Last week, the Tony nominations were announced, and it was wonderful to see that “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” had 10 nominations: Best Revival of a Musical; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical–the incomparable Norm Lewis; Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical–the phenomenal Audra McDonald; Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical–Phillip Boykin, who delivered an amazing performance as Crown, and David Alan Grier, who danced and sang as Sportin’ Life; Best Direction of a Musical–Diane Paulus; Best Orchestration–William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke; Best Sound Design of a Musical–Acme Sound Partners; Best Costume Design of a Musical–Esosa; and Best Lighting Design–Christopher Akerlind.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph received a well-deserved nomination for “Ghost the Musical” for her role as the funny Ode Mae, the psychic who helps Sam, a murdered banker, communicate with his girlfriend who is in danger. Randolph’s voice is tremendous and she does a great job as the comic relief.
Veteran actor James Earl Jones is currently on Broadway starring in “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” a revival production, and he is nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play category. Anyone who has seen Jones’ work knows that he wraps himself around whatever role he’s in. However, when I saw this category, I wondered, where is the nomination for Blair Underwood, for his stunning performance as Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire”? When Underwood steps on that stage, he captures the brutish yet vulnerable side of Stanley. Also, did the committee forget that Samuel L. Jackson was on the Broadway stage in “The Mountaintop” and delivered a riveting performance as Dr. King?
In the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, I truly was disappointed and baffled as to how Nicole Ari Parker was not nominated for her performance as Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” When she comes on that stage, she is Blanche. She completely captures the essence of this character and takes the audience through all the tragedies she has suffered. You feel Blanche’s depression, desperation, her jealousy, her great need to be loved and cared for. How does a performance like this go unrecognized?
Also, Angela Bassett took the stage in “The Mountaintop” and gave an electrifying performance–where is her name on the list? She handled that role with such unbelievable energy and gave a magnificent, flawless
performance–how in the world is her name not mentioned?
In the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, I was thrilled to see that Condola Rashad was nominated for her marvelous performance in “Stick Fly.” Yet I wondered where the nomination was for Daphne Rubin-Vega, who gives a splendid performance as Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She brilliantly delivers a performance that complements her co-stars’. Rubin-Vega makes Stella a very understandable and caring character who is torn between her husband and her allegiance to her sister.
The nominating committee missed someone else. In the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, where is the nomination for Crystal Dickinson for her dual performance in “Clybourne Park”? In Act 1, she plays a maid to a rich white family; she has pride and a dignity. She shows respect to her employers, but she also does not want to be too familiar. In Act 2, she plays the niece of a woman who once broke the racial barrier and became the first Black person to buy a home in a white neighborhood. That neighborhood turned Black and the woman has moved out and a white couple is now moving into the now-Black neighborhood.
Dickinson’s character makes sure that the white couple buying the house realize how difficult it was for her aunt when she moved into the neighborhood. She wants to make sure that they realize there is a history that needs to be respected. She goes toe-to-toe with the white man buying the house and she stands her ground. Her performance is terrific, but no nomination? That truly makes no sense.
Well, all we can do now is see what happens on Sunday, June 10, at 8 p.m., when the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards present their awards for the best in Broadway theater.