As Broadway Rebounds, ‘Some Like It Hot’ Gets 13 Tony Nominations

As Broadway Rebounds, ‘Some Like It Hot’ Gets 13 Tony Nominations

As Broadway’s rebound from the pandemic shutdown picks up pace, Tony nominators showered much-sought attention on a wide variety of shows, from razzle-dazzle spectacles to quirky adventurous fare.

“Some Like It Hot,” a musical based on the classic Billy Wilder film about two musicians who witness a gangland slaying and dress as women to escape the mob, scored the most nominations: 13. But it faces stiff competition in the race for best new musical — ticket buyers have not made any of the contenders a slam-dunk hit, and there does not appear to be a consensus among the industry insiders who make up the Tony voting pool.

Three other musicals picked up nine nominations apiece: “& Juliet,” which combines pop songs with an alternative narrative arc for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers; “New York, New York,” a dance-driven show about a pair of young musicians seeking success and love in a postwar city; and “Shucked,” a pun-laden country comedy about a rural community facing a corn crisis. “Kimberly Akimbo,” a critical favorite about a high school student with a life-altering genetic condition and a criminally dysfunctional family, picked up eight nominations.

The Tony nominations also feature plenty of boldfaced names. Among the stars from the worlds of pop music, film and television who earned nods are Sara Bareilles, Jessica Chastain, Jodie Comer, Josh Groban, Sean Hayes, Samuel L. Jackson, Wendell Pierce and Ben Platt. Another went to one of Broadway’s most-admired stars: Audra McDonald, who, with nine previous nominations and six wins, has won the most competitive Tony Awards of any performer in history.

This year’s Tony Awards come at the end of the first full-length season since the coronavirus pandemic forced theaters to close for about a year and a half. Given that tourism remains below prepandemic levels, many workers have not returned to Midtown offices, and inflation has made producing far more expensive, the season has been surprisingly robust, with a wide range of offerings.

“Entertainment is like food — sometimes you’re in the mood for an organic small plate, and sometimes for a burger and fries, and the best thing about New York is we’ve got the variety,” said Victoria Clark, the Tony-nominated star of “Kimberly Akimbo.”

Broadway shows this season had grossed $1.48 billion as of April 30, according to figures released Tuesday by the Broadway League. That’s nearly double the grosses at the same point last season — $751 million — but lower than the $1.72 billion at the same point in 2019, during the last full prepandemic season.

Other key metrics are better, too: 11.5 million seats have been filled on Broadway this season, compared with 6 million at the same point last season, but still down from the 13.8 million that had been filled by this point in 2019.

The Tony nominations, which were chosen by a panel of 40 theater industry experts who saw all 38 eligible shows and have no financial interest in any of them, are particularly important to shows that are still running, which try to use the vote of confidence to woo potential ticket buyers.

“It’s all about what’s going to make a show run longer and create more jobs for more people,” said Casey Nicholaw, the director and choreographer of “Some Like It Hot.” “Hopefully we’ll sell more tickets, and the show will be more of a success.”

The Tony nominations can also boost the employment prospects, and the compensation, of artists. And, of course, they are a tribute to excellence. “It means something when your peers and your colleagues see beauty in something you make,” said James Ijames, whose play “Fat Ham” was among the nominated productions.

Broadway is a complicated place, dominated by commercial producers but also with six theaters run by nonprofits, and the work this season, as is often the case, featured everything from experimental plays tackling challenging subjects to more mainstream fare that aims primarily to entertain.

Among the five nominees for best new play, three have already won the Pulitzer Prize in drama, including “Between Riverside and Crazy,” Stephen Adly Guirgis’s story of a retired police officer trying to hang onto his apartment; “Cost of Living,” Martyna Majok’s exploration of caregiving and disability; and “Fat Ham,” Ijames’s riff on “Hamlet,” set in the North Carolina backyard of a family that runs a barbecue restaurant.

The two other Tony-nominated plays are each significant in their own ways: “Leopoldstadt” is Tom Stoppard’s autobiographically inspired drama about a European Jewish family before, during and after World War II, while “Ain’t No Mo’” is Jordan E. Cooper’s outlandish comedy imagining that the United States offers its Black residents one-way tickets to Africa.

The nominations for “Ain’t No Mo’” were especially striking given that the show struggled to find an audience and closed early. “I’m just so elated, I can barely find the words,” said Cooper, who was nominated both as writer and actor. “There was a lot of turbulence, but we landed the plane.”

Stoppard is already the winningest playwright in Broadway history, having won Tony Awards for four previous plays (“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “Travesties,” “The Real Thing” and “The Coast of Utopia”). He is now 85 years old, and “Leopoldstadt” is his 19th production on Broadway. Stoppard said he was proud of the nomination, but sorry the play had come to seem so timely at a moment of rising concern about antisemitism.

“Nobody wants society to be divided,” he said in an interview, “and I like to think ‘Leopoldstadt’ works against a sense of human beings dividing up and confronting each other.”

Of the 38 Tony-eligible plays and musicals this season, 27 scored at least one nomination, leaving 11 with no nods. Among the musicals snubbed by the nominators were “Bad Cinderella,” the critically drubbed new musical from one of the most successful musical theater composers of all time, Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as a progressive rethink of “1776,” about the debate over the Declaration of Independence, which was revived with a cast of women, nonbinary and transgender performers.

Among the seven plays shut out was “The Thanksgiving Play,” which is thought to be the first work on Broadway by a female Native American playwright, Larissa FastHorse.

The season featured shows examining a wide variety of diverse stories, and the nominations reflect that.

At a time when gender identity issues have become increasingly politicized in the nation, nominations were earned by two gender nonconforming actors: J. Harrison Ghee, a star of “Some Like It Hot,” and Alex Newell, a supporting actor in “Shucked.”

Helen Park, who is the first Asian American female composer on Broadway, was nominated in the best score category for the musical “KPOP.” “The more authentic we are to our respective cultures and stories,” she said, “the richer the Broadway soundscape and Broadway landscape will be.”

Five plays by Black writers were nominated in either the best play or best play revival category, and four of the five nominees for leading actor in a play are Black.

“I broke down in tears,” Pierce said about learning that he was among those nominees, for playing Willy Loman in a revival of “Death of a Salesman” in which the traditionally white Loman family is now African American. “I did not know how profoundly moving it would be. It was the culmination of years of hard work and a reflection on how much effort and toil went into the challenge of playing the role.”

This was a strong season for musical revivals, and the nominated shows include two with scores by Stephen Sondheim — “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd” — as well as the Golden Age classic “Camelot” and “Parade,” which is a show about the early 20th-century lynching of a Jewish man in Georgia.

“We’re so happy audiences are taking to it, and we hope that Sondheim would be happy this morning as well,” said Groban, starring as the title character in “Sweeney Todd.”

The nominated play revivals are also a compelling bunch: a hypnotically minimalist version of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” adapted by Amy Herzog and starring Chastain as a Norwegian debtor trapped in a sexist marriage; a bracing production of Suzan Lori-Parks’s “Topdog/Underdog,” about two brothers ominously named Lincoln and Booth; a rare staging of Lorraine Hansberry’s “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” featuring Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan; and a ghostly performance of “The Piano Lesson,” August Wilson’s classic drama about a family wrestling with the meaning, and monetary value, of an heirloom.

The 769 Tony voters now have until early June to catch up on shows they have not yet seen before they cast their electronic ballots. The awards ceremony itself will be held on June 11 at the United Palace in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan in a ceremony hosted by Ariana DeBose.

Julia Jacobs and Kalia Richardson contributed reporting.

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