Musicals, Monologues, and Elephants: Your Essential Guide to the 2024 Tony Awards

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Photo Source: Marc J. Franklin/Matthew Murphy/Julieta Cervantes

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New York…concrete jungle where dreams are made of! Who will realize their dreams at the 77th annual Tony Awards? Perhaps Alicia Keys and Kristoffer Diaz’s electrifying jukebox musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” singing to the tune of 13 nominations; or David Adjmi’s buzzy behind-the-music play “Stereophonic,” which also earned a baker’s dozen.

The Broadway League and American Theatre Wing will celebrate the best of the Great White Way at Lincoln Center on June 16, with the ceremony airing live on CBS. Ariana DeBose will host for her third year running. (One sure bet on this unpredictable night? A show-stopping opening number.)

There’s no shortage of star power among the 2024 nominees, including Hollywood headliners like Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Lange, Rachel McAdams, and Eddie Redmayne. But Broadway wouldn’t be Broadway without seasoned theater vets in the running, among them Kelli O’Hara, Bebe Neuwirth, Jonathan Groff, and Leslie Odom Jr.

This year, we heard scores of new tunes and reinvented classics from Sufjan Stevens (“Illinoise”) and Alicia Keys (“Hell’s Kitchen”), as well as nominees 

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (“Here Lies Love”) and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler (“Stereophonic”). 

There truly was something for everyone this season. So whether you’re a Tony voter or a theater lover, here’s our deep dive into this year’s deserving nominees.

Best New Musical

“Hell’s Kitchen”

This Alicia Keys and Kristoffer Diaz crowd-pleaser, which is loosely based on Keys’ life, cut through a crowded field. The company rattled the rafters as they belted out the Grammy winner’s greatest hits.

“Illinoise”

Set to Stevens’ evocative 2005 concept album “Illinois,” this deeply moving dance musical was choreographed and directed by Tony winner Justin Peck (“Carousel”) from a book he co-wrote with Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury (“Fairview”).

“The Outsiders”

Angelina Jolie co-produced this adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s classic coming-of-age novel from Adam Rapp, Tony winner Justin Levine, and folk duo Jamestown Revival. With 12 nods, the show is the season’s second-most-nominated musical thanks to its inventive staging and lush score.

Suffs”

Not only did multihyphenate Shaina Taub write the book, music, and lyrics for “Suffs” (short for “suffragists”), but she also stars in it. This rousing tuner about women’s fight for the right to vote at the beginning of the 20th century counts Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai among its production team. 

“Water for Elephants”

From page to stage, this adaptation of Sara Gruen’s acclaimed 2006 historical romance novel has brought the big top to Broadway. Rick Elice and PigPen Theatre Co.’s spectacle scored seven nominations, including best direction, book, and choreography, as well as scenic, costume, and lighting design.

Best New Play

Mother Play

“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”

Set in a bustling Harlem hair salon, Jocelyn Bioh’s dazzling play closed back in November after only a month; but it clearly left an indelible impression on Tony voters.

“Mary Jane”

Rachel McAdams makes her magnetic Broadway debut in Amy Herzog’s heartbreaking portrait of a divorced mom caring for her disabled son. 

“Mother Play”

Paula Vogel penned her most personal piece yet with this gin-soaked dark comedy. The Pulitzer Prize winner wrote the play as an homage to her mother and brother, played by Lange and Jim Parsons.

“Prayer for the French Republic”

Following a French Jewish family facing rising antisemitism, this Joshua Harmon show is tragically timely. Considering it won best play at the 2022 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for its Off-Broadway run, could a Tony be next?

“Stereophonic”

Adjmi’s voyeuristic drama follows a Fleetwood Mac–like band on the brink of a breakup—or breakout—as they record their second album. With an impressive 13 nods, it’s officially the most-nominated play of all time.

Leading Actress in a Musical

Eden Espinosa, “Lempicka”

This “Wicked”-ly talented powerhouse trades a broom for a paintbrush in the role of 1920s Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. The show (which recently announced that it would be closing on May 19) marks Espinosa’s return to the Broadway stage after a 16-year absence.

