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The 2011 Tony Nominations: The Good, The Bad and The Snubbed


The Scottsboro Boys
So, there is some justice in the world. With an astonishing 12 Tony nominations, the lightening rod Kander and Ebb musical The Scottsboro Boys proves that a show need not be open to garner accolades. And how happy are we for Joshua Henry and Forrest McClendon–two gripping performances that we thought would be overlooked in favor of sunnier, dumber fare. Score one for challenging theater, and musicals that aren’t lobotomized for the tourist throngs.

Six nods for Jersualem feels like a big, resounding “Hell yes!” for smart drama that doesn’t pander to anyone.  Mark Rylance and Mackenzie Crook were particularly deserving, but in a play where the modern mythology of character mingles with the ancient mythology of place,  the scenic and lighting design nods were just as exciting.  I mean, sure, it’s possible the nominating committee was just afraid Rooster Byron would call the giants down to stomp on them, but we don’t really care.

In late April’s swirly muck of Other Awards Ceremonies and Tony Nomination Predictions No One Cares About, Arcadia kept getting snubbed.  And we were fucking indignant.  Because that play is beautiful, and this production is heart wrenching.  We’re so deeply glad it made the cut for the Tonys.  Now quick, everyone go see it! Repeatedly!

The Normal Heart
A political screed masquerading as a play? Bullshit, says the Tony Awards. And so do we. With five nominations, including one for the splendid John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart finally has its chance to shine on Broadway. This steamroller of a play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic is basically perfect—and proves that Joel Grey had a lot more in him this season than just his half-baked performance in Anything Goes.

Nina Arianda
In an otherwise completely shit year for women on Broadway, the Lead Actress in a Play category actually has some great competition.  Our favorite? Without question, Nina Arianda’s standout performance as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday.  She was an absolute joy to behold, and despite being surrounded by some seriously notable actors, she leapt off the stage to grab hold of your heart.  That’s impressive, considering Jim Belushi has been famous like, longer than we’ve been alive.


Catch Me If You Can
I mean, seriously.  This show is terrible.  It’s boring, no one cares about the one-dimensional characters, and it’s built on a totally stupid conceit—a serious shame when you consider the source material.  And yet, it’s up for multiple awards?  And more egregiously, it’s up for Best Musical? How? It didn’t even qualify for Best Book or Best Score (or Direction, or Choreography, or, or, or).  AND IT SUCKS!  Wow.  Apparently all you need to do to get a Tony nod these days is adapt a movie for the stage. Take note, Alex Timbers.

So Much Sister Act
In fairness, we haven’t seen it. But a new musical based on a movie that was already sort of a musical in the first place? That got ripped a new one by almost every major critic? Stop it, Tony Awards. We see what you’re doing there. We know you want to promote THE BUSINESS OF BROADWAY worldwide, but we think that over-congratulating this alleged sucker isn’t going to help your cause any.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Trust us, we never thought we’d be saying this, but… where is Priscilla Queen of the Desert?  Honestly.  In a season where the likes of Catch Me If You Can and Sister Act are raking in the nominations, it’s sad to see Priscilla overlooked.  Sure.  It’s not smart, or groundbreaking.  But it achieves something on that stage, and in a much less painful way than say… Catch Me If You Can.

Donna Murphy and the Actresses This Year
Don’t get us wrong. We love Donna and her performance in the astonishingly bad People in the Picture is the single best thing about it. But that’s just it. Why are the men of Broadway getting all these cool/interesting/high-profile things to sing and dance about and the women are stuck with… whatever Beth Leavel is doing in Baby It’s You? We’re glad that talented women are being recognized—and Sutton Foster is a great example of an accomplished performance lining up with solid material—but we’re scratching our heads over why they’re not being offered better fare in the first place.

The Plan for Dealing with The MotherFucker With the Hat
So there’s a play with the word fuck in the title, and though we are clearly fans of this word, broadcast television is not. So there needed to be… well, a plan for how to deal with a Tony night potentially full of F-Bombs.  Apparently, that plan is just to skip the word entirely and call the play “The Mother With the Hat.”  Which a) sounds stupid and b) has presumably nothing to do with the actual content of the play.  Also. How much cooler would the Tonys (and Broadway) seem if CBS had been forced to bleep that word like, 800 times during the broadcast? (Maybe cool enough to attract one or two new young people this year, we’re guessing.)

