Tony Nominations 2023: The 5 Biggest Snubs and Surprises — and One Huge Question Mark

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The nominations for the 2023 Tony Awards are out — and for every pleasant surprise on the list, there were a few disappointments. Here are the biggest snubs and surprises from this morning’s Tony nominations announcement, plus the one great big question that could cast a real shadow over the ceremony.

SURPRISE: Big Love for “Ain’t No Mo'”
Jordan E. Cooper’s “Ain’t No Mo’,” a blistering comedy about racial injustice in America, was certainly one of the buzziest plays of the season, and many critics raved when it opened in December. But the show proved unable to find a foothold at the box office and closed just a few weeks later — a brief lifespan that could have put the play in danger of getting forgotten come awards season, especially in a crowded field of contenders. But nominators remembered “Ain’t No Mo'” so well they gave it six noms (including one for play and an acting nod for writer-performer Cooper), making it one of the most-nominated plays of the season.

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SNUB: Olivier-Winning West End Faves
“Life of Pi” and “Prima Facie” were hardly forgotten on the nominations list, with five for “Pi” and four for “Prima Facie” (including one for star Jodie Comer). But after winning the Olivier for best play in 2021 (for “Pi”) and 2022 (for “Prima Facie”), both shows came up empty-handed in the top Tony category for play. Also left out of the Tony nominations were “Pi” star Hiran Abeysekera, who took home an Olivier for lead actor, and the show’s puppeteers, who collectively won a supporting actor Olivier for bringing to life the story’s ferocious tiger (among other animals). On the other hand, another Olivier winner, “Leopoldstadt,” which won the award for play in 2020, has become one of the long-running successes of the Broadway season, and came away with six nominations including one for play.

SURPRISE: A Strong Showing for “& Juliet”
A lot of critics dismissed “& Juliet,” the cheerfully anachronistic musical that draws on the many, many pop hits of megaproducer Max Martin to imagine what would happen if Juliet opted not to die at the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Going into the nominations, nods for book (by David West Read) and featured actress (Betsy Wolfe as Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway) seemed likely, and a nomination for the top musical award was a possibility. “& Juliet” walked away with all those and more, including noms for lead actress Lorna Courtney and one for choreographer Jennifer Weber (also nominated for “KPOP”). The musical earned nine nominations overall, putting it behind the 13 landed by “Some Like It Hot” and tying it with “Shucked” and “New York, New York.”

SNUB: Some of the Season’s Biggest Stars
Looking for Oscar Isaac, Laura Linney and Rachel Brosnahan on the nominations list? You won’t find them. All three — Isaac and Brosnahan of “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” and Linney of “Summer, 1976” — were left out of the running. The race for lead play actress, for which both Linney and Brosnahan were contenders, was particularly tight given the stacked lineup of talent vying for just four spots. (Linney’s co-star in “Summer, 1976,” two-time Tony winner Jessica Hecht, made the cut for that one.) But it’s not as if the nominations are entirely celebrity-free: Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”), Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”), Jodie Comer (“Prima Facie”), Sara Bareilles (“Into the Woods”) and Sean Hayes (“Good Night, Oscar”), not to mention Tony fave Audra McDonald (“Ohio State Murders”), are all among the bold-face names lending star power to the list.

SNUB: A Low Tally for “The Piano Lesson”
The revival of “The Piano Lesson” was (alongside “Leopoldstadt”) one of the most notable play successes of the season, with a robust lineup of actors and creatives that looked like strong contenders for nominations. In particular, Danielle Brooks (for featured actress), John David Washington (for lead actor) and director LaTanya Richardson Jackson all seemed poised for inclusion — but in a highly competitive season for Broadway plays, all three names were left out. In the end, “Piano Lesson” notched two nominations: the top award for play revival, and one for featured actor Samuel L. Jackson.

THE LOOMING QUESTION: How will the WGA strike impact the awards ceremony?
Hours before the nominations announcement, the Writers Guild of America called its first strike in 15 years. The move will have the biggest impact in Hollywood, but the Tony Awards could get caught by the work stoppage too, depending on how long the strike lasts. In creating the nationally televised ceremony every year, the show’s producers and host work with a team of writers to craft clever opening numbers, witty monologues and all the jokes, one-liners and banter that keep a ceremony moving along. Some if not all of those writer are likely to be WGA members — which could prove a major obstacle for the ceremony.

The 76th Tony Awards will be handed out June 11 at the United Palace Theater in a ceremony that will be broadcast live on CBS and on Paramount+, with the first 90 minutes airing on Pluto TV. The show is hosted by Ariana DeBose and produced by Glenn Weiss amd Ricky Kirshner of White Cherry Entertainment.

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