The nominees for the 70th Annual American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards have been announced, and the celebration will air on CBS on Sunday, June 12. There are lots of exciting shows to honor during this year’s awards, including four very worthy musicals. Of course, the big title that everyone is following is “Hamilton,” but the other four nominated shows are just as good and may even take home the coveted award. If you haven’t seen the nominated shows this season, here is a quick look at all five and just why they’re worthy of such an important nod.
Hamilton is the one musical everyone is talking about, with the astonishing, and record-setting, 16 Tony Award nominations. Hamilton already won composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda the Pulitzer Prize in drama earlier this year. This edgy Broadway show updates the biography of Alexander Hamilton with rock, rhythm, blues and even rap music to tell his story. The musical is sold-out for months and ticket prices are reaching thousands of dollars on ticket reseller sites. The show includes a multi-ethnic cast that bridges gaps between races to look at the essence of Hamilton’s story. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve at least heard about it, because it’s the one show on Broadway everyone is looking to for this year’s big ceremony. Is it that good? The short answer is simply, “yes.”
Bright Star is the sleepy little surprise hit that could end up overthrowing “Hamilton” this year. “Bright Star” is based on the true story of Alice Murphy, who meets a young soldier just returning home from World War II. Together, through an inspiring connection, the two uncover much more than they’d ever thought possible. The musical was written by Steve Martin, who collaborated on the music with Edie Brickell. The sweet, soothing, bluegrass music is a surprise to the Broadway style, and audiences are falling head over heels for this “Bright Star.” Plus, if the show wins for Best Musical, Steve Martin would join the ranks of only a handful of EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winners.
“School of Rock”
Not another movie-turned-musical, right? Well, “School of Rock” is something different. Based on the 2003 Jack Black flick of the same name, it’s the story of a failed rock star who assumes his roommates identity to earn a paycheck as a substitute school teacher. Though, instead of focusing on traditional academic studies, he turns his classroom of lovable kids into a mind-blowing rock band. What makes this film to Broadway adaptation so special is the music, produced by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s also the first Webber piece to get a premiere on Broadway, instead of London’s West End, since 1971’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed”
Winning the award for longest play title, “Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” is another surprising contender for Best Musical this year. It’s the story of the making of 1921’s “Shuffle Along” and its legendary effect on Broadway. The original show was considered to be the very first one of its kind to do well on Broadway and the first to feature African American writers and an all African American cast. It’s also home to a jazz-infused score, which includes the hit “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” Back in its day, “Shuffle Along” played for over 500 performances, bringing names like George Gershwin, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice and Langston Hughes out to the theater.
With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, it’s no surprise that the musical “Waitress” is such a big hit this year. The story revolves around Jenna, a waitress and pie-making-expert, who is stuck in a loveless marriage in a tiny town. When she’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy, she worries that all her dreams may be over. Instead, a baking contest pops up in a nearby county and an attractive doctor offers her the recipe for true happiness. It’s the first musical for Bareilles, who’s best known for her 2007 hit “Love Song” which topped the Billboard charts. It’s also the first musical in Broadway history in which the creative positions; writer, director, composer and choreographer are all women. It’s another impressive contender for an already packed category.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.