers and 85.5% of directors are white.

Texas Christian University actor Alejandro Saucedo is the host of “Burning it Down,” a series that highlights the experience of actors of color and the racism that still plagues the theatre world. Saucedo acknowledges the achievements of actors of color this nomination season, but laments on the fact that there are still major issues when it comes to diversity.

We are in a place where white people can look at the overwhelming supremacy of their opinion on diverse works and move forward,” Saucedo says. “[Broadway needs] to move to stories being told by the people that the stories are made to represent, move to having the correct race [and] ethnicity act in those stories, move to a Broadway and theatre experience that reflects the actual world we live in [and be] the inclusive place the American Theatre claims to be.”