Take-Aways and Trends: Playbill Breaks Down the 2023 Tony Award Nominations | Playbill

Tony Awards Take-Aways and Trends: Playbill Breaks Down the 2023 Tony Award Nominations

Playbill’s edit team analyzes the Tony Award nominations, including an unusual amount of nods for closed productions and some representation milestones.

It's Broadway's (second) biggest day: 2023 Tony nominations are out. Some Like It Hot is the season's most nominated production with 13 nominations—four more than runner-up & Juliet's nine. See the full list of nominees here.

We here at Playbill have collectively seen every show on Broadway and many Off-Broadway, making us well-equipped to spot trends and factoids from this year’s crop of nominees.

Here are our top take-aways from the 76th Annual Tony Award nominations:

Audra McDonald Heather Gershonowitz

Audra McDonald Joins the League of Legends

With her nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, Audra McDonald now has 10 Tony Award nominations, the most nominations that any performer has ever received. Other performers who have received 10 Tony nominations for acting are Julie Harris and Chita Rivera. Will McDonald receive her seventh Tony Award? We'll find out June 11!

Tonys Love Pulitzers

This season on Broadway featured five plays that had won Pulitzer Prizes prior to coming to Broadway. Of the five nominees for Best Play, three were Pulitzer Prize winners (Cost of Living, Between Riverside and Crazy, and Fat Ham). In a competitive year for new plays on Broadway, it seems that the imprimatur of the Pulitzer gave those plays an extra edge.

Amy Herzog and Jessica Chastain Emilio Madrid

Revival Playwright Gets a Nod

Typically, a work’s playwright shares a Best Play nomination along with the production’s producers, which started happening after the Tonys stopped awarding separate Best Play and Best Author categories (the latter was last awarded in 1965). The same is not typically true of the Best Revival of a Play category, which is typically only awarded to the show’s producers. The playwright does, however, share the Revival nomination if the Tony Admin committee rules the work a “classic.” This ruling gets made when a work is so well-known from prior non-Broadway productions as to make it unfair for it to be eligible alongside works completely new to voters.

But this year’s Revival of a Play category was pretty unique with 4,000 Miles playwright Amy Herzog getting a nod for her adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll's House, meaning Herzog will get a statue if the plays wins. The Ibsen play, originally performed in Dutch in 1879, has been produced on Broadway many times, generally in translations. The current revival stands apart for featuring an adaptation—which implies a step further than a mere translation—from Herzog.

Off-Broadway and London's West End Dominate

The two most robust pipelines for new plays on Broadway continue to be Off-Broadway and the West End. Ain't No Mo', Between Riverside and Crazy, Cost of Living, and Fat Ham all originated Off-Broadway and were well-lauded before they made their Broadway debuts. Fellow Best Play Tony nominee Leopoldstadt was a hit in the West End before transferring to Broadway. It goes to show if you want to see the hottest new play, just venture slightly outside of Broadway—or fly across the Atlantic.

New Faces Abound

One of the most exciting parts of Tony day is the amount of artists that become Tony Award nominees for the first time. This year’s crop includes a staggering 60 first-time nominees, including 30 for artists either making their Broadway debut or making their Broadway debut in their now Tony-nominated job. That last caveat includes names like Sharon Washington and Jessica Stone, nominated now as the co-book writer of New York, New York and the director of Kimberly Akimbo (respectively) after both appeared earlier on Broadway as actors. 

Other first time highlights: The Tony admin committee’s ruling that Life of Pi’s puppets would be considered part of its costume design paved the way for puppet designers Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, both of whom have had long careers on Broadway and in London’s West End, to become first-time Tony nominees. This year’s awards also recognized many writers making Broadway debuts, including Some Like It Hot co-book writer Amber Ruffin, KPOP score writers Helen Park and Max Vernon, Cost of Living playwright Martyna Majok, Pulitzer-winning Fat Ham playwright James Ijames, and A Doll’s House adaptor Amy Herzog. Welcome to the club!

Jordan E. Cooper in Ain't No Mo' Joan Marcus

Gone But Not Forgotten

There’s a common fear among industry professionals, that if you opened your show earlier in the season, come Tony time you will be forgotten as newer shows fill up the minds of the Tony nominating committee. But that fear seemed to have been for naught this year, with many of the shows nominated having already closed—such as Cost of Living, A Christmas Carol, Ohio State Murders, Death of a Salesman, and many more. 

