The nominations were announced Tuesday morning, with the awards to be handed out June 8 in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. The show will be hosted by Hugh Jackman, who made a surprise appearance at the nominations announcement, and broadcast on CBS.
The best-musical choices set up a wide open race in which the commercially low-profile “Gentleman’s” is a front-runner, with three of the four shows owning a solid chance at the prize; only “Midnight” lags slightly. The Tony nominating committee went with only four nominees despite a new rule that allowed an expansion to five if the fourth- and fifth-place vote-getters were close enough in the final tally.
The committee did opt for five nominees in the best play category, as James Lapine’s Moss Hart story “Act One,” Robert Schenkkan’s LBJ tale “All The Way,” Terrece McNally’s family drama “Mothers and Sons” and Harvey Fierstein’s “Casa Valentina” were joined by a dark-horse choice, John Patrick Shanley’s Irish romance “Outside Mullingar” in the field.
Not on the list: “The Realistic Joneses,” Off-Broadway phenom Will Eno’s debut on the Great White Way.
Nominators went with a fairly expected group for revival of a play, with “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan” and “Twelfth Night” all landing spots. The committee liked ”Menagerie” and “Twelfth Night” overall, giving the shows seven nominations apiece. By contrast, “Richard III,” which was part of a double-bill with “Twelfth,” received only one, for Mark Rylance in lead actor in a play.
The biggest surprise on the acting front came in that category, with the omission of Denzel Washington for his turn in the revival of “Raisin in the Sun.” Washington won the Tony for his last Broadway appearance, "Fences." Instead, nominations went to Rylance, Tony Shalhoub in “Act One” and Bryan Cranston in “All The Way,” joined by upstarts Chris O'Dowd in "Of Mice and Men" and Samuel Barnett in “Twelfth Night.” Also left out were both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen for their turns in “Waiting for Godot.”
On the lead actress in a play side, Audra McDonald will seek her record sixth Tony win for “Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill,” joined by Tyne Daly in “Mothers and Sons,” LaTanya Richardson Jackson for “A Raisin in the Sun,” Cherry Jones in "The Glass Menagerie” and Estelle Parsons in the struggling “The Velocity of Autumn.” Left out were Rebecca Hall in “Machinal” and Debra Messing in “Mullingar.”
Among the post-nominations stories will be the commercial fate of “Rocky” and “Bullets,” which received four and six nominations, respectively, including Andy Karl for leading actor in a musical for "Rocky" and Woody Allen for best book on "Bullets." The shows have been selling tepidly, and without major Tony momentum now face an uncertain commercial fate.