Sunday Reading: Tony Nominees, Past and Present

The Tonys are one of those rare awards shows that hold out the possibility of being entertaining, and in a good way. For starters, the odds are against anyone getting smacked. So we’re interested! To tune up for tonight’s broadcast, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about nominated productions and the artists who created them.

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In “Sam Mendes’s Directorial Discoveries,” John Lahr profiles the film and stage director behind “The Lehman Trilogy,” nominated in eight categories. In “Color Vision,” Hilton Als explores the revolutionary career of Ntozake Shange and her great work “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” (seven times a nominee). In “The Ecstatic Doubling of ‘A Strange Loop,’ ” Vinson Cunningham reviews the surreal Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Michael R. Jackson, which leads this year’s contenders with eleven nods. In “Two Musicals on the Perils of Aging,” Alexandra Schwartz writes about a transporting revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company” (up for nine awards) and a new production of a show by David Lindsay-Abaire. Finally, in “All About the Hamiltons,” from 2015, Rebecca Mead profiles Lin-Manuel Miranda as he prepares his most honored musical for its opening Off Broadway. (It later broke the record for most Tony nominations, with sixteen.) “Miranda presents an Alexander Hamilton of incandescent focus, abounding talent, and barely suppressed fury,” Mead writes. The musical offers “the birth of the nation in an unfamiliar but necessary light: not solely as the work of élite white men but as the foundational story of all Americans.”

David Remnick

Mendes sits on a chair in a dark black and white portrait.

For screen and stage, Mendes works like a sculptor—continually molding and remolding space, speech, and gesture.

Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange’s outspoken art.

Two women sitting at table looking at each other with wine glasses in-hand and balloons in the background.

A buoyant revival of Sondheim’s “Company” and the refreshingly off-kilter “Kimberly Akimbo.”

Illustration of "A Strange Loop"

Michael R. Jackson’s musical—in which a queer Black musical-theatre writer is writing a musical about a queer Black musical-theatre writer—can be harsh, but its lyrical cleverness helps it maintain an unlikely levity.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

A new musical brings the Founding Fathers back to life—with a lot of hip-hop.

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