by Mo Brady
It’s happening, friends. Welcome to Awards Season. With yesterday’s announcement of the Drama League nominations, we have started the eight-week sprint of nominations and ceremonies that will lead us to the Tony Awards on June 9. Buckle up.
Over the next 11 days, we will see nominations from the Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Awards and more, ending with the Tony nominations of April 30. But the ones to start them all off are the Drama Leagues, the oldest theatrical honors in America. Membership is open to anyone (industry professionals, producers, audiences, critics) as long as they are a member of the Drama League. Their awards recognize achievement in five categories, with only one going to performance.
Traditionally, this nomination for the Distinguished Performance Award celebrates dozens of performers of both genders who have worked in both plays and musicals and both on and off-Broadway. It’s a wildly mixed bunch that truly celebrates the diversity of fantastic performances on New York stages. However, it’s hard to correlate the nominations to other awards, where actors are separated by gender, style of production, etc.
But there is something to be gleaned within these 60 nominations. With only 13 of them going to performers in Broadway musicals, we have our first official look at who could be celebrated with nominations (or most likely wins) in the four performance categories at the 2019 Tony Awards.
Those 13 actors include three eligible for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in Musical (Brooks Ashmanskas, Alex Brightman and Santino Fontana). With there being fewer leading roles in musicals than featured ones, the competition for the last two slots will be tight but not usually so.
For Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in Musical, André DeShields, Jeremy Pope and Ephraim M. Skyes all seem like reliable nominees for other award ceremonies. Beloved septuagenarian DeShields seems due for honors, Pope’s acclaimed performances in two different shows this season and Sykes’ tour de force in Ain’t Too Proud make them each likely to be celebrated. Often the most competitive performance race of the season, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in Musical looks to be wide open with only Leslie Kritzer and Ali Stroker nominated for the Drama League Performance Award.
What’s most striking is how locked up the nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in Musical are. Of those 13 actors in Broadway musicals nominated for the Drama League Award, five of them are eligible for the Leading Actress Tony: Stephanie J. Block, Amber Gray, Beth Leavel, Bonnie Milligan and Kelli O’Hara. That doesn’t even include acclaimed performances by this season’s Caitlin Kinnunen or Rebecca Naomi Jones.
While there is nothing sure in life but death and taxes, looks like the competition for the Best Leading Actress this season will be steep.