An Inside Look at the Tony Awards Voting Process
It’s Tony Awards time again! While nominees vie for votes at luncheons, galas, and cocktail hours, show producers work hard to make sure their plays and musicals have the best shot at Radio City on June 9. There are approximately 846 Tony Award voters – a mix of artists and professionals across the industry.
There are 26 competitive Tony Awards categories, and producers want to make sure that voters remember their productions, as shows that opened from April 27, 2018-April 25, 2019 are eligible. While many shows try to schedule their openings for April to be fresh in the nominator and voters’ minds (same reason all the awards bait movies open over the holidays), fantastic shows open throughout the year.
One strategy that producers employ to remind voters of their shows are beautifully printed books, highlighting production photography, press quotes about the show, and more. Here’s an inside look at five of these books that were printed and sent to voters this season.
Hillary and Clinton
The marketing team for Lucas Hnath’s “Hilary and Clinton” cleverly modeled the show’s book after a voting ballot. The opening page lists all of the candidates for awards, including the design team as well as info for voters on when the ballots are due (clever wordplay there). The press quotes and articles are organized as political arguments, with copyediting marks highlighting the important aspects of the quotes.
For example, on the page “Argument in Favor of Best Actress,” The New York Times review of the show is highlighted: “Ms. Metcalf brings an uncanny mix of sorrow, rage, and wry fatalism to Hillary and her performance thrums with the painful acknowledgement of a vast potential that will never be fully realized.”
“Hillary and Clinton” is nominated for one Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (Laurie Metcalf).
The Waverly Gallery
“The Waverly Gallery” closed in January, but its searing portrait of a family struggling to cope with the matriarch’s worsening dementia impacted Broadway audiences, and the show was named one of the best shows on Broadway in 2018. The play is also a personal one for Oscar-winning playwright Kenneth Lonergan, as he wrote it about his own grandmother. The beautiful voter book has images of Lonergan’s grandmother alongside production images from the show.
The book also pulls old images of Elaine May, who earned rave reviews, all collected here, for her performance as Gladys in the play. From sweeping accolades like “the show belongs almost entirely to Elaine May’s beautifully measured performance” (NY1) to “it feels like a privilege to watch this legend transform Lonergan’s meditation on dignity, regret, and ungraspable memory into something indelible and lasting” (Deadline).
“The Waverly Gallery” is nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play and Best Actress in a Play (Elaine May).
To Kill a Mockingbird
Modeled after Scout’s memory box, the “To Kill a Mockingbird” voter book captures the nostalgia and the power of this beautiful production. Historic images from the South pop up throughout the book coupled with quotes from characters in the story, like Atticus saying, “Before you judge someone it’s a good idea to get inside their skin for a while and crawl around.”
Pull quotes from glowing reviews accompany Julieta Cervantes’s production photography. There are accolades like “Every moment, every perfectly cast face, every stage picture and costume tells the story so precisely that it would do so even without words” (The New York Times) and “Bartlett Sher, Aaron Sorkin, and Jeff Daniels enable us to walk away exhilarated and uncertain, questioning both ourselves and a story we’d long thought we knew” (New York Magazine).
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is nominated for nine Tony Awards for Best Director of a Play (Bartlett Sher), Best Actor in a Play (Jeff Daniels), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Celia Keenan-Bolger), Best Featured Actor in a Play (Gideon Glick), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Miriam Buether), Best Costume Design of a Play (Ann Roth), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jennifer Tipton), Best Sound Design of a Play (Scott Lehrer), and Best Original Score (Adam Guettel).
The stunning black, white, and gold book for “King Lear” juxtaposes white space with block quotes and images, with adventurous typography overlaid with cast images. Glenda Jackson is the star of the book and the show, as she plays the titular king and the quotes praise her as such onstage. The Guardian writes “Glenda Jackson attacks Lear with ferocity and precision. She is every inch a king.” The New York Times calls her performance “the only contemporary interpretation of Lear.”
The ensemble cast also features in the beautifully art-designed book, with images of Ruth Wilson, Elizabeth Marvel, Russell Harvard and more populating the pages of pull quotes. The Wall Street Journal says “Elizabeth Marvel is the most original Goneril,” while The Daily Beast says “Ruth Wilson brilliantly doubles as Cordelia and the Fool.”
“King Lear” is nominated for one Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play (Ruth Wilson).
Taylor Mac’s sequel to Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy receives a blood-splattered book, replete with pull quotes, production images, and original illustrations of the massacre onstage. The trio of actors — Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen, and Julie White — dance throughout the pages, which mix text, illustration, and photography.
From Time Out raving “Julie White is screamingly funny” to the Chicago Tribune praising Nathan Lane as “spectacularly good” (Chicago Tribune), every individual on the team gets a shout-out in these collected reviews. NPR captures the quirky ethos: “How did this ever get to Broadway, and now that we have it, what will we ever do without it?”
“Gary” is nominated for seven Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Director of a Play (George C. Wolfe), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Kristine Nielsen, Julie White), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Santo Loquasto), Best Costume Design of a Play (Ann Roth), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer), Best Sound Design of a Play (Dan Moses Schreier).