'Hell's Kitchen' and 'Stereophonic' lead Tony Award nominations, 2 shows honoring creativity's spark

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Marc J. Franklin

This image released by Polk & Co. shows Maleah Joi Moon, left, and Chris Lee during a performance of "Hell's Kitchen." (Marc J. Franklin/Polk & Co. via AP)

NEW YORK – Two Broadway shows celebrating the spark of sonic creativity — the semi-autobiographical Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen," and the play "Stereophonic" about a '70s rock band recording a star-making album — each earned a leading 13 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, a list that also saw a record number of women nominated for best director.

“This is totally crazy. It took me about an hour to get myself together. I couldn’t even formulate words,” Keys said after a morning where the show loosely based on her life was nominated for best new musical and four acting awards as well as best scenic design, costumes, lighting, sound design, direction, choreography and orchestrations. “I am totally at a loss for words. Don't ask me to write a song.”

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A total of 28 shows earned a Tony nod or more, with the musical “The Outsiders,” an adaptation of the beloved S. E. Hinton novel and the Francis Ford Coppola film, earning 12 nominations; a starry revival of “Cabaret” starring Eddie Redmayne, nabbing nine; and "Appropriate," Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ searing play about a family reunion in Arkansas where everyone has competing motivations and grievances, grabbing eight.

The nominations marked a smashing of the Tony record for most women directors named in a single season. The 2022 Tony Awards had held the record, with four total across the two races — musical and play. Only 10 women have gone on to win a directing crown.

This year, seven women took the 10 directing slots. Three women were nominated for best play direction — Lila Neugebauer (“Appropriate”), Anne Kauffman (“Mary Jane”) and Whitney White (“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”) — while four were nominated in the musical category — Maria Friedman (“Merrily We Roll Along“), Leigh Silverman (“Suffs”) Jessica Stone (“Water for Elephants”) and Danya Taymor (“The Outsiders”).

“The one thing I feel is it’s starting to feel less remarkable, which is great news,” Stone said after her nomination. “We are directors and not women directors. I’m noticing it more and more and that’s a wonderful thing to think about. It’s a wonderful place to be."

“Stereophonic,” which became the most-nominated play in Tony history, earned nominations for playwright David Adjmi and for its songs by Will Butler, formerly of Arcade Fire. It's the story of a Fleetwood Mac-like band over a life-changing year, with personal rifts opening and closing and then reopening. Butler says it is about art's “horror and its beauty.”

An album of the rock-roots music heard during the play will be available next month and Butler has high hopes: “We wanted it to stand up against Tom Petty and ‘Rumors’ and the new Beyoncé country record,” he said. “Making it was its own reward.”

Rachel McAdams, making her Broadway debut in “Mary Jane,” earned a best actress in a play nomination, while “Succession” star Jeremy Strong, got his first ever nomination, for a revival of “An Enemy of the People” and Liev Schreiber of “Ray Donovan” fame nabbd one for leading "Doubt." Jessica Lange in “Mother Play,” Sarah Paulson in “Appropriate” and Amy Ryan, who stepped in at the last minute for a revival of “Doubt,” also earned nominations in the best actress in a play category.

"The Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons earned a supporting nod for “Mother Play,” and Daniel Radcliffe on his fifth Broadway show, a revival of Stephen Sondheim's “Merrily We Roll Along,” won his first nomination.

Radcliffe, caring for his infant son on Tony nominations morning, said he felt incredibly lucky and called being in the musical alongside Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez — both also nominated — “one of the most special experiences of my professional career.”

“I have always felt like doing stage and particularly doing it here has been such a huge part of my career and sort of like finding out who I was as an actor outside of Harry Potter,” he said. “I think it’s kind of been the making of me.”

Redmayne in his second show on Broadway got a nod as best lead actor in a musical, as did Brian d’Arcy James for “Days of Wine and Roses,” Brody Grant in “The Outsiders,” Jonathan Groff in “Merrily We Roll Along” and 73-year-old Dorian Harewood in “The Notebook,” the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks romantic tearjerker. Harewood, in his first Broadway show in 46 years, landed his first Tony nomination.

It was one of three nominations for “The Notebook,” but the musical’s composer, Ingrid Michaelson, didn’t earn a nomination, nor did Barry Manilow for his show “Harmony.” A revival of “The Wiz” also failed to garner any nominations, nor did the Huey Lewis jukebox “The Heart of Rock and Roll.”

Redmayne's “Cabaret” co-star Gayle Rankin earned a nomination for best actress in a musical, as did Eden Espinosa in “Lempicka,” Maleah Joi Moon in “Hell’s Kitchen,” Kelli O’Hara in “Days of Wine and Roses” and 71-year-old Maryann Plunkett, who plays the elderly wife at the heart of “The Notebook.”

Steve Carell in his Broadway debut in a poorly received revival of the classic play “Uncle Vanya” and “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli in “An Enemy of the People” both failed to secure nods, but starry producers who did include Keys, Angelina Jolie (for “The Outsiders”) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (for “Suffs”).

The best new musical crown will be a battle between “Hell's Kitchen,” “The Outsiders,” the dance-heavy, dialogue-less stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 album “Illinois,” “Suffs,” based on the American suffragists of the early 20th century, and “Water for Elephants,” which combines Sara Green’s 2006 bestseller with circus elements.

The best new play Tony will pit “Stereophonic” against “Mother Play,” Paula Vogel’s look at a mother and her kids spanning 1964 to the 21st century; “Mary Jane,” Amy Herzog’s humanistic portrait of a divorced mother of a young boy with health issues; “Prayer for the French Republic,” Joshua Harmon’s sprawling family comedy-drama that deals with Zionism, religious fervency and antisemitism; and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Jocelyn Bioh’s comedy about the lives of West African women working at a salon.

Lamar Richardson, an actor-turned-producer, had many reasons to smile Tuesday. He helped produce the three new revivals of “The Wiz, "“Merrily We Roll Along“ and “Appropriate.”

“I really think this is Broadway at its best,” he said. “There’s really something for everyone. There’s the quintessential big jukebox musical. There’s the niche moving three-hander plays. I think that this really is a smorgasbord of what Broadway can offer up, and showing it still, of course, is a major player on the art scene. And it’s here to stay.”

A spring barrage of new shows — 14 shows opened in an 11-day span this year — is not unusual these days as producers hope their work will be fresh in the mind of voters ahead of the Tony Awards ceremony on June 16.

There were some firsts this season, including “Here Lies Love” with Broadway's first all-Filipino cast, which earned four nominations, including best original score for David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim. And seven openly autistic actors starred in “How to Dance in Ohio,” a first for Broadway but which got no Tony love.

Academy Award winner and Tony Award-nominee Ariana DeBose, who hosted both the 2023 and 2022 ceremonies, will be back this year and will produce and choreograph the opening number.

Like last year, the three-hour main telecast will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. EDT/5 p.m.-8 p.m. PDT with a pre-show on Pluto TV, and some Tony Awards handed out there.


Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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