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'A Strange Loop' garners 11 Tony nominations, including Best Musical

(l) Jason Veasey, James Jackson, Jr., Jaquel Spivey, L Morgan Lee and Antwayn Hopper in "A Strange Loop."
Marc J. Franklin
A Strange Loop
(l) Jason Veasey, James Jackson, Jr., Jaquel Spivey, L Morgan Lee and Antwayn Hopper in "A Strange Loop."

Monday morning, nominations for the 75th Annual Tony Awards were announced online. For the first time since the pandemic, Broadway presented a complete season – albeit one with many postponements and hiatuses, due to the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 – and 34 shows were in contention for Broadway's highest honors.

Leading the pack is Michael R. Jackson's Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop. The show, about a Black, queer, Broadway usher writing a musical about a Black, queer, Broadway usher, received 11 nominations, including best musical and best score and book for Mr. Jackson. (You can listen to a Strange Loop Tiny Desk Concert here)

A different Michael Jackson – the king of pop – is another big contender. MJ, the biographical musical about superstar Michael Jackson, has 10 nominations, including best musical. Lynn Nottage, who wrote the book for the show, is also nominated for best play, for Clyde's.

Rounding out the best musical category is Paradise Square, a look at the Black and Irish communities in New York during the Civil War, with 10 nominations; SIX: The Musical, a pop concert about Henry VIII's wives, with eight nominations; Girl from the North Country, a Bob Dylan jukebox show set during the Depression, with seven nominations; and Mr. Saturday Night, Billy Crystal's adaptation of his own film about an older comic trying to make a comeback, with five nominations. Crystal himself is up for two awards: best actor in a musical and best book of a musical. (Click for a full list of the nominations.)

The best play leader is a tale of a financial empire

(l) Adam Godley, Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester in The Lehman Trilogy
Julieta Cervantes / The Lehman Trilogy
The Lehman Trilogy
(l) Adam Godley, Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester in The Lehman Trilogy

The front-runner for best play is Stefano Massimi's The Lehman Trilogy, adapted by Ben Power, which received eight nominations. The story of the Lehman Brothers, immigrants from 19th century Germany who built a financial empire, was a mini-epic, with three actors in a rotating glass box. It's up for best play, and all three performers are up for best actor in a play.

Other best play nominees include Clyde's, Lynn Nottage's look at five formerly incarcerated people working in a sandwich shop, with five nominations; Hangmen, Martin McDonagh's black comedy about the last executioner in England, also with five; Skeleton Crew, Dominique Morriseau's look at auto workers in Detroit facing cutbacks, with three nominations; and Tracy Letts' The Minutes, a play about a contentious city council meeting, revealing some dark secrets.

Although four musicals were eligible to be nominated for best revival, only three got the nod. A revival of Funny Girl, starring Beanie Feldstein was ignored, save for a featured actor nominee.

Katrina Lenk in <em>Company</em>.
Matthew Murphy / Company
Katrina Lenk in Company.

The gender-reversed revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company, a groundbreaking 1970 musical about marriage and a 35-year-old singleton, received 9 nominations. The crowd-pleasing, sold-out revival of The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, received six nominations, including for the two leads. Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's Caroline, or Change is up for three awards.

Five plays are nominated for best revival. Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf received seven nominations. Despite rave reviews, the 1975 choreopoem has struggled to find audiences and announced an early closing date.

The cast of <em>for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf</em>
Marc J. Franklin / for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
The cast of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, about a baseball superstar who announces he's gay, has four nominations, the same number as Alice Childress' 1955 play Trouble in Mind, about racism in Broadway theater and David Mamet's American Buffalo, about three would-be thieves. Paula Vogel's 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a girl who is sexually molested by her uncle, How I Learned to Drive, received three nominations. Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse, reprising their roles from the original production, are both up for best acting awards.

Several shows were overlooked entirely

Every year, shows and actors are snubbed. In addition to Funny Girl, several other productions didn't receive much love from the nominators. The musical adaptation of the film Mrs. Doubtfire only received one nomination, for lead actor Rob McClure, while Flying Over Sunset, the original musical about three 1950s celebrities experimenting with LSD, received four nominations but wasn't up for best musical. Daniel Craig, who headlines a revival of Macbeth didn't receive a nod, though co-star Ruth Negga did. The sold-out revival of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite got a costume design nomination, but neither of its stars, Sarah Jessica Parker or Matthew Broderick, are up for an award. And several shows were overlooked entirely: the new plays Chicken & Biscuits, Thoughts of a Colored Man, Is This a Room, Birthday Candles and Pass Over.

In a sign that things are returning somewhat to normal, The Tony Awards ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall on June 12. Ariana DeBose, the Oscar-winning actress from West Side Story, and a veteran of several Broadway shows, will be the host. At 7 p.m. ET, exclusive content will be streamed on Paramount +. From 8 to 11 p.m. ET, the awards ceremony will be broadcast on CBS.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.