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Photograph: Courtesy Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan ZimmermanHere Lies Love

Let me tell you—the Tonys should remember shows from earlier this season

Dear Tony Awards nominators, I have a few suggestions…

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

“Let Me Tell You” is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They are published every week.

Dear members of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee for the 2023-2024 Broadway season,

First of all: Hi. Hi to all 60 of you, though probably about a third of you will have to recuse yourselves from service this year because of some connection to an eligible production. (It’s a small community!) All of you are professionals whose opinions I respect. I’ve met many of you in person; I’ve had long conversations with several of you, and I think my girlfriend when I was a teenager babysat for one of you. Some of you I’ve only admired from afar. But I hope you won’t mind if I address you all as friends.

As you know, my friends, Broadway’s dam is about to break. Only five weeks are left before the cutoff date for Tony Award eligibility on April 25, yet we are barely over the hump when it comes to new productions. Sixteen shows have yet to open—nearly half of the 36 that will compete for Tony nominations this year—and 12 of those 16 will be crammed into the final nine days of the season.

Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy and Evan ZimmermanLeslie Rodriguez Kritzer in Spamalot

This year’s scramble to the finish line is particularly bonkers, yes, but it’s consistent with the trend that I analyzed in January: Broadway seasons are getting more and more bottom-heavy, and April is getting more and more absurd. There are many reasons for this, but a desire for Tony Awards is among the most prominent. Productions hope to get a box-office boost from Tony nominations; and conventional wisdom holds, fairly or not, that the Nominating Committee is biased toward more recent productions. 

If any such tendency exists, my friends, it would be understandable! After all, when the Committee convenes to determine the nominations—sometime between April 25 and April 30 (when the nominations are announced)—your heads will still be swimming with thoughts about the dozen new shows you will have seen in the preceding week or so. Who could blame you if great work you took in many months ago is less top-of-mind? But it would be a shame if worthy candidates from earlier in the season got trampled by the madding crowd. And it would be a mistake, I think, to reward the late arrivals simply for being late.

It is with all that in mind that I’d like to offer a few friendly reminders regarding work from earlier in the season that I think is particularly worth remembering. I hope this won’t seem presumptuous. You are, of course, the Nominating Committee, and these decisions are yours alone to make! But maybe, please, could you try to keep the following folks in mind? Even if just to humor me, your friend?

Fantastic! Thank you! Here, then, sorted by category, are a few of the individual artists—though by no means all—whose work I found outstanding in productions that have either already closed or will have closed by the final stretch of April. (The season’s only new productions from 2023 that will still be running at that time are Back to the Future and the revivals of Merrily We Roll Along and Appropriate.) 

In my opinion, these actors should be contenders:


  • Kelli O’Hara (Days of Wine and Roses). Simply beautiful work, in a highly demanding role, from a glorious vocalist who has matured into one of Broadway’s finest singing actors. 


  • Brian d’Arcy James (Days of Wine and Roses). The capstone performance, to date, from Broadway’s most protean leading man.
  • Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells (Gutenberg! The Musical). The Book of Mormon stars’ inspired teamwork made their two-person musical a sleeper hit. It’s hard to imagine nominating one without the other, so nominate them both.
  • Chip Zien (Harmony). Perhaps no one but this beloved, über-menschy musical-theater veteran could have pulled off his role’s combination of cute shtick and anguish in a musical about the rise of the Nazis.


  • Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Spamalot). One of Broadway’s most gifted performers grabs the Spamalot revival by the throat in a full-tilt comedic and vocal tour de force.
  • Jennifer Simard (Once Upon a One More Time). The musical-comedy genius stole her show with deadpan wit and a somehow lugubrious flounce.


  • Byron Jennings (Days of Wine and Roses). Jennings is one of Broadway’s unsung heroes—he’s been in 20 shows in the past 25 years—and in Days of Wine and Roses he breaks your heart without singing a note.
Brian d'Arcy James and Kelli O'Hara in Days of Wine and Roses
Photograph: Courtesy Ahron R. FosterBrian d'Arcy James and Kelli O'Hara in Days of Wine and Roses



  • Betsy Aidem (Prayer for the French Republic). As an assimilated French Jew reconsidering her position in a changing world, Aiden was the nervous center of this ensemble piece.
  • Francis Benhamou (Prayer for the French Republic). In the showier role of Aidem’s moody and frowzy daughter, this Broadway newcomer snagged Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk awards in the play’s earlier run at Manhattan Theatre Club.
  • Kara Young (Purlie Victorious). You surely don’t need any prodding to remember Young’s enchantingly self-possessed star turn in this smashing revival; she was unforgettable. 


  • Alex Brightman (The Shark Is Broken). The bright spot of a slight play, Brightman offered a hilarious portrait of a huffy, neurotic Richard Dreyfuss during the filming of Jaws
  • Jay O. Sanders (Purlie Victorious). Keeping a delicate balance as the brutish and buffoonish villain of this revival, Sanders combined bombast and delusion into a masterpiece of character clowning. 
A scene from Purlie Victorious on Broadway
Photograph: Courtesy Marc J. FranklinPurlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

Since I’ve already taken too much of your time, I won’t opine about the four show races (Best Musical, Best Play, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Play). But let me just sneak in a few quick notes about the non-performance categories: 

  • Director Michael Greif has somehow never won a Tony, even for Rent or Dear Evan Hansen, and this season he is directing three new musicals—an unprecedented feat in modern Broadway history. His elegant staging of Days of Wine and Roses may be his best of the three. Alex Timbers might also deserve a nod for helming the inventive Here Lies Love. Among the play directors, Kenny Leon and David Cromer stand out for their work in Purlie Victorious and Prayer for the French Republic, respectively.
  • In the Best Score and Best Book categories, Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas should be remembered for Days of Wine and Roses; also worth considering are Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman for Harmony and David Byrne and Fatboy Slim for Here Lies Love.
  • Although their shows did not run long, Warren Carlyle (Harmony) and Keone and Mari Madrid (Once Upon a One More Time) contributed excellent choreography to them.
  • The very first play of the season, the spooky and short-lived Grey House, is at real risk of being forgotten, but the superb design work of Scott Pask (set), Natasha Katz (lighting) and Tom Gibbons (sound) should not be. The same goes for Here Lies Love and its exceptional designers David Korins (set), Clint Ramos (costumes), Justin Townsend (lighting) and M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer (sound). Other design standouts for me include the scenic designs of David Zinn (Jaja’s African Hair Braiding) and Alexander Dodge (I Need That) and the costumes of Dede Ayite (Jaja’s African Hair Braiding). 

And that’s it! Thanks for listening, Nominating Committee friends. See you on the other side of April!

Your friend (no matter what you decide),

Grey House
Photograph: Courtesy MurphyMadeGrey House

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