There are a lot of new faces to celebrate during this year’s Tony Awards. The annual celebration of all-things-Broadway is honoring more than 20 artists who are not only nominated for their first Tony Award, but are also making their Broadway debuts. It’s interesting to note that the Best Play category actually features all playwrights making their debut, plus every one of them is under the age of 40. The nominations include many other Great White Way First-timers, and some very familiar faces. Here is a quick look at five of these talented artists making a big splash on Broadway this year.
Photos: 2016 Tony Award Nominees
You probably know Danai Gurira as the the tough Michonne from “The Walking Dead.” However, this talented beauty is also a playwright, and her stunning play “Eclipsed” was nominated nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play. “Eclipsed” is about five Liberian women and their survival at the end of the Second Liberian Civil War. It was also notable for being the first play to premiere on Broadway with an entirely African American cast and crew.
There is no denying the power behind the mega-hit “Hamilton” this year. The musical was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony Awards, including a Best Leading Actress nod to Phillipa Soo. Soo is nominated for her take on the role of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton. Soo’s performance in the astonishing Pulitzer Prize-winning play received rave reviews and has helped propel this new talent to Broadway stardom.
Starring in Danai Gurira’s nominated play “Eclipsed” is Lupita Nyong’o, who is best known for her stunning performance in the film “12 Years a Slave,” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It’s fascinating to note that Nyong’o won the Oscar for her feature film debut, and she’s now nominated for her Broadway debut as well. It’s very rare for an actress to make such a big splash that quickly, plus as an actress of both Kenyan and Mexican heritage, she’s the first actress of both nationalities to win the Academy Award. If she wins the Tony, she’ll add that to her already impressive resume.
You probably already know Sara Bareilles as a hugely popular singer-songwriter with several big hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, including her 2007 chart-topper, “Love Song.” She’s sold more than a million albums and has won five GRAMMY Awards. However, it’s her work on the score for the Broadway hit “Waitress” that has Bareilles nominated for her first Tony Award. The musical, based on the 2007 film of the same name, tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress who has an affair and sets out to win a pie contest as her way to escape her unhappy life. The original score by Bareilles is fun and original, so it’s no surprise that this hit musical was nominated for Best Musical and Best Original Score.
The star is no stranger to awards shows, having hosted the Academy Awards in both 2001 and 2003 on his own, and then again with Alec Baldwin in 2010. However, it’s Steve Martin’s first Tony Award nominations that are really a big deal because this would be his EGOT (Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony.) Martin has an Emmy from 1969 when he won for writing on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” He also has won five GRAMMYs for several of his comedy albums and he received an honorary Oscar in 2013 for his contributions to American film. His Tony nominations are for Best Book, Best Score and Best Musical for his work on “Bright Star,” a musical set in North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a fascinating and compelling country/bluegrass score.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.