The question was never whether Hamilton would dominate this year's Tony Award nominations, but to what extent.
On Tuesday morning, the world found out. Lin-Manuel's groundbreaking, hip-hop-infused account of our "founding father without a father" — already the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and pretty much every theater honor you could name — reaped 16 nods (including best musical, naturally, breaking the record shared by Billy Elliot and The Producers. Miranda was acknowledged for his book, score and acting, while three other performers in the cast composed more than half of the featured-actor-in-a-musical field.
But rather than merely overshadow other nominees, Hamilton's predictably strong showing drove home a point emphasized throughout the 2015-16 season: that musical theater is a vehicle not just for escapist entertainment, but for stories that inform and move us. Shuffle Along, or the Making Of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, a Jazz Age chronicle that cast a critical eye on history without sacrificing exuberance, earned 10 nominations. A bold new Fiddler On the Roof by director Bartlett Sher (not nominated, surprisingly), who has brought both reverence and fresh insights to Rodgers and Hammerstein classics in recent years, earned nominations as a revival and for its leading man, the duly treasured Danny Burstein.
The decidedly more light-hearted School of Rock-The Musical, adapted from the funny film fave, earned four nominations including best musical, as did a musical adaptation of the movie Waitress and Steve Martin/Edie Brickell's warm-hearted Bright Star.
The nominations also threw into sharp relief the diversity of artists represented. Numerous members of Hamilton's multi-racial cast were joined by Cynthia Errivo from The Color Purple, another widely praised musical revival, Broadway newbie Erivo, who drew rapturous praise in London and here, will compete against previous Tony Award winners Jessie Mueller — cast as another hard-working, mistreated wife in a musical adaptation of the film Waitress — and Laura Benanti, who thoroughly charmed audiences in a new, eight-times-nominated production of the She Loves Me, also up for best revival of a musical.
The play categories, too, showcase a wide array of talent and social consciousness, from Eclipsed, Danai Gurira's searing look at the anguished "wives" of rebel soldiers in early-21st-century Liberia, to The Humans, Stephen Karam's brutally intimate account of a middle-class family struggling to stay afloat in today's USA. Eclipsed, an ensemble play, earned a leading-actress nomination for Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'oand two featured-actress nominations, for Pascale Armand and Saycon Sengbloh.
Both plays are, like Hamilton, off-Broadway transfers, and they'll compete with a pair of British imports: the "future history play" King Charles III and The Father.
The Tony Awards will be broadcast live from New York's Beacon Theatre on June 12, at 8 PM/7c (delayed PT).