Women On The Verge of… A Nomination?
Patti Lupone? OK, we’re laughing. Hard. David Yazbeck? For that lyrical extended metaphor about Madrid being like your mother… and the nipple… and… no. Just no. With songs that sounded like they were written with a gun to this otherwise accomplished composer’s head, we cannot figure out for the life or us where these nominations came from. Laura Benanti’s nomination makes sense, only because her performance was such a complete standout. But Patti we will never forgive. The lady is awesome, but the show, and that performance, was decidedly not.


Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Three cheers for Arian Moayed’s well-deserved nomination, but this wonderful show is always the bridesmaid, isn’t it. Snubbed in the Best Play category and relegated mostly to those ever-exciting design categories, we thought this Iraq war drama would fare better. At the very least, we thought that Robin Williams would get a nod, if only because his back-and-forth pacing really made him look like… well… a tiger. But in a crowded year for actors, we guess that growing convincing facial hair isn’t really enough to sway the nominating committee.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!  We could probs write thousands of words about this enormous “Fuck You” from the Nominating Committee, but we’ll try to contain ourselves here.  No nods in any of the truly major categories? (Book and Scenic are like lemon juice on a wound, for fuck’s sake!)  BENJAMIN PLEASE FUCK ME WALKER IGNORED COMPLETEY?!  Way to remind the universe that you’re basically all wrinkly, out-of-touch, backward looking ninnies, Nominating Committee.  Broadway of the Future—where Spider-Man 4: This One Also Still Sucks rules the day and no one can afford to produce genuinely boundary-breaking theater—really thanks you.

Tom Riley
We’re happy Arcadia got a few nods.  And Billy Crudup is lovely.  Really.  But we’re honestly nominating him over Tom Riley? Like… real life?  Septimus Hodge is the sexpot upon which the whole play hinges, and Riley is giving an absolutely, panty-twistingly perfect performance.  His sensitive, sexy, smart Hodge is the absolute highlight of the show and it’s a shame to see him go unrecognized beside his more famous American counterparts.

Daniel Radcliffe
When it comes to the Tonys, Daniel Radcliffe just cannot win. Literally. Overlooked for his turn in Equus and now in How to Succeed…, it seems that no amount of voice lessons and tap classes could help Hollywood’s shining boy wizard. It’s a bit of a shame, considering how much effort went into the performance, and how well he actually manages to carry the show. Ah well. The show is still sold out, and there’s always next year–and a new revival of La Cage–around the corner.

Christopher J Hanke
Not like this was the most genius performance ever, and some people full-on hated it. But we were charmed by Hanke’s Bud Frump and thought he would get a nom. At least he looked happy and at ease up there—something we can’t exactly say for some people.

Aaron Tveit
Oh we so called this.  From the moment the curtain fell at the Neil Simon, we called it. It’s hard to say this is a shame, because Tveit’s performance in this thoroughly lackluster show is so deeply one-note that it is in no way deserving of a nod.  Still, some part of us feels badly for the kid.  Probably the part that loved him in Next to Normal—where his lack of a nomination was truly a snub—but possibly also the part that wants to get him in the sack.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Jesse North May 3, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Fantastic reactions, L & M! Loved every word! We are in agreement about PRISCILLA (which I find shocking). We know the negatives; but it did a lot of good stuff too, and the fact that SISTER ACT gobbled up everything else seems a big squirrely to me too. PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE: “Astonishingly bad.” I just love that statement :-) MOTHERF**KER (as it is in Stage Rush’s style guide) was such a stupid name. We can assume they did it to be shocking, and then totally chickened out of being shocking! THE MOTHER WITH THE HAT?! ::vomits:: I’m in total agreement regarding Patti LuPone. BENGAL TIGER deserved more (glad for Moayad though). You know I’m your supporter on BBAJ, so there’s nothing that needs to be said about that. And on a closing note, despite what we disagree on for CATCH ME, I am crushed for Aaron Tveit. The work you say Daniel Radcliffe put into his performance and building that show, I think the same can be said for Tveit. And yes, a Tony nomination for Radcliffe seems hopeless now, doesn’t it?

    Here are my reactions:

    Again, fantastic read!

  • Esther May 3, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Wow, you guys are way more witty and insightful than I could ever be!

