Can 'Waitress' outshine a 'Bright Star' or 'The Color Purple'? Grammy nominees in musical theater

In a “Hamilton”-less year, the Grammy nominees announced Tuesday for musical theater album consist of five eclectic shows: “Bright Star,” “The Color Purple,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Kinky Boots and “Waitress.”

For “Bright Star,” actor-musician Steve Martin and indie songstress Edie Brickell wrote an old-fashioned bluegrass score. With a book by Martin and Brickell about a young man returning home to North Carolina after World War II, the show struggled to find an audience on Broadway but nonetheless earned five Tony Awards nominations, including best musical, score and book. Times theater critic Charles McNulty called the music “luscious” and “uplifting” in a 2014 review.

“The Color Purple,” based on Alice Walker’s novel about African American women living in rural Georgia in the 1930s, ended its first Broadway run in 2008. A more recent production directed by John Doyle and starring Jennifer Hudson won the Tony for best musical revival, and Cynthia Erivo took home honors for lead actress in a musical. McNulty called the performances heart-stirring and profound.

The joyous Danny Burstein as the poor milkman Tevye is at the center of the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” revived under the direction Bartlett Sher. The recording’s Grammy nomination follows Tony nods for best musical revival, actor (Burstein) and choreography. 

Pop diva Cyndi Lauper is among the nominees for the West End cast recording of “Kinky Boots,” for which she was composer and lyricist. Starring Irish singer Killian Donnelly, the production followed a struggling shoe factory owner who attempts to turn his business around with the help of a drag queen. The cast album premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard cast albums chart and No. 51 on the Billboard 200 chart.

McNulty also raved about the performance of Jessie Mueller, the star of “Waitress,” which is based on the 2007 Adrienne Shelly film about a woman in an abusive marriage. Whenever Mueller was onstage, McNulty wrote, “I wanted time to stop so that her performance would never have to end.” He also called the score by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles “lovely.”

Grammy winners will be announced Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. 

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