Micah Stock in Terrence McNally's "It's Only A Play"
Till now: The 26-year-old actor from Dayton, Ohio, graduated from the arts conservatory at SUNY Purchase in New York. In 2013, Stock won a role in Terrence McNally's "Away We Go," an off-Broadway romp about theater through the millenniums in which Stock time-traveled through multiple roles. McNally took notice and no one else was considered for the role of Gus, the star-struck coat checker at an opening-night party.
Standout scene: In his Broadway debut, Stock held his own among a cast that included Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint and F. Murray Abraham. His combination of straight-off-the-farm innocence and fledgling ambition reached an apogee near the end of the play when Gus, attempting to buck up the company's flagging spirits, sings — terribly — "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked."
Explain, in a few words: "Micah's innate theatricality is as genuine as his charm. He's a passionate actor in a passionate role. You can't lie about that. If it's not passion, it's overacting, and if it is passion, you recognize that it's the real deal. Micah's the real deal." — Jack O' Brien, director of "It's Only A Play"
FULL COVERAGE: Tony Awards 2015
Annaleigh Ashford in "You Can't Take It With You"
Till now: Ashford was 9 when she was cast as a poisonously ambitious child star in "Ruthless!" After earning a theater degree from Marymount Manhattan College, she worked her way from roles in "Legally Blonde" to "Wicked" to "Hair" and then "Kinky Boots," for which she was nominated for a Tony. Also seen as a brassy prostitute in TV's "Masters of Sex," the 29-year-old actor played Essie Sycamore Carmichael in the 1936 George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart comedy classic.
Standout scene: Ashford cemented her reputation for comedy with a performance almost entirely en pointe. Her ecstatic silliness really soars when her Russian teacher, Boris Kolenkhov, arrives for a lesson. In pink tutu and toe shoes and a mix of concentration and panic, Ashford does a spasmodic series of pliés as though 300-volt charges were running through her body.
Explain, in a few words: "Annaleigh's way of working is to just throw everything on stage at the beginning and then work very hard to shape and pull it back. There's nothing on that stage that isn't carefully thought out. It looks free, but it's not free at all. It's honest. Her performance is so funny because she's so authentic" — Scott Ellis, director of "You Can't Take It With You"
Sydney Lucas in "Fun Home"
Till now: Lucas had been agitating her mother, Karri, to allow her to be in show business since age 4. She was cut during the final callbacks for "Matilda" and accepted the role of Small Alison, the youngest of three ages of the main character. Lucas became the youngest person ever to win an Obie Award when the show had its world premiere at the Public Theatre in fall 2013.
Standout scene: Lucas' Small Alison's father's closeted sexuality is a mystery to the youngster even as she feels the stirrings of her own lesbianism when her eyes alight on a delivery woman in a coffee shop. In the song "Ring of Keys," Lucas' Alison expresses the wonder and incipient joy of discovering someone who is what she yearns to become, free of the dresses and barrettes forced upon her by her father.
Explain, in a few words: "Sydney won the part from the second she walked into the audition room. She was so grounded, so available, and so herself... I can't think of another actor, let alone an actor at that age, that could be in that situation with no nerves, no fear, but also no ego and no schtick." — Sam Gold, director of "Fun Home"
Ruthie Ann Miles in "The King and I"
Till now: Miles left her native Korea when she was in elementary school, eventually settling with her family in Honolulu. She attended New York University's Steinhardt School of the Arts, then joined the national tour of John Doyle's "Sweeney Todd," in which she had to play accordion, flute and piano as Adolfo Pirelli. After a run in the off-Broadway remounting of "Avenue Q," Miles hit pay dirt as Imelda Marcos in "Here Lies Love," the disco-inspired musical by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
Standout scene: Miles' Lady Thiang exudes regal confidence and unquestioned authority as the King's chief wife and mother to the heir to the throne in the court of Siam. "Something Wonderful," the song that serves as an apologia for the autocratic King's willfulness, takes on a soulful ambivalence in her hands. As an intermediary between Anna and the King, she demonstrates that women are often the hinge between hide-bound traditions and progressive change.
Explain, in a few words: "Ruthie is a ferocious and formidable actress who, in portraying figures like Imelda Marcos, is no stranger to women in power. She is a constant source of strength and gravitas onstage…. She is the kind of actress who should be breaking barriers among Asian American actresses for a generation to come." — Bartlett Sher, director of "The King and I"