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'Jagged Little Pill' leads Tony nominations; "Slave Play," developed at O'Neill Center in Waterford, earns 12 nods

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The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, earned a leading 15 Tony Award nominations Thursday, as the Broadway community took the first steps to celebrate a pandemic-shortened season that upended the theater world. 

There are three best musical nominees: “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge: The Musical” and “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” And there are five best play nominees: “Grand Horizons,” “The Inheritance,” “Sea Wall/A Life,” “Slave Play” and “The Sound Inside.”

Nipping on the heels of “Jagged Little Pill” for overall numbers of nominations is “Moulin Rouge!,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, that got 14 nods.

Two very different offerings are tied with 12: “Slave Play," Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, exploring the legacy of slavery in interracial sexual dynamics, and “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary.”

("Slave Play" was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford during its 2018 National Playwrights Conference.)

The nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals, a fraction of the 34 shows the season before. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories; this year there are 25 with several depleted ones.

The category for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical had just one actor — Aaron Tveit from “Moulin Rouge!” One category — best musical revival — has no eligible shows at all and was cut.

In another sign of a strange season, the best score category — an honor for music and lyrics that is usually dominated by musicals — is filled this year with five plays.

Broadway theaters abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows — including 16 that were still scheduled to open in the spring. The cutoff for eligibility for all shows was set at Feb. 19.

The nominations came from 10 new plays, four new musicals and four play revivals. Two high profile shows — “Freestyle Love Supreme” and “David Byrne’s American Utopia” — did not accommodate Tony voters and weren’t eligible.

The 2020 Tony Awards ceremony will be broadcast digitally and take place later this year, at a date still to be announced. It’s one of few bright spots for theater fans — Broadway will be shut down until at least May 30.

"Theater will survive," James Monroe Iglehart, the nominations host, said during Thursday's announcement.

 

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