Tony-nominated performances you can see on Broadway right now
This year’s Tony Awards nominations have been announced. Unlike the Oscars, where you can easily watch most of the nominated films, the Tony Awards are different. The nominees include multiple shows that have already closed and limited-run shows that not many people will get to see.
Luckily, this year, you can still see many of the Tony-nominated performances. Read on to learn about these master performers and why they are worth a trip to Broadway.
Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Parker and Morse acted opposite each other in the original production of Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer-winning play in 1997. And their performances are as gripping and disturbing as ever. Parker is Lil’ Bit, moving seamlessly from a teenage girl to a world-weary 35-year-old woman after being sexually abused. Morse plays Uncle Peck, whose obsession with his niece ruins both of their lives. Yet because Morse is so warm, his menace is a surprising slow burn.
Parker is nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Play and Morse is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play. How I Learned to Drive is playing a limited engagement until June 12.
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Oscar winner Sam Rockwell is no stranger to playing men suffering from toxic masculinity. In this revival of David Mamet’s play set in a junk shop, Rockwell plays Teach, who tries to convince his fellow deadbeats to participate in a heist. In Rockwell’s flailing, desperate performance, it’s clear that some men would rather steal a buffalo nickel than go to therapy. Rockwell is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play. American Buffalo runs in a limited engagement until July 10.
Alfie Allen and David Threlfall, Hangmen
David Threlfall plays an executioner out of a job, while Alfie Allen hangs up his sword from Game of Thrones to play a menacing stranger, in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy Hangmen. As Harry, Threlfall has a delightfully dry delivery and sharp comic timing, while Allen brings a chaotic energy to the proceedings.
These actors will make you laugh and groan at the same time — either way, you’ll be hanging onto their every word. Threlfall is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play, and Allen is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Hangmen plays a limited engagement until June 18.
Rachel Dratch and Julie White, POTUS
If there’s one word to describe Selina Fillinger’s play, it’s unhinged. SNL alum Rachel Dratch and Tony winner Julie White play White House bureaucrats charged with cleaning up a president’s mess. Their performances are anything but boring: Dratch plays a mousy secretary who steals the show when she trips on acid and starts climbing up the walls.
White has the honor of saying the first word in the play, and the wide variety of ways she delivers that vulgar C word (think “see you next Tuesday”) in the following two hours is more than enough to earn her that Tony nomination. Dratch and White are both nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play. POTUS is playing a limited engagement through August 14.
Jesse Williams, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
As a non-baseball fan, it takes a lot to get me to even remotely care about the sport, but the Tony-nominated actors of Take Me Out did that and more. Williams plays Darren, a baseball star who comes out to the public; Oberholtzer is his bigoted teammate; and Ferguson plays a gay accountant who strikes up a friendship with Darren.
Williams has to keep things close to his chest as Darren until he snaps, and when he finally does, not only is it understandable, it’s extremely moving. Oberholtzer’s Shane is equal parts revolting and compelling. And Mason has the most monologues in the show, which Ferguson delivers with such passion that you will come out loving baseball. Ferguson, Williams and Oberholtzer are all nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Take Me Out is playing a limited engagement through June 11.
Myles Frost, MJ: The Musical
It’s not easy to don the sparkling glove of Michael Jackson, but Frost wears it so well that it’s a perfect fit. He has Jackson’s dance moves and vocal inflections down, so much so that the audience of MJ acts like they’re at an actual Michael Jackson concert. Not only that, but Frost’s performance is haunting, showing a Jackson who was beset by trauma and demons yet determined to make a mark through his art. In Frost’s hands, the King of Pop lives again. Frost is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.
Sutton Foster, Hugh Jackman, Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
It’s no surprise that the stars of The Music Man revival were nominated — they deserve it for the tap number at the end of the show alone! Jackman plays Harold Hill, a grifter who is inspired to change his stripes when he falls in love with Foster’s Marian. Jackman turns on the charm as Harold, and it’s easy to see why an entire town would willingly give him all their money.
As Marian, Foster brings her razor-sharp wit, giving this version of the character a probing intelligence without taking away any of her tenderness and romance. Foster and Jackman are nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and Best Leading Actor in a Musical, respectively.
Jayne Houdyshell is also nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in The Music Man as the mayor’s wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn. Houdyshell’s role is fairly small, but she steals the show with her big number. Dressed as the Statue of Liberty, she makes you feel positively patriotic.