Maleah Joi Moon, “Hell’s Kitchen”

This girl is on fire! Moon makes her Broadway debut in the role of 17-year-old Ali, a piano prodigy living in the big city who has even bigger aspirations. The actor told Vogue that she thinks of her Tony nod as “confirmation to keep going, keep dreaming, and keep trying to inspire others to do the same, always.”

Kelli O’Hara, “Days of Wine and Roses”

Theatergoers used to seeing O’Hara play cockeyed optimists are witnessing her darker side in this musical from Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas, in which she plays a soused spouse whose romance is on the rocks. The Tony-winning soprano sings in 14 of the show’s 18 numbers—seven of which are solos.

Gayle Rankin, “Cabaret”

This Julliard-trained actor made her Broadway debut a decade ago in Sam Mendes’ 2014 “Cabaret,” playing a series of minor roles. Now, she’s slipping into the shoes of the iconic Sally Bowles in Rebecca Frecknall’s immersive revival.

Maryann Plunkett, “The Notebook”

Plunkett is playful and poignant as Older Allie, one of the star-crossed lovers at the center of this musical based on Nicholas Sparks’ bestselling novel. The actor’s devastating performance in Bekah Brunstetter and Ingrid Michaelson’s adaptation is making audiences reach for their $5 souvenir tissue boxes.

Leading Actor in a Musical

Brody Grant, “The Outsiders”

One to watch: Grant as teen orphan Ponyboy Curtis—a role he originated at the La Jolla Playhouse. He exceeds expectations in this literary adaptation, delivering his character’s “I want” song with heart and tenderness.

Jonathan Groff, “Merrily We Roll Along”

This Stephen Sondheim musical was an infamous flop when it debuted in 1981. But Maria Friedman’s revival is a huge critical and commercial hit, largely thanks to Groff’s charismatic star turn as composer-turned-producer Franklin Shepard. “Merrily” marks his third crack at Tony glory following past nominations for “Spring Awakening” and “Hamilton.”

Dorian Harewood, “The Notebook”

This 73-year-old acting vet has earned his first Tony nomination for his performance as Older Noah in this tearjerker. He told Playbill that he credits the legendary Bette Davis (whom he starred opposite in 1974’s “Miss Moffat”) for launching his career.

Brian D’Arcy James, “Days of Wine and Roses”

A midcentury American musical about two people stranded on a sea of addiction? Heavy stuff, for sure; but voters couldn’t keep their eyes (and ears) off of James’ performance as drunken PR exec Joe Clay.

Eddie Redmayne, “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”

What a full-circle moment: This Oscar winner first played the Emcee in a student production of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s iconic musical nearly 30 years ago. He earned an Olivier for his turn in Frecknall’s West End production prior to its Broadway transfer.

Featured Actor in a Musical

Back to the Future

Roger Bart, “Back to the Future: The Musical”

Let’s be honest: The true star of this show is the DeLorean. But great Scott, does Bart commit to his manic take on Doc Brown in this time-traveling adaptation from Bob Gale, Alan Silvestri, and Glen Ballard. Bart previously won a Tony in 1999 for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” 

Joshua Boone, “The Outsiders”

Boone has earned his first Tony nomination for his turn as Ponyboy’s protective mentor, Dallas Winston, a role originated by Matt Dillon in Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic 1983 film. Boone’s past Broadway credits include performances opposite Phylicia Rashad (“Skeleton Crew”) and Bryan Cranston (“Network”).

Brandon Victor Dixon,Hell’s Kitchen”

Thanks to his velvety voice and mesmerizing presence, Dixon elevates what could have been a one-note part as Davis, the lead character’s deadbeat dad. This is the actor’s third Tony nom for acting.

Sky Lakota-Lynch, “The Outsiders”

It’s tricky playing an eternal optimist with an abusive upbringing, but first-time nominee Lakota-Lynch stays gold as greaser Johnny Cade. 

