The 2022 Tony nominations have finally been announced, six days later than originally scheduled, and for the most part I think they represent solid choices—which is to say, they mostly accord with the nominees that I would have chosen myself if I had been the nominating committee.
Over the next few weeks, before the voting window closes on June 10, we can expect a lot of jockeying for position in some of the closer races, and if history is any guide there will probably be an upset or two when the awards are actually given out on Sunday, June 12. Meanwhile, here are a few of my first reactions to this year's crop of nominations.
1. The Big Picture
After two years in limbo, including an endlessly deferred and muted Tony Awards for the incomplete 2019–20 season, it's a joy to see a full year's slate of nominees again, with so many potentially competitive races. And with six candidates for Best Musical instead of five, thanks to a quirk in the voting laws, the Tony telecast promises to be heavy on entertainment this year.
2. The Encouraging Signs
The big story last fall was the predominance of shows by and/or about Black people, and the centrality of Black work in this year's Broadway season is reflected to some extent in the Tony nominations: Most of this year's six Best Musical nominees feature Black stories centrally, as do two of the play nominees—Skeleton Crew and Clyde's—and many of the nominated revivals. And actors of color represent nearly half of the nominees in the performance categories: 20 out of 45. (In three of the eight categories, they represent a majority of the nominees.) True, the love didn't extend to every show with Black content. Pass Over, Chicken & Biscuits and Thoughts of a Colored Man were shut out entirely—but then again, so were the mostly white Is This A Room and Birthday Candles. An optimist might take this is a sign of progress, as is the Best Featured Actress nomination for A Strange Loop's L Morgan Lee, the first openly trans person to earn a Tony nod.
3. The Overlooked
There are only so many slots for nominees, which means that in any given year a lot of very good work is bound to be left out. Despite how such things often get discussed, a lack of a nomination does not mean a "snub," even in high-profile cases. And it is hard for me to complain about this year's slate, given how closely it tracks with what I would have nominated myself—and how thrilled I am to see favorites like Deirdre O'Connell, Jennifer Simard, John-Andrew Morrison and Rachel Dratch make the cut. Even when our choices diverge, the nominees were nearly all on my short list as well. (There are only two that I think are genuinely bad choices. I won't say which! This is their day!) That said, there are a handful of non-nominees that should have been contenders. Emily Davis's shattering lead performance in Is This A Room deserved recognition, as did Austin Pendleton's superb supporting turn in The Minutes and Johanna Day's in How I Learned to Drive. Roslyn Ruff is one of the great stage actors of our time and she is the heart and spine of The Skin of Our Teeth; David Paymer adds immeasurably to the effectiveness of Mr. Saturday Night. And although Katrina Lenk's vocals in Company have taken some flak, she manages to hold this otherwise (and deservedly) much-nominated production together through sheer force of charisma in an underwritten role. You can't nominate everyone, but these six should be in the mix.
4. The Missing Category
Speaking of six missing people: None of the delightful actresses of Six were recognized for their work this year, an outcome that is not entirely surprising, since all six were submitted by the show's producers to contend for Lead Actress instead of Featured, which is were they all belonged. (No show has six lead performers.) This is another illustration of the fact that—as we have complained continually in the past—a Best Ensemble Cast award would be a worthy addition to the Tonys. It's not always about breakout star turns, and shows like Six, The Minutes, Company, Take Me Out and for colored girls… deserve consideration for the careful balance they strike among their actors.
5. The State of the Races
Although the taste of the nominating committee does not always align with that of the larger Tony voter pool, the nominations do suggest some early frontrunners. The Lehman Trilogy, Company and for colored girls… lead their respective show categories by significant margins of nominations. And with 11 nominations—the most of any show this year—A Strange Loop is strongly positioned to win Best Musical, along with Best Book and Best Score for its singular auteur, Michael R. Jackson. Although MJ and Paradise Square got nearly as many nods, they are likely to be honored, if at all, in other categories; A Strange Loop's closest competition for the big prize is probably still Six. But the categories beyond these top four will be much harder to call. I'll weigh in with predictions on those ones a month from now, when the dust has settled a bit. Stay tuned.