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SNUB: Lydia Wilson ('King Charles III')
Mike Bartlett's ferocious alternative history King Charles III earned love for the actors playing Charles (well-deserved!) and Harry (a... surprise!), but not for arguably the young breakout of the whole damn thing: actress Lydia Wilson, whose captivating incarnation of Kate Middleton was a haunting silhouette of guile and power-thirst.
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SNUB: Ben Whishaw (The Crucible)
As the increasingly frustrated John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible, British actor Ben Whishaw — who's fast becoming a recognizable name here in the States — ought to have been recognized for his energy-depleting Broadway debut. (To wit, in the packed ensemble cast, the Tonys only honored two of the show's performances: Tony winner Sophie Okonedo, as Proctor’s accused wife, and Bill Camp, as the progressively penitent Reverend Hale.)
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SNUB: Audra McDonald (Shuffle Along)
An Audra McDonald role without a Tony nomination is like a Meryl Streep sneeze without an Oscar. Then again, McDonald's role in Shuffle Along as trailblazing diva Lottie Gee isn't her showiest or show-offiest. The ever-gracious McDonald herself isn't complaining, and with a record-breaking number of wins under her belt, it's almost enviable how she'll take a backseat to the awards mania this year and just enjoy the ride along with her ensemble.
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SNUB: Brian Stokes Mitchell, Joshua Henry and Billy Porter (Shuffle Along)
Meanwhile, too much shuffling might have been a deathstroke for the ambitious show, which was equal parts all-star talent show and glossy Wikipedia article. But too much talent means someone's going to get left out, and in fact, three of Shuffle's four male stars — Brian Stokes Mitchell, Joshua Henry, and Billy Porter, who play the legendary show-sort-of-within-the-show's writers — missed the list of nominees. (Their fourth companion, Brandon Victor Dixon, earned a nod.)
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SNUB: Tuck Everlasting
Tuck had all the right things going for it — beloved source material, kid-friendly appeal, veteran cast, and director Casey Nicholaw — but the show may have backfired in its prestige-slot opening in April, possibly far too late to generate the buzz it needed. And while Tuck may offer catchy, attractive family fun, its themes might be too innocuous to hold ground against a season filled with deeply resonant modern messages.
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The season’s underdog musical hit, Waitress, earned a fair if not overwhelming amount of recognition for star Jessie Mueller, composer Sara Bareilles, scene-stealer Christopher Fitzgerald, and for Best Musical overall. But the love ended there, with sadly no nod for supporting actresses, designers, or its deserving bookwriter Jessie Nelson (whose sweet script played in perfect harmony to Bareilles’ score).
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SNUB: On Your Feet!
The Tonys decidedly did not get up and make it happen for the Gloria Estefan bio-musical, which opened in November. Thankfully, choreographer Sergio Trujillo was recognized for his electric Latin dance creations, but plenty of insiders thought the show’s endearing star, newcomer Ana Villafane, might have conga-ed her way into a nomination.
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SNUB: George Takei (Allegiance)
The TV icon made his surprisingly touching Broadway debut in a deeply personal and semi-autobiographical story about Japanese internment during World War II. At 79 years old, Takei ought to have seen his name on the Tony nom list for playing the grandfatherly patriarch of the Kimura clan.
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SNUB: The A-List
The casual viewer of the Tony Awards always asks, why didn't the biggest stars get nominated? Well, sometimes they don't necessarily need to be. Neither snub nor surprise is responsible for the omission of some big-ticket Hollywood names this year, including Al Pacino (in the forgotten China Doll), Saoirse Ronan (whose stage time in The Crucible doesn't come close to her face time on the poster), Forrest Whitaker in Hughie, and even Keira Knightley, whose admirable debut in Therese Raquin perhaps was overshadowed by the show’s massive (and, look at that, Tony-nominated) set.
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SURPRISE: Danielle Brooks and Jennifer Hudson (The Color Purple)
Two debuts, two classic roles, but only one Tony nomination. Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson's lack of a Tony nod is a surprise, though not a snub: The general consensus seemed to be that she didn’t offer enough oomph to a role that should have been the life of the party. (And besides, she's departing the production on May 8, right in the middle of voting.) On the other hand, the good news is that Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks, who played vivacious Sofia, made the kind of heaven-sent celebrity debut that dreams (and Tony nominations) are made of.
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SURPRISE: Bright Star
With a surprising but welcome presence in the Best Musical race, the season's little production that could is Bright Star, a wholly original musical from — of all people! — Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It's a genuinely delightful show that blew critics out of the water, bolstered by an incredible debut from Carmen Cusack (who deservedly earned a nod herself).
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SURPRISE: The Fall Heroes
In any Tony Awards, there's always a chance that the little guys — that is, the closed plays of the fall — won't be remembered come spring, but such wasn’t the case for Laurie Metcalf's scorching spat of crazy in Misery or Mark Strong’s sweat-inducing leading turn in A View from the Bridge.
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SURPRISE: Jennifer Simard (Disaster!)
Though the show already has plans to shutter in July, the disco-fueled disaster musical was appropriately honored the way it should have been: Through the vessel of Jennifer Simard, the show-stopping, gambling nun, who, thankfully, got her due. Praise.
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SURPRISE: Jonathan Groff and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton)
Yes, it’s still possible for a Hamilton award to be considered a surprise. Since its debut at the Public Theater, early prognostication suggested Hamilton might stop its acting nominations at five: for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Daveed Diggs. But the juggernaut went further, winning nods for dual Georges: Jonathan Groff’s King and Christopher Jackson’s President. The downside is whether (with Diggs) the show’s three featured actors will split the vote and make way for a dark horse victory, much like Fun Home’s triple-play in 2015.