Tony Nominations Snubs and Surprises: Steve Carell and ‘The Wiz’ Miss Out

The day of the Tony Award nominations is like college acceptance day a bit earlier in the spring, but on the scarcity model: Of the dozens of artists eligible in each category, only five or so are “admitted.” That means some great work gets left by the wayside — but also, because the number of nominators is small enough to be idiosyncratic, that plenty of outcomes defy all prediction. Here are our thoughts on this season’s inadvertent (and possibly advertent) snubs, delightful (or mystifying) surprises and other notable anomalies.

A melancholy morning for ‘Vanya.’

Television stars are considered good box office but not always good Tony bait. This year’s crop, including Sarah Paulson, Jeremy Strong, Steve Carell and William Jackson Harper, complicates that wisdom. Paulson is a likely winner but the men are already canceling each other out. Though Carell, in his Broadway debut, and Harper both play characters competing for the love of a married woman in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of “Uncle Vanya,” only Harper, excellent in a role that is usually considered supporting, was nominated as best leading actor in a play. (The production, which featured many lovely performances, was otherwise shut out.) Note that Chekhov let neither man win.

Deep cuts for ‘Stereophonic.’

How the nominators handled the ensemble in David Adjmi’s recording-studio-set play was going to be one of the morning’s most interesting questions. The answer: Generously, as five members of the young cast were singled out for their supporting performances, including Tom Pecinka and Sarah Pidgeon as the fraying central couple, and Juliana Canfield and Will Brill as their bandmates. Without an instrument in hand, Eli Gelb got in, too, as the ’70s rock group’s frazzled sound engineer. Spreading all that love helped take the show to Number One with a Bullet — the most nominated play in Broadway history.

Too many riches to go around.

On the other hand, the superb ensemble casts of “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” and “Illinoise” were skunked. That’s no accident: As more works these days distribute the storytelling burden equally among many members of a cast, odd nomination outcomes — feast or famine — can result.

That’s why we often argue here for a new category that honors ensembles. And Actors’ Equity, the national union representing actors and stage managers, goes further, with its annual award for Broadway choruses. Of the 23 musicals that opened this season, 21 are eligible; the winner will be notified on June 15 — pointedly, one day before the Tonys.

Women lead in directing.

In the history of the awards, only 10 women, beginning in 1998, have won prizes for directing. This year that number seems likely to rise, with seven of the 10 possible directing slots filled by women. Anne Kauffman, Lila Neugebauer and Whitney White have been nominated for best direction of a play, and Maria Friedman, Leigh Silverman, Jessica Stone and Danya Taymor (the niece of Julie Taymor, the first woman to win for direction of a musical) are in contention for best direction of a musical.

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