Hadestown, singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell’s Broadway debut, earned a leading 14 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, followed by the jukebox musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, built around songs by the titular Motown group, which received a dozen nominations.
Hadestown was initially presented at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in 2017, as well as in London’s West End, before its Broadway debut in March.
Des McAnuff, former artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is up for best direction of a musical in Ain’t Too Proud, which charts the rise, sacrifices and challenges facing the group that sang Baby Love and My Girl.
Sergio Trujillo, who was raised in Toronto, has received a nod for his choreography of the show.
“I think when people come to the Imperial Theatre, they’ll find that the story is as pertinent now as it was when they lived it,” McAnuff said. “It applies to Black Lives Matter and what’s going on in this country in terms of the tensions today.”
McAnuff said it has been a strong season for plays, and wildly eclectic. “To me, that’s what the American theatre’s about,” he said, adding he was surprised that Aaron Sorkin wasn’t recognized for his “brilliant” adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, but “that speaks to the fact that there’s so many worthy works out there.”
Toronto-born theatre projection designer Peter Nigrini is being recognized for best scenic design of a musical in Ain’t Too Proud, and shares a nomination for best lighting design of a musical for Beetlejuice alongside American Kenneth Posner.
The musical Hadestown, which intertwines the myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and Hades and Persephone, bested more familiar names, including stage adaptations of hit movies Tootsie and Beetlejuice, which both also got best-musical nods. The giddy, heartwarming The Prom rounds out the best new musical category.
Hadestown also was the only new musical on Broadway directed by a woman – previous Tony nominee Rachel Chavkin, who earned another on Tuesday.
“I’m trying not to swear, but I am so proud of the 14 nominations. There is just not a weak spot on the team. There is no place where we haven’t all been working our asses off to make this show feel as ancient and as ‘now’ as possible, simultaneously,” she said by phone.
The best-play nominees are the Northern Irish drama The Ferryman, from Jez Butterworth; James Graham’s Ink, about Rupert Murdoch; Taylor Mac’s Broadway debut, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus; Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy; and Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, a personal tour of the landmark document at the heart of so many American divisions.
Theatre veterans were surprised to see Sorkin’s Mockingbird; Hillary and Clinton, about Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; and the stage adaptation of the media satire film Network overlooked for best-play nods, although they did earn recognition in other categories.
The nomination for Tootsie means composer and lyricist David Yazbek could be one step closer to back-to-back wins – his show The Band’s Visit won best new musical last year.
Laurie Metcalf got an acting nod for Hillary and Clinton; if she wins this year, she will be the first person to win acting Tonys three years consecutively (having won for 2018’s Three Tall Women and 2017′s A Doll’s House, Part 2).
A sweet Kiss Me, Kate and a dark Oklahoma! make up the best musical revival category; they were the only eligible nominees. The best play revival nominees are Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, Lanford Wilson’s Burn This, Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song and Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery.
Ali Stroker, the first actress who needs a wheelchair for mobility known to have appeared on a Broadway stage, earned a nomination for Oklahoma!
Nominees for best actor in a play include Paddy Considine from The Ferryman, Bryan Cranston in Network, Jeff Daniels in To Kill a Mockingbird, Adam Driver in Burn This and Jeremy Pope in Choir Boy. Pope is also up for a featured role in Ain’t Too Proud.
The category of best actress in a play includes Annette Bening in All My Sons, Laura Donnelly in The Ferryman, Elaine May in The Waverly Gallery, Janet McTeer in Bernhardt/Hamlet, Metcalf in Hillary and Clinton and Schreck from What the Constitution Means to Me.
Those nominated for best actor in a musical are Brooks Ashmanskas from The Prom, Derrick Baskin in Ain’t Too Proud, Alex Brightman from Beetlejuice, Damon Daunno in Oklahoma! and Santino Fontana in Tootsie.
Patrick Page, who has appeared in more than a dozen Broadway shows including Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Lion King and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, earned his first Tony nomination for playing Hades in Hadestown.
“I think I just appreciate it more than I can say really. It’s something I wanted. It’s hard to want something,” he said. “There have been a lot of times where I have been in the mix and haven’t been nominated. So it’s just a wonderful feeling and frankly a bit of a relief. And especially for such a wonderful show.”
Nominees for best leading actress in a musical are Stephanie J. Block in The Cher Show, Caitlin Kinnunen and Beth Leavel both in The Prom, Eva Noblezada in Hadestown and Kelli O’Hara in Kiss Me, Kate.
Leavel, who earned a Tony in 2006 for The Drowsy Chaperone, joked by phone that she paced “about four miles” waiting for the live announcement: “I got my steps in!” Her musical, about four fading stars whose desperate need for a new stage leads them to protest a small-town prom, earned seven nods. She expects an especially fun performance Tuesday night after the nominations: “It’s just a special evening,” she said. “We get to share this moment. It’s really cool.”
Block, a veteran of Broadway shows such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Falsettos, got her third nomination as one of three actresses who portray the title character in The Cher Show.
“Stepping into the life of Cher each night and getting to tell her story eight times a week is a one-of-a-kind experience I will always cherish. This show has truly changed me,” she said in a statement.
Hollywood A-listers Cranston, Driver, May and Daniels made the cut, but some of their starry colleagues did not, including Kerry Washington, Armie Hammer, Ethan Hawke, Joan Allen, Michael Cera, Lucas Hedges and Keri Russell.
For a few theatre veterans behind the scenes, the nominations were doubly good: Ann Roth was nominated for creating the costumes for both Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus and To Kill a Mockingbird, while William Ivey Long earned nods for both Beetlejuice and Tootsie.
The awards will be presented June 9 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, airing on CBS. James Corden, the host of CBS’s The Late Late Show and a Tony winner himself, will host.
Associated Press, with files from Globe staff and The Canadian Press