Daniel Radcliffe, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Though he’s performed on Broadway four times before, “Merrily” marks the first Tony nod for this erstwhile Harry Potter. He more than earned it thanks to the way he nimbly navigates Sondheim’s zippy wordplay in “Franklin Shepherd, Inc.” 

Steven Skybell, “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”

How’s this for interconnectedness? Prior to his heartfelt (and heartbreaking) turn as Herr Schultz in Frecknall’s revival, Skybell turned to his good friend Joel Grey for advice, who played the Emcee in both the original 1966 Broadway production and the 1972 movie version of “Cabaret.”

Featured Actress in a Musical

Shoshana Bean, “Hell’s Kitchen”

Bean, who has starred as Elphaba in “Wicked” and Jenna in “Waitress,” earned her first Tony nod in 2022 for her featured role opposite Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night.” She netted a second for her performance as single mom Jersey in Keys’ musical. Bean’s opening night performance was so good that it earned a midshow standing O from Oprah. 

Amber Iman, “Lempicka”

In this divisive show, Iman commands respect as Lempicka’s lover, Rafaela. Her performance is inspiring the next generation of big-voiced women of color: She told Variety that, at the stage door, “Some girls said to me last night, ‘I feel like I have a future in musical theater because of this.’ ” 

Nikki M. James, “Suffs”

This Tony winner performs one of the most powerful numbers in Taub’s musical as civil rights icon Ida B. Wells, calling out the suffrage movement for excluding Black women. Fun fact: The same year James sang “The Greatest Love of All” at her kindergarten graduation, she saw her first Broadway musical, “Cats.”

Leslie Kritzer, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”

As the Lady of the Lake in Josh Rhodes’ revival of this British comedy fave, Kritzer steals the stage from the testosterone-heavy Round Table with the (literal) showstopper “Whatever Happened to My Part?”

Lindsay Mendez, “Merrily We Roll Along”

Five years after her Tony-winning performance in Jack O’Brien’s revival of “Carousel,” Mendez is getting the chance to exercise her musical-theater muscles in this Sondheim classic. As novelist-turned-theater critic Mary Flynn, the actor evokes everything from yearning to deadpan humor to heartbreak.

Bebe Neuwirth, “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”

In a Variety interview, Kander called Neuwirth “an extraordinary technician” for her performance as Fräulein Schneider—high praise coming from the composer of “Cabaret.” The actor is no stranger to Kander and Ebb’s works: She won her last Tony in 1997 for her turn as the murderous Velma Kelly in Walter Bobbie’s revival of “Chicago.”

Leading Actress in a Play

Appropriate

Betsy Aidem, “Prayer for the French Republic”

Aidem is dynamic as Marcelle Salomon Benhamou, the matriarch of a French Jewish family facing an existential crisis: whether to stay put in Paris or flee with her family to Israel following an antisemitic attack. 

Jessica Lange, “Mother Play”

Lange runs the gamut of emotions as overbearing mother Phyllis. This industry vet has earned the rare Triple Crown of Acting: two Oscars, three Emmys, and a Tony. It’s a “Feud”–style face-off between Lange and fellow nominee Sarah Paulson, both go-to’s in Ryan Murphy’s TV repertory company.

Rachel McAdams, “Mary Jane”

This former Mean Girl (and, incidentally, the OG Allie in the 2004 “Notebook” film) headlines Herzog’s acclaimed drama. Impressively, the actor never leaves the stage at any point during the 90-minute runtime.

Sarah Paulson, “Appropriate”

Branden Jacobs Jenkins’ 2013 drama about a dysfunctional family has gotten a searing revival from Lila Neugebauer, led by Paulson as the eldest of three adult siblings. The actor’s blistering monologues are wow-worthy; is it any coincidence her character shares a first name with Tony namesake Antoinette Perry?

Amy Ryan, “Doubt: A Parable”

Ryan stepped in for an ailing Tyne Daly just as previews of this John Patrick Shanley revival were set to begin. The Oscar and Tony nominee’s quick command of the role of stern nun Sister Aloysius is nothing short of a miracle.

