The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known informally as the Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City.
Broadway play Eclipsed received six Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, Best Actress in a Leading Role(Lupita Nyong’o), and Best Direction — and it turns out those nominations were history-making. The play initially premiered at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company of Washington, DC, in 2009, and circulated to a number of theaters before appearing on Broadway this March. It became the first Broadway play to have an entirely black and female cast and creative team. The production stars Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong’o and tells the story of five women fighting to survive during the end of the Liberian Civil War in 2003. Eclipsed is the Broadway debut for playwright Danai Gurira, who is known for acting in the AMC show The Walking Dead.
The musical Hamilton earned a record 16 nominations for the 70th Annual Antoinette Perry Awards, topping an historic Broadway season that told a diverse array of stories about women and minorities. Hamilton’s total topped previous record-holders The Producers and Billy Elliott, which earned 15 each. Hamilton’s creator/star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, continued his wonder year, being nominated four times himself, for Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Book and Best Score.
Hamilton will compete for Best Musical with Bright Star, Waitress, School of Rock—The Musical and Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Nominations must have been very close because 2016 marks the first time in Tony history that five shows were nominated in the Best Musical category, according to Tony spokesperson Shawn Purdy. But it was multiple nominations in categories like Best Actor in a Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff and Christopher Jackson) that helped put the show over the top. The feat accrued added significance considering that two categories Best Sound Design of a Play and a Musical, were discontinued this year. The musical has already grossed over $60 million at the box office. After Hamilton, the musical with the second-most nominations was George C. Wolfe’s retelling of black theatre history, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, with 10. Among plays, the top nominee magnets were Eclipsed, the harrowing story of the effect of the Liberian civil war on women hostages, and The Humans, about a modern family facing a crisis, both with six. Among musical revivals, She Loves Me, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s valentine to romance in a Budapest parfumerie earned eight nominations. Among play revivals, Eugene O’Neill’s portrait of his own dysfunctional family, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, came in with seven. It was a great year for new playwriting blood. Nominees for Best Play, Danai Gurira’s aforementioned Eclipsed will compete with Florian Zeller’s The Father, Stephen Karam’s aforementioned The Humans and Mike Barlett’s King Charles III. All four represent their respective authors’ Broadway debuts. Not everyone was so lucky, George Takei’s project of the heart, Allegiance, earned zero nominations, as did Amazing Grace. The musicals Tuck Everlasting, Disaster! and On Your Feet! got just one apiece. Joe Mantello, who directed three plays on Broadway this season, was nominated for one, The Humans. Ivo Van Hove, who directed two Arthur Miller plays on Broadway this season, was also nominated for one, A View From the Bridge. Danny Burstein earned his sixth Tony nomination for his performance as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He has never won previously. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s nomination for Best Score is his first since 2006’s Woman in White. The last time he won a Tony was his uncontested win in 1995, for Sunset Boulevard. The 70th Tony Awards will be held on June 12, 2016 at the Beacon Theatre.