Have you ever been to a birthday party for an aging relative, where the guest of honor was too senile to know what was going on? Remember how awkward it was when your one cousin made everybody sing and your aunts spoke at least an octave too high as they strenuously demonstrated they were having a great time? Remember how no amount of small talk could distract you from the fact that Nana Doreen looked like a broken bird as she sat there in her La-Z-Boy, her eyes half-closed and her head drooping down while someone yelled in her face about how nice her nail polish was?
Well, Broadway is Nana Doreen, and this year’s Tony Award nominations are your aunts and cousins, smiling as hard as they can.
As you’ve no doubt heard, an avalanche of shit has buried the entire theatre community, and Broadway may have the hardest time climbing out. The 2019-2020 season was cut drastically short, with many scheduled shows not even getting a chance to open. The 2020-2021 season has been cancelled altogether, which means thousands of people are going to be out of work for more than a year. There’s really no upside to this terrible news.
Yet today the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, who jointly produce the Tonys, nevertheless announced a list of nominees drawn from the handful of shows that premiered between June 2019 and February 2020. To make the announcement, the Tony-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart pasted on his snazziest grin, delivered an ostensibly heartwarming speech about how the theatre endures, and then proceeded to shake Nana Doreen’s chair and tell us she was dancing.
And look… there really wasn’t a good solution here. Canceling the Tonys altogether would’ve been depressing as fuck, since it would’ve underscored that Broadway has vanished. Combining this year’s potential nominees with competitors from a later season also wouldn’t have made sense, since god knows when there will be additional shows to compete for prizes. So let’s pour one out for the people who had to make an impossible choice.
This list of nominees is still sad, though. Anybody who wins will have an asterisk by their name, because we’ll always remember they weren’t competing in a full season. That’s going to taint the entire show, which will be livestreamed at an as-yet-unannounced date. You just know that everyone on screen will either be making earnest speeches about the beauty of the arts or dripping in flop sweat as they try to act like they’re at a glitzy ceremony and not an online wake.
That being said, these nominations are still official, and that means they’re now part of the award show bible that is shipped to gay men at birth. So let’s bravely push down the bile that this year’s ceremony brings to our throats and spend a moment with these three facts.
(1) Tony Award nominators can be vicious cunts
There was only one musical with an original score that opened on Broadway this year: The Lightning Thief, an adaptation of the YA novel about Percy Jackson. Yet the five nominees for Best Original Score all come from plays. The voters decided they’d rather nominate the incidental music from a snoozy revival of The Rose Tattoo than acknowledge the actual songs that composer Rob Rokicki wrote for his show. And while it’s true that The Lightning Thief isn’t a great musical, it’s not like that’s stopped the Tony voters before! Alan Menken alone has been nominated 500 times for his recycled ideas. But this year, when it would’ve been meaningful to support the one musical that managed to emerge before the plague, the voters decided to kick The Lightning Thief in the face.
In fact, The Lightning Thief wasn’t nominated for any awards at all. Chris McCarrell, who played Percy, could’ve been nominated for Lead Actor in a Musical, but no! Instead, the voters decided to nominate Aaron Tveit for Moulin Rouge! and no one else. That’s right: Tveit is the only nominee in his category! And there’s a rule in place that if he doesn’t get a vote from at least 60% of the people who fill out ballots, he won’t actually win. That means Aaron Tveit could conceivably lose an award that no one else is competing for. That level of cuntiness is so profound it almost defies understanding.
(2) A queer play is going to win big
Jeremy O. Harris’ super-gay, super-kinky show Slave Play is about three interracial couples who reenact master-slave scenarios to work through the fraught racial dynamics in their relationships. (On a related note, have you visited Boy For Sale recently?) The play is divisive, but it’s also the most-nominated play in history, with 12 nods. Its major competition for Best Play is The Inheritance, a two-part drama about multiple generations of gay men, mostly played by straight actors. (That one features quite a lot of nudity, on-stage fucking, and twinks who like to be on top.)
(3) There are several gay actors up for awards
John Benjamin Hickey (from The Inheritance) and Ato Blankson-Wood and James Cusati-Moyer (both from Slave Play) are all nominated and all out of the closet. They’re also all competing for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Maybe they can have a three-way… tie?