‘Hamilton’ sets a new record with 16 Tony Award nominations
By Associated Press | May 3, 2016, 13:39 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — The megahit musical “Hamilton” has grabbed a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations, the biggest haul in Broadway history and another step in the show’s march into theatrical history.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary on Tuesday broke the 15-nominations record held jointly by “The Producers” and “Billy Elliot.” ”Hamilton” was nominated in virtually every category it could compete in, from acting to scenic design.
“I feel really grateful that they kind of spread the wealth. It’s hard to ask for more, Miranda said. “This isn’t a book award. This isn’t like I wrote some novel by myself with an editor. Theater requires collaboration and I’m lucky to be working with some of the best people in their respective fields alive right now.”
Next month, “Hamilton” will fight for Broadway’s biggest crown — best new musical — with “Bright Star,” ”School of Rock,” ”Shuffle Along” and “Waitress.”
There were a few surprises, including only a costume design nomination for “Tuck Everlasting,” a well-received musical based on the 1975 book by Natalie Babbitt. Also, the hit show “On Your Feet!,” which follows the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, earned just a choreography nod.
And “American Psycho,” an adaptation of the novel by Bret Easton Ellis about a materialistic serial killer, only captured nominations for scenic design and lighting. Its actors and songs by Duncan Sheik were snubbed.
“Waitress,” a musical with songs by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles that is adapted from a 2007 film about a waitress trapped in a small-town diner and a loveless marriage, earned four nominations.
“I’m so grateful to have found my way back toward the theater community. I grew up doing theater. It’s how I learned to listen to music,” said Bareilles, who got a nod for music and lyrics. “This experience of working on ‘Waitress’ has so changed my life in personal ways and professional ways.”
“School of Rock,” the adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes of the Jack Black-led movie about a wannabe rocker who enlists fifth-graders to form a rock group, earned four nominations, including best musical, book, original score and best leading man in Alex Brightman.
“It’s a funny season this one, isn’t it,” said Lloyd Webber from London. “As you know, it’s the ‘Hamil-Tonys.’ We’ve gotten everything we could have hoped for and that’s all we’ll get. But it’s lovely in this season of all seasons to get score and musical and book. We’re terribly pleased.”
“Bright Star,” a complex love story set against the American South by comedy god Steve Martin and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, earned five nominations and few were more pleased than Martin, who earned his first Tony nod.
“This is very, very exciting to me. It’s almost, like your emotions betray you, you don’t allow yourself to know how excited you are but then when it happens, the body just takes over and you think, ‘Gee, I must have really been nervous about this!’ So I am so pleased,” he said.
The best play category is composed of Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed,” Floria Zeller’s “The Father,” Stephen Karam’s “The Humans” and Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III.”
Liesl Tommy, making her Broadway debut as a director, won a nomination for helming “Eclipsed,” which takes place in a Liberian rebel camp where women are held as sexual captives.
Calling from a taxi on her way to her next theater assignment downtown, Tommy said her phone blew up with calls from well-wishers. The most important one she had was with her brother and parents in South Africa.
“It was a very emotional phone call because it’s not anything I thought, when I emigrated to this country, would ever, ever happen,” she said. “There was a lot of feelings of vindication that all of that hard work and sacrifices could lead to something like this.”
The awards will be handed out June 12, with James Corden playing host from the Beacon Theatre. “Hamilton” will be hoping to break another record: The musical with the most Tonys is “The Producers” with 12.
After “Hamilton,” the other top nominations went to the musical “Shuffle Along,” a show that explores a groundbreaking 95-year-old musical starring, written and directed by African-Americans, which got 10 nominations, and the revival of “She Loves Me,” which earned eight.
Zachary Levi, former star of NBC’s “Chuck” making his second Broadway appearance, earned a leading man nomination for “She Loves Me.” The one-time theater geek who was lured away by TV said it was surreal to be embraced by Broadway.
“This makes me feel like Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’ — a part of their world,” said Levi. “I’m gobsmacked. I never use that word but I’m gobsmacked.”
His director, Scott Ellis, won a nomination at his second big bite of “She Loves Me.” He had previously directed a production on Broadway in 1993.
