The 73rd annual Tony Awards will broadcast live on June 9th at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. James Corden is returning to host the show, so I expect the opening number this year will be as smart and delightful as his last. The full list of Tony nominations can be found here, but I wanted to highlight some of the new shows appearing on Broadway this year.
Aaron Sorkin wrote a play based on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird that is currently being performed at the Shubert Theatre. This classic American story explores race and class in the South in the 1930s. If you’ve been a fan of Sorkin’s snappy dialogue and skillful rhetoric, you’d be remiss to skip out on this production even though it did not receive a Tony nomination for Best Play. This was a strong year for new plays on Broadway so it’s possible that a strange split vote resulted in this oversight, or rumor has it that it might have been an intentional snub due to the lawsuits that the production has been involved with that led to the shut-down of some community theatre productions. However, this production still accrued nine deserved nominations in other categories.
My favorite to win Best Play this year is The Ferryman, which transferred to the Jacobs Theatre from London last year. Jez Butterworth’s epic drama centers around the fictional Carney family in Northern Ireland. While exploring the often-complicated dynamics of family, Butterworth also weaves a compelling narrative about how the past traumas of a country can strangle a family’s progress for decades to come. It’s worth brushing up on 20th century Irish history before seeing this play to catch the meaning of references to historical events the characters discuss, but the interpersonal dynamics at play are also absorbing enough outside of the context of history. I didn’t check my watch once during this 3 hour 15 minute production (though there is an intermission).
I would also highly recommend Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, which was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This play was inspired by her experiences as a teenager giving speeches about the U.S. Constitution for scholarship money. Heidi Schreck also stars in this play that explores how her understanding of the Constitution has evolved over time and the impact the Constitution has had on women’s bodies in America. Schreck does not shy away from talking about the specific traumas women in America have experienced as a result of past and current legislation, so a trigger warning is necessary.
Hadestown is the favorite to win Best Musical this year, but this is the only new musical nominated that I have yet to see so I don’t have a personal recommendation. However, I’ve heard great things about this musical adaptation of a folk opera concept album by Anaïs Mitchell that reimagines the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Ticket prices have recently soared for this show upon receiving positive reviews and Tony nominations, but they do offer a general rush and digital lottery.
All of the other nominees for Best Musical offer nostalgia or feel-good vibes, which may be reflective of what Broadway-goers need from art in today’s climate. Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations is primarily a jukebox musical that will have Temptations fans dancing in their seats, but the book is also deftly written to brilliantly convey the group dynamics at play during Motown’s heyday. Beetlejuice genuinely surprised and delighted me as someone who was not a fan of the movie. It’s very self-aware with a stunning set design, catchy music, and energetic acting from start to finish. I’d go see it again. I also still recommend seeing The Prom. But I hesitate to recommend Tootsie, a new musical comedy based on the movie from 1982. While I was laughing throughout this high-energy show with well-placed one-liners and brilliant acting, there was a part of me that was cringing and has cringed more as I’ve had time to process what I watched. For those not familiar with the story-line, a white, cis male who has a hard time finding work disguises himself as a female to get a job and drama ensues. The play seemingly acknowledges the problematic nature of this storyline throughout the show, but the tone in which the character presses on and faces minimal consequences lands a bit deaf. I guess I just don’t understand why we need another story right now about a white, cis male who pushes others around in order to get what he wants to only later justify it all in a self-congratulatory learning lesson for something everyone else has known for a while. But there were a lot of good jokes? Anyway, I think all of these productions will put on a good show for the Tony Awards so tune in on June 9th!