2020 Tony noms: A who’s who of theater

Linda Armstrong | 10/29/2020, midnight
Although theater will not be back until May 2021, the 2020 Tony nominations are out and the awards will occur ...
Adrienne Warren in ‘TINA - THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL’ Manuel Harlan photo

Although theater will not be back until May 2021, the 2020 Tony nominations are out and the awards will occur virtually this year, at a date to be announced. Though the season was abruptly interrupted, there were a lot of wonderful African American productions, writers, performers and creative talent that made the cut to be nominated for this coveted honor.

The musical which told the phenomenal, powerful story of Tina Turner’s life, “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” earned 12 Tony nominations, including best musical. The musical, which had a predominantly Black cast, also got playwright Katori Hall nominated for best book of a musical, along with her co-writers Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins. It was no surprise when Adrienne Warren earned the nomination for best leading actress in a musical for her portrayal of Tina Turner. Nor was it surprising that Daniel J. Watts, her co-star portraying Ike Turner, was nominated for best featured actor in a musical. It was an honor well deserved when theater veteran Myra Lucretia Taylor was nominated for her role as Tina Turner’s grandmother, a role she delivered with intense heart!

One of the nominations for the incredible musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which earned the most this season with 15 nominations, went to Celia Rose Gooding for best featured actress in a musical. “Moulin Rouge,” which received 14 nominations, a musical about a wild, sexy, turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, earned a memorable Tony nomination for best featured actor in a musical for the one-and-only Sahr Ngaujah, who most will remember for originating the role of “Fela” in the Broadway musical by the same name.

With 12 nominations to its credit, “Slave Play” by African American Jeremy O. Harris is up for best play; Robert O’Hara is nominated for best direction of a play; Joaquina Kalukango is nominated for best leading actress in a play; Ato Blankson-Wood is up for best featured actor in a play; Chalia La Tour received a nomination for best featured actress in a play; and Dede Ayite is nominated for best costume design.

A play that truly was stunning to experience was when record six-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald performed in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” The play is nominated for best revival of a play. Of course, Audra McDonald is nominated for best leading actress in a play.

“A Soldier’s Story” by Charles Fuller was finally brought to Broadway and it was magnificent! The production is up for seven Tony nominations, including best revival of a play. The superb Kenny Leon, who directed this work with originality and tapped into an unbridled, delightful, energy and spirit, is nominated for best direction of a play. Anyone who saw this brilliant production understands why Blair Underwood, who played Captain Richard Davenport, was nominated for best leading actor in a play. It is also quite understandable why his co-star David Alan Grier, who portrayed with strength and conviction, but also a bit of sadness, harsh Sgt. Vernon Waters, is being recognized with a nomination for best featured actor in a play. Dede Ayite was obviously very busy in the 2019-2020 season, as she is up for another Tony nomination for best costume design of a play for “A Soldier’s Play.” Allen Lee Hughes is nominated for best lighting design of a play.

The 74th Annual Tony Awards for the 2019-2020 season are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. I can’t wait to find out the date and eventually experience the Tony awards virtually. With everything that’s been going on with COVID-19, the theatrical community has been stepping up to the plate and finding ways to make things happen with style, excitement and creativity.