In many cases, shows that had only a brief run and closed earlier than expected still received recognition—most notable being Ain’t No Mo’, which announced its closing date less than a week after opening due to low ticket sales. But in a dramatic turn, Ain't No Mo' is one of the most-nominated plays this season. KPOP is another show that had a very abrupt (and much-buzzed-about closure), but still received three nominations (including for Best Original Score). So even though they are gone, it doesn’t mean these shows have been forgotten. It goes to show you—when the work is impactful, it stays with those who’ve seen it long after the final curtain falls.

Tony x 2: This Year's Double Nominees

This year’s nominations saw lots of double nominees. Jennifer Weber started the trend off strong with two nominations in Best Choreography, for her work in & Juliet and KPOP—her first and second-ever Broadway credits, no less. We also got double nominations for Jordan E. Cooper, for his work performing in and writing Ain't No Mo'Casey Nicholaw, for both his direction and choreography of Some Like It Hot; Scott Pask, for his scenic design of Shucked and Some Like It Hot; Emilio Sosa, for his costume design of Ain’t No Mo’ and Good Night, Oscar; Ben and Max Ringham, for their co-sound design of A Doll’s House and Prima Facie; and Natasha Katz for her lighting design of Some Like It Hot and Sweeney Todd

While we didn’t have any double performer nominations (Jeremy Pope remains the most recent and sixth in Tony Awards history to get two acting nominations in one season), we do have several categories with multiple actors from one show going up against each other. Both Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Corey Hawkins are nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play for their work in two-hander Topdog/Underdog, Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee are both nominated in Best Leading Actor in a Musical for their co-starring roles in Some Like It Hot, and Katy Sullivan and Kara Young are both nominated in Best Featured Actress in a Play for their performances in Cost of Living. These situations historically can split the vote and lead to neither winning, but we’ll just have to wait until June 11 to see what happens this year.

Helen Park at opening night of KPOP Heather Gershonowitz

Representation Milestones

A number of this year's nominations are firsts in their category. Helen Park, in addition to being the first Asian female composer to be on Broadway, is also the first Asian female composer to be nominated for a Tony Award. J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell are the first openly non-binary actors to receive Tony nominations (for Best Actor in a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical, respectively, categories in which both performers chose to be considered). 

And after Ali Stroker made history as the first actor to use a wheelchair to be nominated and win a Tony Award (in 2019), Katy Sullivan continued bringing visibility to disabled performers for her Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play nomination for Cost of Living.

The following Tony categories also had an almost equal number of male and female nominees: Best Direction of a Musical (two out of five nominees are women), Best Choreography (three out of five nominees are women), Best Book of a Musical (two out of five nominees had women on their team), Best Original Score (three out of five nominees have women on their team), Best Scenic Design of a Play (three out of five nominees have women on their team), Costume Design of a Musical (five out of six nominees have women on their team), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (three out of six nominees are women). Slowly but surely, women are receiving more recognition for their creative efforts on Broadway.

Finn Caldwell, Jonathan David Martin, Betsy Rosen, Nikki Calonge, and Hiran Abeysekera Michaelah Reynolds

Plays Spread the Love

There was a huge disparity in the amount of nominations for the season’s most nominated musical—Some Like It Hot, with 13 nods—and the most nominated plays—Ain’t No Mo’, A Doll’s House, and Leopoldstadt with six nominations each. Part of that’s unavoidable—plays aren’t eligible for categories like Best Orchestrations and Book—but it also is indicative of a nominee list that recognized more plays rather than crowning a front-runner. Right off the bat, you have three titles tied for the most nominations, with another three tied for runner-up with five—Cost of Living, Fat Ham, and Life of Pi

A deluge of Tony nominations can mean a lot for an individual production, but more equitable division generally means that Tony night will be far more interesting to watch. In this case, we are not complaining about the lack of a clear front-runner amongst the nominees. Even amongst us on the Playbill staff, we can't agree on a favorite play. 

We wish the best of luck to this year's Tony nominees and look forward to seeing who takes home the statues on June 11.

Check Out The 2023 Tony Nominees For Best Play

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