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.”
Tom Kitt, honored for orchestrations for “Jagged Little Pill,” thanked Morissette and his collaborators, but also graciously nodded to the more than a dozen shows that were unable to open due to the pandemic.
“I also want to acknowledge all of the shows that were not able to open, so today I’m thinking of all of the great artists who were supposed to be a part of the ’19-’20 season, and I can’t wait to see all of their beautiful work when Broadway returns,” he said in a statement.
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.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Carmen Pavlovic, a lead producer of “Moulin Rouge!" “It’s obviously not the year any of us imagined. At the same time I feel honored to have the opportunity to be part of such a history-making moment — I think we will all remember this year for many decades to come."
Two very different offerings are tied with 12: “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary,” and “Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class. The dozen nods make “Slave Play” the most nominated play in Tony history.
“The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century.
“Theater, at its best, helps call us to those better instincts of our nature. I look forward to the day we can all return safely, joyfully to those sacred spaces and to tell each other stories of our lives and of our nation,” Lopez said.
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 — had no eligible shows at all and was cut.
Pavlovic joked that Tveit deserved the Tony because he's “in a class all of his own anyway.” She added: “It’s his moment, for sure.”
In another sign of a strange season, the best score category — an honor for original music and lyrics that is usually dominated by musicals — is filled this year with five plays. It was a slap in the face for the sole original musical theater score that managed to open, "The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.”
In the performance categories, Adrienne Warren got a best leading actress in a musical nomination for inhabiting the lead character in “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.” She is joined by Elizabeth Stanley for playing a woman battling addiction in “Jagged Little Pill” and Karen Olivo for bringing down the house with Katy Perry’s “Firework” in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”
“I am humbled to be telling the messy story of a fierce mother, a fighter, a survivor, and an addict," said Stanley. "I feel very proud to be a part of a production that is doing what I think art does best: helping us see ourselves and encouraging us to heal — which feels more necessary than ever.”
In the best actress in a drama category, Mary-Louise Parker earned a nod with “The Sound Inside” and is joined by Laura Linney, who is looking for her first Tony win with the solo show “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and Joaquina Kalukango, who gave a wrenching performance in “Slave Play.” Six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald wasn't denied a spot because her revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” closed early.
“I am so proud to be amongst a small handful of great actresses representing the past Broadway season, truncated as it was," said Linney. “Now more than ever, we need to value the power and necessity of the performing arts, especially the theater, in American culture.”
Some Hollywood actors got to celebrate Thursday, with Blair Underwood, David Alan Grier, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Sturridge all getting nominations. Broadway mainstays like Danny Burstein and John Benjamin Hickey also were recognized.
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.
Grier got his fourth nomination, this time for playing a tough military man in a revival of “A Soldier’s Play.” The COVID-19 shutdown came two days before the end of the play’s run and he wasn't sure what the future for theater was going to be.
“We made it this far,” he said by phone Thursday. “We're not back yet but I feel the world, especially the theater world, the arts community, needs this, as some little boost of something. Just to tell the universe that we're still alive.”
The nominations were drawn 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 provide free tickets for 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 Tony-winning nominations host, promised during Thursday's announcement.
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.