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Hello, Tony Noms!

A whole lotta Jews received Tony nominations, including ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ director Michael Greif

by
Gabriela Geselowitz
May 02, 2017
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Bette Midler as Dolly Levi in 'Hello, Dolly!' on BroadwayFacebook

Do you smell that? It’s the smell of the 2017 Tony nominations wafting in on a spring breeze. And surprise, surprise: Jews stand to win big next month at the Tonys, with involvement with virtually all the major shows, both musicals and plays.

Let’s start with musicals. Hello, Dolly! has a whopping 10 nominations, including for director Jerry Zaks, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and Best Revival of a Musical—an impressive feat for a production that’s ineligible for writing awards. Bette Midler as Best Actress in a Musical may be the star to beat; she already has an honorary Tony, but can she get a competitive one, too? Well, she’s up against not one but both stars of War Paint, including Patti LuPone as Jewish makeup magnate Helena Rubinstein (the show didn’t fare well nomination-wise overall, but its costumes, by Catherine Zuber, stand a real chance).

Dear Evan Hansen, arguably the front-runner for Best Musical, isn’t an explicitly Jewish play but a lot of its nominees sure are. Take director Michael Greif, songwriter Benj Pasek (who recently won a Best Song Oscar), and playwright Steven Levenson of this year’s off-Broadway Jewish family drama If I Forget. But a special shout-out to Best Actor nominee Ben Platt, who not only has a strong chance of winning, but is from an extremely involved Jewish family—the guy even went on late night TV and sang his Camp Ramah Hebrew translation of “Luck Be a Lady.” And his father is also nominated for a Tony! Marc Platt is a producer of Indecent (more on that in a bit).

Another Best Musical nominee, Come From Away, not only has a character who’s a rabbi, but is the creation of a Jewish (married) writing team; Irene Sankoff and David Hein share two Tony noms. The 9/11 musical is quite a departure from what used to be their best known work: the semi-autobiographical My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.

Falsettos snagged five nominations, including for Jewish actor Brandon Uranowitz and Best Revival of a Musical. The exhaustively titled Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical got nominated only for Best Choreography, but in a year where several musicals were snubbed altogether, it could have done worse.

Finally, it bears mentioning that the quirky Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812‘s director Rachel Chavkin is nominated—the musical is actually leading in nominations this year with 12. Also, Josh Groban, who has a kinda sorta Jewish lineage—he starred in his High School’s production of Fiddler, to boot (see below!)—is nominated for Best Actor in a Musical.

As for plays, the Yiddish-infused Indecent did, well, decently. In addition to Lighting Design of a Play, it has two other important nominations: Best Play (its writer is Paula Vogel), and Best Director of a Play for Rebecca Taichman. So congratulations to the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, one of its producers!

A note on Vogel and Taichman: The team over at women’s theater magazine The Interval crunched some important numbers—in a decent year for women and plays, we still have a ways to go. For example, Taichman is the 14th female Best Director of a Play nominee since 2000 (as opposed to 62 men). And if Indecent were to win Best Play, it would be the fourth time a play written by a woman without a co-author has taken that award.

In other play news, while it’s not written from a Jewish perspective, Oslo, the play about the 1993 peace process, is in second place for play nominations with seven, including Best Play.

Dead Jewish playwrights are actually having a great revival season: Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes has six nominations, Ben Hecht’s The Front Page got two, and Arthur Miller’s The Price snagged one (for Danny DeVito, believe it or not).

In another shoutout, Sam Gold (he has a Tony for Fun Home) is nominated for best Director for A Doll’s House: Part 2.

Congratulations to all of these nominees, all other Jewish nominees, and all of the nominees! The Tony Awards are Sunday, June 11 (thank God, it’s not Shavuot this year).

Gabriela Geselowitz is a writer and the former editor of Jewcy.com.

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