Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

2020 Tony Award nominations reflect a tough year for theatre

'Jagged Little Pill' and 'Slave Play' led the way as nominations were announced on Thursday

Celia Rose Gooding during a performance of 'Jagged Little Pill.' The musical leads the Tony Awards nominations with 15 nods in a pandemic-shortened season. AP
Celia Rose Gooding during a performance of 'Jagged Little Pill.' The musical leads the Tony Awards nominations with 15 nods in a pandemic-shortened season. AP

The sobering musical Jagged Little Pill, which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, earned a leading 15 Tony Award nominations Thursday, as the Broadway community took the first steps to celebrate a pandemic-shortened season that upended the theatre world.

Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge: The Musical and Tina — The Tina Turner Musical are the three shows in the running for best musical, while Grand Horizons, The Inheritance, Sea Wall/A Life, Slave Play and The Sound Inside are all nominated for best play.

Tom Kitt, honoured for orchestrations for Jagged Little Pill, thanked Morissette and his collaborators, but also graciously nodded to the more than a dozen shows that were unable to open due to the pandemic.

“I also want to acknowledge all of the shows that were not able to open, so today I’m thinking of all of the great artists who were supposed to be a part of the ’19-’20 season, and I can’t wait to see all of their beautiful work when Broadway returns,” he said in a statement.

This image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows Aaron Tveit, left, and Karen Olivo during a performance of the musical "Moulin Rouge!" Tveit and Olivo received Tony nominations for their roles in the production, which also garnered a nomination for best musical. (Matthew Murphy/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP)
Aaron Tveit, left, and Karen Olivo during a performance of 'Moulin Rouge!' AP

Nipping on the heels of Jagged Little Pill for overall numbers of nominations is Moulin Rouge!, a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, with 14 nods.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Carmen Pavlovic, a lead producer of Moulin Rouge!. “It’s obviously not the year any of us imagined. At the same time I feel honoured to have the opportunity to be part of such a history-making moment — I think we will all remember this year for many decades to come."

Two very different offerings are tied with 12. Tina — The Tina Turner Musical, which tells the rock legend’s life with songs that include Let’s Stay Together and Proud Mary, and Slave Play, Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, taboo desires and class. The dozen nods make Slave Play the most nominated play in Tony history.

The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses Howards End as a starting point for a play that looks at life in the early 21st century.

“Theatre, at its best, helps call us to those better instincts of our nature. I look forward to the day we can all return safely, joyfully to those sacred spaces and to tell each other stories of our lives and of our nation,” Lopez said.

The nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals, a fraction of the 34 shows the season before. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories; this year there are 25 with several depleted ones.

The category for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical had just one actor — Aaron Tveit from Moulin Rouge! while one category — best musical revival — had no eligible shows at all and was cut.

Pavlovic joked that Tveit deserved the Tony because he's “in a class all of his own anyway.” She added: “It’s his moment, for sure.”

Some Hollywood actors got to celebrate Thursday, with Blair Underwood, David Alan Grier, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Sturridge all getting nominations. Broadway mainstays like Danny Burstein and John Benjamin Hickey also were recognised.

Broadway theatres abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows — including 16 that were still scheduled to open in the spring. The cutoff for eligibility for all shows was set at February 19.

Updated: October 16, 2020 04:06 PM

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