“I gave myself a challenge: ‘I will not repeat one single thing I did back then.’ It’s like your child. You remember your child pretty well and when they were born, but I kept having to push the child away and go, ‘No, let’s re-look at everything,'” Ellis said. “It ended up being a really great thing for me to challenge myself.”
“Shuffle Along,” which late last week was declared a new musical, earned nominations for best musical, best book, scenic design, lighting and costumes, direction by George C. Wolfe, choreography by Savion Glover, orchestrations, and acting turns by Adrienne Warren and Brandon Victor Dixon. (Audra McDonald, who was eligible as a lead actress in a musical, wasn’t nominated.)
A revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” starring Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne, earned seven nominations, including a first for Lange on her third Broadway role. She played the same part — the drug-addled mother Mary — in London 16 years ago.
“This is really a thrill,” she said. “It’s one of those parts, if you were insane enough and had the stamina, you could continue to play for the rest of your life and never come to the end of it.”
“Hamilton” earned seven acting nominations — Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson and Renee Elise Goldsberry. It also earned nominations for scenic design, costumes, lighting design, direction, choreography, orchestrations, best book and best original score.
The musical has already won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, a Grammy, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
The loudest screams in Miranda’s house Tuesday morning were for the announcement of Jackson, who plays George Washington. Jackson was one of the first people to audition for the show in New York in 2002. “To see him get recognized got a particularly loud scream from my parents and my wife and I,” Miranda said, laughing.
In a twist, Miranda will face off in the best leading actor category with Odom, who plays Aaron Burr, a part he wrote. The two shared a dressing room when the play was off-Broadway and are close friends.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look in Lin’s eyes every single night and I see the truth and the vulnerability that he comes to the stage with. And so I am obviously thrilled to be included, but it wouldn’t have made sense to me any other way,” Odom said.
Soo, nominated for best leading actress in a musical for “Hamilton,” will face off against Laura Benanti, a previous Tony winner who stars in “She Loves Me,” the 1963 romantic musical about two star-crossed co-workers at a perfume store.
Benanti and Soo also face competition from Carmen Cusack in “Bright Star,” Cynthia Erivo in “The Color Purple” and Jessie Mueller in “Waitress.”
“It feels like in this political climate and what’s happening in our nation as well as so much violence happening all over the world that to have 2 hours and 45 minutes to just sit in a theater and smile and laugh and be transported to a sweeter, softer place feels really necessary to me right now,” said Benanti, who was enjoying her first-time nomination in a leading actress category.
“I think that there is room for so many different types of shows on Broadway and that’s what I’m loving about this particular Broadway season. You can go to a show and be educated. You can go to a show and be entertained. Our particular show feels like putting on the most comfortable pajamas you’ve ever owned.”
Cusack, making her Broadway debut in “Bright Star,” said she was over the moon that the show got recognized: “I feel like I’m riding on this wave that’s been created by everyone’s 100 percent genuine, raw, authentic self, just putting themselves out there.”
Goldsberry earned her first Tony nomination after appearing in four previous Broadway shows and said she will go to the theater Tuesday night holding aloft the banner of “Hamilton.”
“The 16 of us represent every single person that worked on this show and we’re really grateful to get to do that,” she said. But first, the mother of two will celebrate with a nap. “I’m going to nap with the happiest smile on my face.”
Visionary director Ivo van Hove, who had two Arthur Miller revivals this season of “The Crucible” and “A View from the Bridge,” got a nod only for “A View from the Bridge,” although both plays got nominated for best revivals.
His frequent collaborator, Jan Versweyveld, was nominated for the lighting design for both plays, as well as best scenic design for “A View from the Bridge.”
Some Hollywood stars didn’t do so well on Tuesday, with Clive Owen, Al Pacino, Bruce Willis, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan and George Takei all missing out on nods. But Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels got ones for “Blackbird.”
Daniels compared his and Williams’ work to the “The Defiant Ones” starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, who appeared onscreen chained together. “That’s what it feels like because there’s such a yin and a yang, act-react to it. I told her in February, ‘Half my performance is in you,'” he said. “So I was thrilled for her as I was for me.”