The highly sought after Tony Award is something every performer or Broadway community member hopes to receive one day. They all do what they do for the love of art itself but there’s nothing like being recognized by your peers for putting your everything into a show, performance, director’s chair.
The American Theatre Wing has specific guidelines that it operates under in order to nominate these shows and performers for a Tony Award. For example, with the exception of a revival, the shows that are nominated are new productions that have hit Broadway within a set timeframe.
A production must make tickets available to all Tony voters
These type of tickets are also known as complimentary tickets. Productions must offer up tickets to all Tony Award voters in order for that production to be considered for nomination. The 2017 revival of Sunday in the Park with George was a limited engagement that, after seeing how successful the run began, decided to extend their engagement. However, the removed themselves from consideration because, per the production team, they wanted to allow for other new shows to have the chance at the awards. Many have believed that their main motive was to not have to offer up 1,600 tickets as complimentary tickets that would otherwise be sold to a regular audience member.
A performer can only win once for a role
This may sound strange but sometimes performers reprise a role they originated. This was the case in the 2017 revival of Sunset Boulevard. Leading lady Glenn Close originated the role on Broadway in 1994 and subsequently won the Leading Actress in a Musical award. When she reprised the role in 2017, she was immediately deemed ineligible for a nomination in the Leading Actress category for musicals. Instead, the Tony Award went to Bette Midler.
You have to be there opening night
A performer must perform in the role on opening night in order to be eligible for a nomination. This sounds obvious but when Andy Karl was in previews for Groundhog Day, he became injured. He finished that performance and came back a few nights later to open the show before allowing his understudy to go on. This was to ensure that he could be nominated for his role (he was).
Where your name appears, matters
Stephanie J. Block is Broadway’s perennially ignored performer. A consummate performer, who should have several Tony Awards at this point, she found herself in the revival of Falsettos but was then nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical regardless of featuring heavily in the show. Why wasn’t she nominated as Leading Actress in a Musical? It was simply a matter of the placement of her name.
When the production puts forth it’s billing, the Tony Awards considers a performer automatically eligible for the “leading” category if their name appears above the title of the show on the show promotional materials. If their name appears below the title, they are considered only for a “featured” nomination. Producers are able to request that performers be considered for different categories but that’s all it is. A request. The Tony Awards administration committee has no obligation to comply.
On the other end of the spectrum, Broadway’s instant hit Dear Evan Hansen had no performers names above the title so the Tony Award administration committee overruled their guideline and nominated Ben Platt in the Lead Actor category.