Leading Actor in a Play

William Jackson Harper, “Uncle Vanya”

This Emmy nominee is definitely in “The Good Place.” In this Anton Chekhov classic, Astrov is traditionally a supporting role; but in Neugebauer’s revival, Harper imbues the character with leading-man energy.

Leslie Odom Jr., “Purlie Victorious”

Can this Aaron Burr originator follow up his musical win for “Hamilton” with a Tony for a straight play? He just might; Odom has earned raves as the titular traveling preacher in Kenny Leon’s revival of this Ossie Davis satire. The production was a passion project for Odom six years in the making.

Liev Schreiber, “Doubt: A Parable”

This Tony winner may wear black and white as Father Flynn, a priest accused of sexual misconduct; but Schreiber’s performance sits firmly in the gray. This marks his third role in a project dealing with abuse in the Catholic church, following “Ray Donovan” and “Spotlight.” 

Jeremy Strong, “An Enemy of the People”

This Emmy winner’s next move post–Kendall Roy? Ibsen in the round. Strong owns the stage as scorned whistleblower Dr. Thomas Stockmann in Herzog’s crackling adaptation.

Michael Stuhlbarg, “Patriots”

After nearly two decades, Stuhlbarg has made a welcome return to the Broadway stage in Peter Morgan’s political drama, portraying the real-life kingmaker behind Vladimir Putin’s play for the Russian presidency.

Featured Actor in a Play

Will Brill, “Stereophonic”

Given that he workshopped the role of boozy British bassist Reg for years, Brill must be riding a natural high thanks to his Tony nod. TV watchers might recognize him from his performances as Roy Cohn on Showtime’s “Fellow Travelers” and Noah Weissman on Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Eli Gelb, “Stereophonic”

Gelb auditioned for the role of lovable stoner sound engineer Grover a day before the world shut down due to the pandemic; but his performance was more than worth the wait.

Jim Parsons, “Mother Play”

This Emmy winner has been making a big bang on Broadway for years in plays like “The Normal Heart” (2011) and “The Boys in the Band” (2018). But it’s his funny, moving performance as the put-upon Carl in “Mother Play” that nabbed him his first Tony nod.

Tom Pecinka, “Stereophonic”

When Pecinka was a 7-year-old taking the train into the city from Long Island to see Broadway shows, he probably never imagined he’d be a Tony nominee one day. He earned the nod for his turn as polarizing rock-band frontman Peter in Adjmi’s show. Not bad for a guy who’d never played a guitar riff before his callback.

Corey Stoll, “Appropriate” 

Stoll gives a nuanced performance as Bo, the middle Lafayette sibling who supposedly has it together. He’s rational and even-keeled until the weight of his father’s sins collapse around him like a house of cards.

Featured Actress in a Play

Quincy Tyler Bernstine, “Doubt: A Parable”

Bernstine told the New York Times that the jobs that are the most worth it “are the ones that almost break you.” Her performance as Mrs. Muller, the mother of the first Black student at a Catholic school in the Bronx, broke us. 

Juliana Canfield, “Stereophonic”

Fake it till you make it? Canfield told a li’l white lie to producers when asked if she could play the piano (she hadn’t tickled the ivories since the age of 12). But it more than worked out, earning her a Tony nod for her captivating performance as the band’s pianist, Holly. 

Celia Keenan-Bolger, “Mother Play”

Keenan-Bolger’s last unflinchingly honest portrayal of a daughter—Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”—earned her a Tony. But Vogel wrote the role of Martha specifically for her; and it’s easy to see why.

Sarah Pidgeon, “Stereophonic”

“Rumours” have it that Diana, Pidgeon’s character in “Stereophonic,” is based on Stevie Nicks. Whether or not that’s true, the scene that surely sealed the deal for her nomination comes in Act 3, when Diana struggles to hit a high note in the recording booth. 

Kara Young, “Purlie Victorious”

In Davis’ play, this three-time nominee shifts gears from dramatic roles in plays like Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s” and Martyna Majok’s “Cost of Living,” showcasing her comedic chops as the young Lutiebell.

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