The $19.5 million crowd-pleaser Some Like it Hot was nominated for 13 Tony Awards today, the most of any Broadway show this season. In six of the past 10 Tony races, the musical that got the most nominations won the high-profile best musical award.
But a less encouraging trend could derail the Shubert Organization-produced show — which was also nominated for lead actors Christian Borle and J. Harrison Ghee, and for Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman’s toe-tapping score. Eight of the past 10 best musical winners were smallish and experimental — a la A Strange Loop (2022), Hadestown (2019), and, potentially, Kimberly Akimbo.
Capitalized at a relatively modest $7 million, David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s adaptation of Lindsay-Abaire’s play got the season’s best reviews, a slew of prior awards off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater and eight nominations today, including for lead actress Victoria Clark and featured actor Justin Cooley.
Both new musicals need good news. Some Like it Hot, an adaptation of the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy, requires a published weekly gross of at least $900,000 to break even, according to a budget estimate circulated to investors in 2021. Since it began previews, on Nov. 1, 2022, it achieved that milestone for just five weeks.
Kimberly Akimbo — about a teenager with a disease that causes accelerated aging — has averaged $525,000 a week in sales since it opened late last year, below what most Broadway musicals can sustain. (I haven’t seen its financials. Producer David Stone wasn’t available to discuss them.)
As Broadway’s first full season in four years draws to a close, the recovery from the pandemic remains a work in progress. Box office, at $1.48 billion so far in 2022-23, is about 15 percent off from the peak, 2018-19 season. Production expenses have escalated amid the inflation that’s rattling the economy.
Now there’s a snag in the publicity machine. The Writers Guild of America strike upends a prime promotional opportunity during the run-up to the Tony Awards, which are scheduled for June 11 at the United Palace in Washington Heights. The major late night television talk hosts — including Broadway boosters Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert — are shutting down.
During the 2007-08 writers strike, after some suspense, the WGA granted an “interim agreement” for the Grammy Awards to go on as scheduled, with contributions from union writers. The Tonys are to be broadcast on CBS and Pluto TV. A Tony spokeswoman didn’t comment about any contingency plans should the strike drag on.
The best performing new musical this season, & Juliet, with its catalog of Max Martin pop hits, got nine nominations. Investors have been told that their first cash distribution toward recoupment is imminent.
The other best musical nominees, which also each got nine nods: the breezy, rural comedy Shucked, whose nominated book by Robert Horn includes the aphorism that “life is a constant balancing act between wondering why you weren’t invited to something, and wondering how to get out of it;” and New York, New York, the $25 million John Kander musical, also nominated — surprisingly — for its book, by Sharon Washington and David Thompson. New York Times critic Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote that none of its ambitious New York characters “make much of an impression, mired as they are in a syrupy muck of good sentiments and grating civic cheerleading.”
The 40-member nominating committee gave eight nominations to Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd and six to both Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods and Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry’s Parade. Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot, with five, was denied nods for Aaron Sorkin’s revised book and Phillipa Soo’s highly regarded performance as Guenevere.
Surprisingly, there was no best play nomination for Life of Pi, the spectacle with awe-inspiring puppetry that won five Olivier Awards in London. Tom Stoppard’s acclaimed Leopoldstadt — which like New York, New York, is presented by the busy U.K. producer Sonia Friedman — got six nominations, including best play, tied with Jordan Cooper’s short-lived Ain’t No ‘Mo’. The other play nominees are Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Between Riverside and Crazy, Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living and James Ijames’ Fat Ham.
Note: An earlier version of this story compared the number of nominations for Shucked and New York, New York with the musical revivals, while failing to note that revivals are not eligible for certain categories, including score and — except in the case of “revisals” such as Camelot — book.