    Totally agree about Catch Me If You Can. I haven’t written my review yet but I was so underwhelmed. Aaron Tveit looks and sounds great and I loved Norbert Leo Butz but the story did not engage me at all. And the giant sitting in front of me for Act I did not help!

    I’m also sad about Daniel Radcliffe. I loved him in Equus and he’s so charming here. Sweet voice, terrific dancing, flawless American accent and oodles of charm. What’s not to love?! I also enjoyed Christopher Hanke a lot.

    I’m thrilled for The Scottsboro Boys – compelling, thought-provoking and entertaining in the best sense of the word. And I’m thrilled Joshua Henry, Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon got acting nods.

    In the category of “I’m the only one who loved it” I’d put La Bete. Besides Mark Rylance’s performance, I also truly enjoyed the play. It was witty and clever and thoughtful about the whole art vs. commerce debate.

  • Katie May 3, 2011, 3:59 pm

    You guys are spot on! Love the post!

    Catch Me If You Can: Completely agree. Sat through that show Friday night and considered leaving during intermission—it was *rough.* I can’t help but feel bad for Aaron Tveit, though, for the reasons you mentioned, as well as the fact that he lives with a roommate in Astoria, Queens, and as a former resident of Astoria for many years (and because I still in Queens), this makes me love him a little bit more.

    Priscilla: While I’m not a superfan of this show, it was a fun, joyous time at the theatre and *markedly* less painful than Catch Me If You Can. Also, I just need some more Will Swenson and Nick Adams in my life (who doesn’t?).

    Tom Riley: Get that man 1) a Tony nom; 2) in my bed immediately. I mean seriously. He was so damn good in Arcadia.

    Hanke: While his performance didn’t blow me away, he charmed me, too, and I expected him to get a nomination. And I’m sure Hanke himself was expecting one (he’s a confident [cocky?] dude)—which is why I do feel bad that he didn’t get it.

    Radcliffe: Deserves a big ol’ gold star for effort. He’s totally charming, a surprisingly great dancer and endearing singer. Watching the show, I felt like a proud mama bird watching her baby stretch his wings and fly of out the nest, and was beaming with pride the entire time because of his hard work alone. Is his effort and gumption really worth a Tony nom? Maybe. Probably. Feels like a snub, though, for sure, but that won’t keep How to Succeed from putting butts in seats every night.

    Keep up the good work, ladies!

  • healingmirth May 3, 2011, 4:03 pm

    I went to see Sister Act (…not entirely by choice) last week, and I’ve got to say, even though I totally agree with the critics I’ve read about the book, I was still really, really entertained by the show. The performances (definitely including Victoria Clark’s Mother Superior) were excellent, and perfectly suited to what I think the show is trying to be. Would I have picked it for best musical or book (especially this year)? No, but I’m totally content with the score and acting categories.

  • Elizabeth May 3, 2011, 4:43 pm

    Agreed with every word, especially “BEN PLEASE FUCK ME WALKER”.

  • Paige May 3, 2011, 7:01 pm

    HOW DO YOU GO TO THAT PLAY, AND NOT NOMINATE BEN WALKER!? HOW DO YOU SIT IN THE THEATRE AND THINK “Well, I guess we’ll just have to nominate someone else.”
    Maybe the committee is just mad that Ben snubbed them back in the good old days when he was giving out free lapdances to the girl in seat A101. Maybe, all along, the nominating committee just wanted to be danced upon by a six foot tall, eyeliner clad man in some tight, tight jeans.

    Still pretty mad about it though :’|

  • Kate Davis May 3, 2011, 9:44 pm

    I’m going to go see Arcadia tomorrow with some classmates. I’m so looking forward to it and I’m happy that it wasn’t one of the “snubbed.” <3

  • minniehaha May 4, 2011, 4:02 pm

    I’m kicking up my heels that BBAJ didn’t get much in terms of nominations.
    Good riddance to that piece of over-rated, racist bullshit. At best it was a bad family guy episode…and I love Family Guy. BBAJ was about as interesting as a bag a door knobs. I wasted my money but feel vindicated. On another note, I loved Scottsboro Boys. I was sorry to see it close so soon. I thought Danielle Radcliffe was pretty damn good, too.
    Too bad for him. I like the idea of him doing more theater.

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