Tony Bites: Landmark Nominations, Angela Lansbury’s Lifetime Honor

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The Tony Awards Landmarks on This Year’s Nominations List

In a Broadway season that was the first after the devastating 15-month shutdown caused by the pandemic, the Tony nominations list encompassed some notable landmarks of its own.

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L Morgan Lee, up for featured actress in “A Strange Loop,” became the first openly transgender artist ever to be nominated for a Tony Award. “Six” composer Toby Marlow is the first non-binary person to get a nom. Lynn Nottage became the first writer to be nominated for play (“Clyde’s”) and musical (“MJ”) in the same year. Meanwhile, Camille A. Brown (“For Colored Girls …”) and Lileana Blain-Cruz (“The Skin of Our Teeth”) became the second and third women of color to be nominated for directing a play. (The first such nom, for “Eclipsed” director Liesl Tommy, came just six years ago.)

On the one hand, all of this recognition represents a major step forward for an industry working to make strides toward greater equity and inclusion. On the other hand: What took so long?

“It’s all very ‘Yay-question-mark?’” acknowledges Blain-Cruz. “It feels wonderful to be seen and to be recognized, but at the same time I think of all the wonderful artists before us who weren’t seen and weren’t included. There’s an awareness of the shoulders that we’re standing on at this moment.”

Still, for some artists, the nominations feel like a good start. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, I can feel this shift from just that little moment in time. A shake in the ground,’ ” Lee said on Variety’s Stagecraft podcast.

“It makes you realize that it’s not just about you,” adds Brown, who is only the second Black woman to both direct and choreograph a Broadway musical, and the first to do so in 67 years. “It’s about honoring Katherine Dunham, who was the first and paved the way. And then hopefully now this gives little Black girls, who are just like me when I was younger, an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’ ”

Angela Lansbury to Receive Lifetime Achievement Honor

At the Tony Awards ceremony June 12, Angela Lansbury will be awarded the 2022 Special Award for Lifetime Achievement — and really the only surprising thing about that is that it hasn’t happened sooner.

The 96-year-old actor has won five Tonys since she made her Broadway debut in 1957. She headlined the original productions of both “Mame” and “Sweeney Todd” as well as the first Broadway revival of “Gypsy.” That alone would be enough to make her a legend even before you count the pop culture impact of her 12 seasons on “Murder, She Wrote” and her beloved turn as a teapot in “Beauty and the Beast.” 

In 2013 she was given an Honorary Oscar.

Theater remains her first love, Lansbury said in an interview a few years back. “To be able to entertain an audience is one of the great dreams of actors, and to get the feedback from the audience is food and drink to the average performer,” she explained.

As for retirement? Don’t hold your breath.As she said in that same interview with a chuckle, “I’ll probably pass away with one hand on my script.”

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