Maleah Joi Moon, left, and Chris Lee during a performance of "Hell's Kitchen." Source: Marc J. Franklin/Polk & Co. via AP

'Hell's Kitchen' and 'Stereophonic' Lead Tony Award Nominations, Shows Honoring Creativity's Spark

Mark Kennedy READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Two Broadway shows celebrating the origins of sonic creativity – the musical "Hell's Kitchen" fueled by Alicia Keys songs, and the play "Stereophonic" about a '70s rock band at the edge of stardom – each earned a leading 13 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, a list that also saw a record number of women nominated for best director.

A total of 28 shows earned a Tony nod or more, with the musical "The Outsiders," an adaptation of the beloved S. E. Hinton novel and the Francis Ford Coppola film, earning 12 nominations; a starry revival of "Cabaret" starring Eddie Redmayne, nabbing nine; and "Appropriate," Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' searing play about a family reunion in Arkansas where everyone has competing motivations and grievances, grabbing eight.

The nominations marked a smashing of the Tony record for most women named in a single season. The 2022 Tony Awards had held the record for most female directing nominees, with four total across the two races – musical and play. Only 10 women have gone on to win a directing crown.

This year, three women were nominated for best play direction – Lila Neugebauer ("Appropriate"), Anne Kauffman ("Mary Jane") and Whitney White ("Jaja's African Hair Braiding") – while four were nominated in the musical category – Maria Friedman ("Merrily We Roll Along"), Leigh Silverman ("Suffs") Jessica Stone ("Water for Elephants") and Danya Taymor ("The Outsiders").

"The one thing I feel is it's starting to feel less remarkable, which is great news," Stone said after her nomination. "We are directors and not women directors. I'm noticing it more and more and that's a wonderful thing to think about. It's a wonderful place to be."

Rachel McAdams, making her Broadway debut in "Mary Jane," earned a best actress in a play nomination, while "Succession" star Jeremy Strong, got his first ever nomination, for a revival of "An Enemy of the People" and Liev Schreiber of "Ray Donovan" fame nabbd one for leading "Doubt." Jessica Lange in "Mother Play," Sarah Paulson in "Appropriate" and Amy Ryan, who stepped in at the last minute for a revival of "Doubt," also earned nominations in the best actress in a play category.

"The Big Bang Theory" star Jim Parsons earned a supporting nod for "Mother Play," and Daniel Radcliffe on his fifth Broadway show, a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," won his first nomination.

Redmayne in his second show on Broadway got a nod as best lead actor in a musical, as did Brian d'Arcy James for "Days of Wine and Roses," Brody Grant in "The Outsiders," Jonathan Groff in "Merrily We Roll Along" and 73-year-old Dorian Harewood in "The Notebook," the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks romantic tearjerker. Harewood, in his first Broadway show in 46 years, landed his first Tony nomination.

It was one of three nominations for "The Notebook," but the musical's composer, Ingrid Michaelson, didn't earn a nomination, nor did Barry Manilow for his show "Harmony." Will Butler, formerly of Arcade Fire, was expected to earn a nod for his music for "Stereophonic" and it came through.

Redmayne's "Cabaret" co-star Gayle Rankin earned a nomination for best actress in a musical, as did Eden Espinosa in "Lempicka," Maleah Joi Moon in "Hell's Kitchen," Kelli O'Hara in "Days of Wine and Roses" and 71-year-old Maryann Plunkett, who plays the elderly wife at the heart of "The Notebook."

Steve Carell in his Broadway debut in a poorly received revival of the classic play "Uncle Vanya" failed to secure a nod, but starry producers who earned Tony nods include Keys, Angelina Jolie (for "The Outsiders") and Hillary Rodham Clinton (for "Suffs").

The best new musical crown will be a battle between "Hell's Kitchen," "The Outsiders," the dance-heavy, dialogue-less stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens's 2005 album "Illinois," "Suffs," based on the American suffragists of the early 20th century, and "Water for Elephants," which combines Sara Green's 2006 bestseller with circus elements.

The best new play Tony will pit "Stereophonic" against "Mother Play," Paula Vogel's play about a mother and her kids spanning 1964 to the 21st century; "Mary Jane," Amy Herzog's humanistic portrait of a divorced mother of a young boy with health issues; "Prayer for the French Republic," Joshua Harmon's sprawling family comedy-drama that deals with Zionism, religious fervency and antisemitism; and "Jaja's African Hair Braiding," Jocelyn Bioh's comedy about the lives of West African women working at a salon.

Lamar Richardson, an actor-turned-producer, had many reasons to smile Tuesday. He helped produce the new revivals of "The Wiz, ""Merrily We Roll Along" and "Appropriate."

"I really think this is Broadway at its best," he said. "There's really something for everyone. There's the quintessential big jukebox musical. There's the niche moving three-hander plays. I think that this really is a smorgasbord of what Broadway can offer up, and showing it still, of course, is a major player on the art scene. And it's here to stay."

A spring barrage of new shows – 14 shows opened in an 11-day span this year – is not unusual these days as producers hope their work will be fresh in the mind of voters ahead of the Tony Awards ceremony on June 16.

There were some firsts this season, including "Here Lies Love" with Broadway's first all-Filipino cast, which earned four nominations, including best original score for David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim. And seven openly autistic actors starred in "How to Dance in Ohio," a first for Broadway but which got no Tony love.

Academy Award winner and Tony Award-nominee Ariana DeBose, who hosted both the 2023 and 2022 ceremonies, will be back this year and will produce and choreograph the opening number.

This year's location – the David H. Koch Theater – is the home of New York City Ballet and in the same sprawling building complex as Lincoln Square Theater, which houses the Broadway venue Beaumont Theater.

Like last year, the three-hour main telecast will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. EDT/5 p.m.-8 p.m. PDT with a pre-show on Pluto TV, and some Tony Awards handed out there.

This season's Broadway numbers – about $1.4 billion in grosses and 11.1 million tickets – is running slightly less than the 2022-23 season, off about 4% in grosses and down 1% in tickets.

by Mark Kennedy

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