Jaquel Spivey, L Morgan Lee, John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
In A Strange Loop, Jaquel Spivey is onstage almost the entire time, playing Usher, a gay Black man who is relentlessly harangued by his self-hating thoughts (some of them played by L Morgan Lee and John-Andrew Morrison). A Strange Loop is Spivey’s first professional gig, but you can’t tell. He gives a sensitive performance, while belting to the rafters. Usher just wants to be loved for who he truly is, and in Spivey’s hands, the audience can’t help but fall in love.
In A Strange Loop, Usher’s Thoughts take on different forms, which means the actors playing them have to be multifaceted as well. Lee and Morrison are both hilarious when the show opens as they jazz-hands to “Intermission Song.” But Lee, as a caring female stranger, provides a stunning moment of clarity for Usher, while Morrison, as Usher’s mother, has us leaning forward in “Periodically”, a snapshot of maternal love and disappointment.
Spivey is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical while Lee is nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and Morrison is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Joaquina Kalukango, Sidney DuPont, A.J. Shively, Paradise Square
A star isn’t born on Broadway every day. But it’s safe to say that this season, that star is Joaquina Kalukango, who is finally able to show off her acting and singing chops as Nelly in Paradise Square. Nelly owns a bar that is a haven for Black people and Irish immigrants in 1863 New York City, and Kalukango grounds the musical with her ferocious yet moving performance.
Sidney DuPont plays a runaway slave while A.J. Shively plays a new Irish immigrant, and both find refuge in Nelly’s bar. Their performances are compelling, but they both truly shine in dancing. When these men compete in a dance-off, you can’t take your eyes off their moves. Kalukango is nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, while DuPont and Shively are nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Patti LuPone, Jennifer Simard, Matt Doyle, Company
Patti LuPone has outdone herself. As Joanne in Company, she not only gets a standing ovation every night when she belts out “The Ladies Who Lunch”, but the production shows LuPone is definitely a team player. She dances in the group numbers and moves furniture around, and she even appears in a memorable dream sequence in the musical that showcases her in a way fans have never seen before.
Meanwhile, Simard is dry and hilarious as Sarah, a married woman on a diet. Simard is able to show off her physical humor and wrings out every bit of laughter from the script. Doyle plays Jamie, a gay man with cold feet on his wedding day. In Doyle’s hands, you have never heard a “Getting Married Today” quite like this. LuPone and Simard are nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Doyle is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Mare Winningham and Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl From the North Country
This musical, featuring Bob Dylan’s songs, is set in a boarding house in 1934 in Minnesota. In one of the show’s multiple plots, Nick Laine (Jay O. Sanders) runs the boarding house and cares for his wife Elizabeth (Mare Winningham), who has dementia. However, Nick plans to run away with one of the boarders, a widow named Mrs. Neilsen (Jeannette Bayardelle). This plot may seem soap opera-ish on paper, but Winningham and Bayardelle give heartbreaking and grounded performances.
As Elizabeth, Winningham goes back and forth between catatonia and blood-chilling outbursts. Bayardelle is wonderfully mysterious in her red dress, and her solo song “Went to See the Gypsy” is a highlight of the show. If you cannot make it to New York to see their Tony-nominated performances, you’re in luck — Girl From the North Country has been filmed and will be released at a later date.
Winningham is nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and Bayardelle is nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Girl From the North County plays a limited engagement through June 11.
Billy Crystal and Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Billy Crystal may not have a big Broadway belting voice, which in a typical musical could spell trouble. But he’s so winning in Mr. Saturday Night as Buddy Young, Jr., a washed-up comic trying to get back into the spotlight, that even his Rex Harrison-like speak-singing reads like a genius character choice. And his scenes with fellow Tony nominee Shoshana Bean are the highlight of the musical.
As Susan Young, Buddy’s daughter, Bean gives the musical its heart, motivating Buddy to prioritize his family instead of himself for the first time. Crystal is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and Bean is nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
Eddie Ryan can be a throwaway role in Funny Girl. After all, he’s just Fanny Brice’s supportive best friend. But in Jared Grimes’s expert hands, Eddie is the highlight of the show. When he tap dances, you forget Funny Girl is a musical about Fanny Brice. And when he leaves the stage, you hope he will come back. Grimes is nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Most Shakespeare buffs know that in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth actually steals the show. This is especially clear in Sam Gold’s barebones production of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Here, Negga acts opposite Daniel Craig’s Macbeth, and she shines so brightly and is so cutthroat that one can imagine her easily taking down 007. Negga is now nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Play. Macbeth is running in a limited engagement through June 10.