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Predicting the Tonys: A Guide to the Actors Eligible in This Very Strange Season

The second in a three-part series about how the 2020 Tony Awards could shake out.

The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing have announced that they will present the 2020 Tony Awards this year after all, in a digital format. Details are scarce, but here's what we know: The newly determined cutoff date will be February 19, and therefore, the last two shows to open before the shutdown, West Side Story and Girl From the North Country, will not be eligible (the reason being they didn't invite enough voters to see them), nor will Six, which was supposed to open the night theaters closed.

Still, there are 18 productions and dozens of worthy actors and designers left to get nominated in 26 categories. Here, we look at the performers from the season, and explain the various Tonys rules for categories that may not seem particularly full. For a look at the eligible shows, click here.

Chris McCarrell in The Lightning Thief and Aaron Tveit in Moulin Rouge!
(© Jeremy Daniel/Matthew Murphy)

Best Actor in a Musical

Eligible Artists:

Chris McCarrell, The Lightning Thief
Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge!

Yup, there are the only two eligible nominees, which is, as far as I can tell, a first for this category. The closest similarity I could find was in 1970, when three actors were nominated. There's more of a precedence in the Best Actress category — back in 1995, Glenn Close and Rebecca Luker were the only two nominees, with Close winning for Sunset Boulevard (it looks like they deliberately chose not to nominate Megan Mullally that year for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), and before that, Gwen Verdon and Miyoshi Umeki went head to head in 1959, with Verdon winning for Redhead.

There are a few options here. They could eliminate the category, which doesn't seem too fair. They could combine it with Best Actress in a Musical and create a nongendered category, which would look admirable and progressive, two qualities that are the complete antithesis of what the Tonys have proved themselves to be year after year, so this probably won't happen.

Or, they could add two more performers who had previously been ruled as featured: Daniel J. Watts, Ike in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and Sean Allan Krill, Steve in Jagged Little Pill. But are these leading roles? You can make more of a case for Watts than Krill, and that's where problems may arise.

So unless they revise this previous determinations, combine acting categories, or do away with the whole thing altogether, it looks like either McCarrell or Tveit, both first-time nominees, are taking home their first Tony.

Adrienne Warren, Elizabeth Stanley, Karen Olivo, and Kristin Stokes
(© Manuel Harlan/Matthew Murphy/Jeremy Daniel)

Best Actress in a Musical

Eligible Artists:

Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge!
Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill
Kristin Stokes, The Lightning Thief
Adrienne Warren, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

There are a variety of Tonys rules when it comes to the number of slots in a category. If there are nine eligible nominees, there will be five slots. If there are fewer than nine, there will be four slots. But I can find nothing about four or fewer eligible nominees (see above), which leads me to believe that if the Tonys keep everything traditional, this will likely be the lineup.

But even if they do combine the Best Actor and Best Actress category, we all know who's probably going to win.

Samuel H. Levine, Kyle Soller, and Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance
(© Marc Brenner)

Best Actor in a Play

Eligible Artists:

Ian Barford, Linda Vista
Andrew Burnap, The Inheritance
Brian Cox, The Great Society
Charlie Cox, Betrayal
Jake Gyllenhaal, Sea Wall/A Life
Tom Hiddleston, Betrayal
Samuel H. Levine, The Inheritance
Jonathan Pryce, The Height of the Storm
Campbell Scott, A Christmas Carol
Michael Shannon, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune
Kyle Soller, The Inheritance
Tom Sturridge, Sea Wall/A Life
Blair Underwood, A Soldier's Play

With more than nine potential nominees, this category will have five slots. It's interesting to note that there are three men from The Inheritance here. Back when that was announced, everyone looked at the ruling askance: in a full season, they would probably cancel each other out. But now, all three actors from The Inheritance actually have a great chance of getting nominated.

Updated to reflect the eligibility decisions for A Soldier's Play and Grand Horizons.

Joaquina Kalukango and Paul Alexander Nolan in Slave Play.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Best Actress in a Play

Eligible Artists:

Zawe Ashton, Betrayal
Eileen Atkins, The Height of the Storm
Joaquina Kalukango, Slave Play
Laura Linney, My Name Is Lucy Barton
Audra McDonald, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune
Mary-Louise Parker, The Sound Inside
Marisa Tomei, The Rose Tattoo

This category only has seven eligible nominees, so there will only be four available slots.

Updated to reflect the eligibility decisions for Grand Horizons and My Name Is Lucy Barton.

The featured acting categories are where it gets dicey every year, since anyone who's not ruled as a lead can be featured. Therefore, all four featured acting categories have more than 9 potential nominees, so they will each have at least five slots (more if there are ties). Here are many of the options.

Danny Burstein in Moulin Rouge!
(© Matthew Murphy)

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

Eligible Artists:

Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge!
Antonio Cipriano, Jagged Little Pill
Jorrel Javier, The Lightning Thief
Derek Klena, Jagged Little Pill
Ryan Knowles, The Lightning Thief
Sean Allan Krill, Jagged Little Pill
Tam Mutu, Moulin Rouge!
Sahr Ngaujah, Moulin Rouge!
James Hayden Rodriguez, The Lightning Thief
Ricky Rojas, Moulin Rouge!
Daniel J. Watts, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

As mentioned above, Krill and Watts landed in this category automatically because they're listed below the title. Their respective producers can repetition to have them considered as lead. Without them, it's going to be a Moulin Rouge!-heavy category.

Lauren Patten and the company of Jagged Little Pill.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Eligible Artists:

Kathryn Gallagher, Jagged Little Pill
Celia Rose Gooding, Jagged Little Pill
Robyn Hurder, Moulin Rouge!
Dawnn Lewis, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill
Sarah Beth Pfeifer, The Lightning Thief
Jalynn Steele, The Lightning Thief
Myra Lucretia Taylor, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Skye Turner, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

We can see three Jagged nominees and two from Tina to round out the category. Tough call.

The company of A Soldier's Play
(© Joan Marcus)

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Eligible Artists:

Eddie Arnold, Betrayal
Nnamdi Asomugha, A Soldier's Play
Ato Blankson-Wood, Slave Play
Grantham Colman, The Great Society
James Cromwell, Grand Horizons James Cusati-Moyer, Slave Play'
Emun Elliott, The Rose Tattoo
David Alan Grier, A Soldier's Play
Billy Eugene Jones, A Soldier's Play
Sullivan Jones, Slave Play
John Benjamin Hickey, The Inheritance
Paul Hilton, The Inheritance
Will Hochman, The Sound Inside
Ben McKenzie, Grand Horizons
J. Alphonse Nicholson, A Soldier's Play
Paul Alexander Nolan, Slave Play
Jerry O'Connell, A Soldier's Play
Maulik Pancholy, Grand Horizons
Jim True-Frost, Linda Vista
Michael Urie, Grand Horizons
Troy West, Linda Vista

Updated to reflect the eligibility decisions for A Soldier's Play and Grand Horizons.

Lois Smith and Samuel H. Levine in The Inheritance.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Eligible Artists:

Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons
LaChanze, A Christmas Carol
Chalia La Tour, Slave Play
Priscilla Lopez, Grand Horizons
Irene Sofia Lucio, Slave Play
Andrea Martin, A Christmas Carol
Annie McNamara, Slave Play
Sally Murphy, Linda Vista
Caroline Neff, Linda Vista
Ashley Park, Grand Horizons
Lois Smith, The Inheritance
Chantal Thuy, Linda Vista
Cora Vander Broek, Linda Vista

Updated to reflect the eligibility decisions for Grand Horizons.


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