May 6, 2023

Reveling in the 2022-23 Awards Season

And so it’s begun. The last show of Broadway’s 2022-23 season—a revival of The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,Lorraine Hansberry’s 1964 meditation on white allyship—opened on April 27. And that's set off a flood of awards nominations, including the ones this week for the Tonys.

The Drama League got things going with its nominations for both on and off-Broadway productions (click here to see its choices) and will announce its winners on May 19.  

The Outer Critics Circle, for whom I serve as a nominator, announced our slate of on and off-Broadway nominees a couple of days later (click here to read them); we’ll announce our winners on May 15 and celebrate them in an awards ceremony at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on May 25. 

Then the Drama Desk (I’m a voting member of that one) announced its candidates for the season’s best productions on Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway (click here for those) and it will hand out its prizes on June 6.

The rules and even the eligibility dates vary from group to group but a consensus does seem to have formed around which were the best Broadway shows. Each of the groups put Tom Stoppard’s Holocaust drama Leopoldstadt on their lists and all three nominated the musicals & Juliet, a jukebox musical riff on Shakespeare set to pop songs by Max Martin; Shucked, a comedy about corn with a joke-stoked book by Robert Horn and music by country songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally; and Some Like It Hot, Matthew Lopez and Amber Ruffin’s updating of that classic movie comedy with a score by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. 

In the revival categories, the awards groups agreed on Ohio State Murders, Adrienne Kennedy’s seldom seen meditation on toxic racism, for best play; and Parade, Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s rendering of an antisemitic lynching, as the best musical.  And now the Tonys have confirmed those choices, while adding others—including a few surprises.

Joining the already Olivier-honored Leopoldstadt for the Tony honor of best play are three Pulitzer Prize winners that have only now made it to Broadway: Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Between Riverside and Crazy, Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living and James Ijames’ Fat Ham, each of which also snagged nominations for actors in their casts. 

Rounding out the best play category is Ain’t No Mo’, a satire about a government program that addresses the race problem by giving every black person in the U.S. a one-way ticket to Africa. 

Ain’t No Mo's spot on the list is a bit of a surprise since the show ran for just 23 performances in December but it’s racked up six nominations, including one for its director and a featured acting nod for its 26-year-old playwright Jordan E. Cooper who also appeared in the play as a no-nonsense flight attendant named Peaches.

For best musical, Some Like It Hot, Shucked and & Juliet were joined by New York, New York, a paean to the city built around numbers from the songbook of 96-year-old John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, with additional lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda; and Kimberly Akimbo, the musical that Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire adapted from his play about a 16-year-old girl with a rare genetic condition that prematurely ages her. 

That same production of Kimberly Akimbo won the top prize from all the other critics’ groups (including the New York Drama Critics Circle) when it played off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater in the 2021-22 season and it’s been a frontrunner for the Tony since it opened on Broadway last November. But it now looks as though it may have to beat back competition from Some Like It Hot, which earned 13 Tony nominations, more than any other show this year.

But the hottest races may be in the revival categories. Ohio State Murders didn’t make the cut for the Tonys (although its star Audra McDonald did get a nomination—her 10th—for her performance). Instead, the best play revival contest is between August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (both Pulitzer winners; are you detecting a trend?) and playwright Amy Herzog's new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic feminist drama A Doll’s House

And the showdown is even more intense in the revived musicals category with Parade facing off against two beloved Stephen Sondheim shows, Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd: The Demond Barber of Fleet Street; and a new version of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Camelot, updated by Aaron Sorkin (you can check out all the Tony nominations here). 

As you might imagine, I’ve spent the last few days doing almost nothing but thinking and talking about these awards. I’m delighted to be able to say that I tied for second place on the Gold Derby awards site’s list of theater “experts” who predicted which shows, actors and other creatives would get Tony nominations (click here to see more about that). 

I also spent an hour on Tuesday afternoon talking about the Tony choices with a panel of folks convened by the Theatre Development Fund (you can listen to that by clicking here). And two days after that, I again joined Adam Feldman of Time Out New York and Helen Shaw of The New Yorker to record an episode on the Tonys for my pal Patrick Pacheco’s show “THEATER: All the Moving Parts,” which will air later this month.  

I’m a little talked out right now. But that won’t last long. The one big takeaway I’ve had this week is that the 2022-23 season was a damn good one and I don’t think I’m done with it yet, especially since this year’s Pulitzer awards are scheduled to be announced next week. Plus, believe it or not, I’ve already begun lining up shows to see for the 2023-24 season. So I hope you’ll come back here and join me for all of it.

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