In the words of Irving Berlin, “There’s no Business like Show Business,” and during June of every year, those words could not be more accurate – it’s Tony time.
For those who may not keep up with the award side of theatre, the Tony awards are an annual event which recognise the achievement of Broadway productions, and are awarded by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League. There are performances by the nominated shows, dazzling dresses, and quite often, a charismatic host. The 71st Annual Tony Awards are being hosted by screen legend and Tony Award winner Kevin Spacey. I really have my fingers crossed that he does a gaudy intro number like his predecessors have (I mean, Neil Patrick Harris’s openings are legendary. Youtube them. You won’t be disappointed).
This season is especially exciting, with 5 different lots of Australian nominees in various categories. Tim Minchin is returning to the Broadway stage with his new musical Groundhog Day, based on the 1993 film of the same name. It’s nominated for 7 Tonys overall, with Tim Minchin personally up for Best Musical and Best Original Score (other nominations include Best Leading Actor, Best Book of a Musical, Direction, Choreography and Scenic Design)
Australian producers Sam Levy and Rodney Rigby’s new show Come From Away, a musical about forced plane landings in Newfoundland during 9/11, was nominated for 7 Tonys. Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Present, a reimagining of the four-act Chekhov play known as Platonov, landed Cate Blanchett a nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The entire cast of the production are Australian, marking a first in Broadway history. Stuart Thompson produced 2 Tony nominated plays this season, Sweat and Six Degrees of Separation, each with 3 and 2 nominations respectively.
The Aussies have definitely made a mark on Broadway this year, but that doesn’t go to say that there hasn’t been some incredible and ground-breaking content coming out of the States. Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is this season’s highest nominated show, play or musical, nominated for a staggering 12 categories across a possible 13. The show is a musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, using a combination of Russian folk music, indie rock and EDM to create, what is described by the composer Dave Malloy as an “electropop opera.”
The revival of Hello Dolly! with national treasure Bette Midler snagged 10 nominations and the hearts of Americans nationwide, with Bette in the running for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.
However, I think the show everyone has their eyes on at the moment is Pasek and Paul’s newest creation Dear Evan Hansen, nominated across 9 categories including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Actor (for Ben Platt).
There were a slew of new shows this year, including musical adaptations of several films including 20th Century Fox’s Anastasia (with music by Ahrens and Flaherty), Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (transferring from a run on the West End) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s whimsical Amélie (which is oddly enough, mostly in English).
With 18 musicals and 19 plays eligible for awards, and 187 different nominations across all the categories, this year’s Tonys will be an interesting watch, whether you’re just there for the snippet performances from nominees, or if you really want to see your favourite show scoop up all the awards.
The 71st Annual Tony Awards will be aired on Monday June 12th from 10am on Foxtel Arts live from Radio City Music Hall, with an encore screening at 8:30pm.