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5 Broadway Performances Tony Nominators Need to Remember

These are the actors we'd love to see get their due on nominations day.

So many shows open over the course of a season, and so many great performers get to strut their stuff on stages across midtown. But when it comes to Tony nods, there are only a few slots that can be filled, and unfortunately the performances that get passed over are often the ones that happened early in the season. With that in mind, we've compiled a list of the 5 performances we'd most love to see recognized on nominations morning, in the hopes that they won't be forgotten.

Joan Allen in The Waverly Gallery on Broadway.
(© Brigitte Lacombe)

Joan Allen
Ellen in The Waverly Gallery

The centerpiece of last fall's Broadway revival of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery was obviously Elaine May's heartbreaking turn as Gladys, an elderly woman in the throes of dementia. But no less good was Joan Allen's marvelous work as Gladys's put-upon daughter Ellen, who has no other choice but to become her mother's caretaker. Allen's portrayal of a woman just trying to do her best and occasionally failing — particularly during a second-act scene where she loses her cool — was overwhelming in its realism, and wholly recognizable to anyone who has gone through a similar event in real life. It's the kind of performance that could only be born out of a lived experience, and it should definitely be remembered come Tony time. — David Gordon

Marylouise Burke starred in the recent revival of True West.
(© David Gordon)

Marylouise Burke
Mom in True West

One of the main reasons to see any revival of Sam Shepard's True West is to see two great actors go head-to-head, and Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano did not disappoint in Roundabout Theatre Company's recent production. But just when you thought there were no more comic heights to scale in Hawke and Dano's raucously entertaining game of sibling one-upmanship, James Macdonald's production offered an unexpected trump card in the form of Marylouise Burke. As the mother of feuding brothers Lee and Austin, Burke arrives on the scene late in the second act, surveys the damage Hawke and Dano have wrought, and proceeds to offer a master class in how to wring comedy from the most minimal of means. In just a few minutes of stage time, Burke, bursting with genuine familial warmth and underlying exasperation, proved to be a welcome oasis of sanity amid the mounting derangement, sketching in a subtly hilarious portrait of a matriarch who long ago accepted her sons' dysfunction. — Kenji Fujishima

John Clay III and Jeremy Pope in Choir Boy on Broadway.
(© Matthew Murphy)

John Clay III
AJ in Choir Boy

Among the cast of the Manhattan Theatre Club's recent Broadway production of Choir Boy, the most talked-about member has certainly been its star, Jeremy Pope (who is already starring in his second Broadway show, Ain't Too Proud). But the ensemble of Tarell Alvin McCraney's play, which is set in a prep school aimed at educating black men, was chock full of shining Broadway performances — many of them debuts. Another standout worth remembering was John Clay III, who played best friend and roommate AJ to Pope's Pharus. The character of AJ is an almost impossibly evolved high-school senior who offers his friend Pharus an intimate moment of communion in the play's penultimate, and possibly most affecting, scene. In the hands of a lesser actor, AJ's kindness could feel false or even totally unrealistic, but Clay's performance made the scene — and the production — one of the most memorable of the year. — Bethany Rickwald

Robin De Jesús in The Boys in the Band on Broadway.
(© Joan Marcus)

Robin De Jesús
Emory in The Boys in the Band

A game-changing 1968 play about a group of gay men celebrating a birthday party, The Boys in the Band celebrated its 50th anniversary with a star-studded Broadway revival. It opened last May, making it the very first show of the 2018-19 season, and therefore the one likeliest to be forgotten by Tony nominators. That's a shame, because it featured some of the best performances of the year. Foremost among them was Robin De Jesús, who was simultaneously hilarious and tragic as Emory, the screaming queen of the story. Emory is the only one of the men who refuses to butch up when a straight party crasher arrives, and De Jesús played him in a manner that was both hilarious and impossibly fierce. He's not just comic relief, but the bravest character in the play. — Zachary Stewart

Bonnie Milligan in Head Over Heels on Broadway.
(© Joan Marcus)

Bonnie Milligan
Pamela in Head Over Heels

Head Over Heels — the modern-ish retelling of Sir Philip Sidney's The Arcadia set to the songs of the Go-Go's — was the first musical to open in the 2018-19 Broadway season and the second to close (Gettin' the Band Back Together won that race). Even though the show just barely squeaked into 2019, Bonnie Milligan left a lasting impression with her debut performance as Princess Pamela, the self-absorbed noblewoman who relishes her own beauty and falls in love with her servant Mopsa. Let's just say there's a reason she dubbed herself @BeltingBonnie on Twitter (her singing tirade in "How Much More" was one of the most extraordinarily destructive things I've seen), and if nominators had the chance to hear Milligan in full voice, they can — and I think will — remember her come awards season. — Hayley Levitt