Skip to content

2024 Tony nominations mark notable strides for female directors, veteran and rising performers alike

Broadway News examines the significant trends and records broken with the 2024 Tony nominations.

(L-R) Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood in “The Notebook,” Broadway, 2024; Kecia Lewis and Maleah Joi Moon in “Hell's Kitchen,” Broadway, 2024; Steven Skybell and Bebe Neuwirth in “Cabaret,” Broadway, 2024 (Credit: Julieta Cervantes; Marc J. Franklin; Marc Brenner)

Nominations for the 2024 Tony Awards were announced on April 30. The nominations in 26 competitive categories saw a slew of records broken, including particularly notable instances.

Leading the pack with 13 Tony nominations apiece were the new musical “Hell’s Kitchen” and the new play “Stereophonic.” The David Adjmi play, a transfer from a fall 2023 Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons, is now the most nominated play in Tony history, beating out the 12 nominations secured by “Slave Play” in 2020.

While the 13 nominations for the Alicia Keys tuner “Hell’s Kitchen” is not a record, the show is one of only two musicals this season to earn more than 10 nominations (“The Outsiders” tallied 12 nods).

The nominees for Best Play included all three works of Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway season: Jocelyn Bioh’s “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Joshua Harmon’s “Prayer for the French Republic” and Amy Herzog’s “Mary Jane.” Rounding out the category are Paula Vogel’s “Mother Play” and the aforementioned “Stereophonic.”

Like Best Play, the category of Best Musical also named five nominees: “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Illinoise,” “Suffs,” “The Outsiders” and “Water for Elephants.” Per Tony Awards rules and regulations, this number is determined by the number of eligible shows in each category. If a category has nine or more eligible productions, there will automatically be five nominations. The 2023-2024 season saw 15 eligible musicals and 10 eligible plays.

There were six eligible musical revivals this season, which means only four were nominated: “Cabaret,” “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and “The Who’s Tommy.” The Best Revival of a Play category, however, had only three nominees: “Appropriate,” “An Enemy of the People” and “Purlie Victorious.” Five revivals were eligible this season (“Uncle Vanya” and “Doubt” were the other two); per Tony rules, if only four or five shows are eligible in a category, nominators will select three to nominate. A tie for the final slot may result in a fourth nominee, which was not the case here. The only other time this happened was in 2020, when four eligible revivals resulted in three nominees.

Other categories, however, experienced an increase in the number of nominations. For the first time in either category, both Featured Actress in a Musical and Scenic Design of a Musical named seven nominees. This means each category had a three-way tie for the fifth nomination slot. Featured Actor in a Musical also had a tie for the fifth nomination, rendering the category with six nominees, which has only happened once before, in 1975.

All eight performance categories honored a total 43 individuals. Eleven of those nominees were previous Tony winners. Twenty-five of the 43 nominated performers were first-time performance nominees, or 58.1%. 

While many of the first-time nominees in the performance categories named actors making their Broadway debuts, several industry veterans earned a nomination after decades of work on the Main Stem. Dorian Harewood, nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for his turn as Older Noah in “The Notebook,” made his Broadway debut over 50 years ago. For her featured performance as Miss Liza Jane in “Hell’s Kitchen,” Kecia Lewis received her first Tony nod after having made her Broadway debut over four decades ago replacing in the original production of “Dreamgirls.” Steven Skybell, who made his Main Stem debut in the 1988 revival of “Ah, Wilderness!,” earned his first nomination for the featured role of Herr Schultz in “Cabaret.”

On the other end of the spectrum, for her turn as Kirsten Arnesen in “Days of Wine and Roses,” Kelli O’Hara received her eighth Tony nomination. Only eight other performers have ever received eight (or more) nominations: Jane Alexander, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Harris, Rosemary Harris, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Chita Rivera and Jason Robards Jr. O’Hara achieved this milestone over just 19 years, having received her first nomination in 2005 for “The Light in the Piazza” (coincidentally, both “Piazza” and “Days of Wine and Roses” feature a score by Adam Guettel and a book by Craig Lucas). Only Dewhurst garnered eight nominations in a shorter period of time, 16 years.

For her turn as Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins in “Purlie Victorious,” Kara Young received her third consecutive acting nomination. Young joins a handful of performers who have achieved this feat: Danny Burstein, Jack Cassidy, Dewhurst, Raúl Esparza, Rosemary Harris, Gregory Hines and Martha Plimpton have all earned three nominations in a row, while Laurie Metcalf has earned four. Young, however, is the only individual to earn three nominations in a row in the Featured Actress in a Play category.

Two performers received dual nominations as performer and producer. Leslie Odom Jr. was nominated for his turn as the title role in “Purlie Victorious”; Odom also received a Best Revival of a Play nomination as one of the show’s producers. Eddie Redmayne was similarly nominated in the Best Revival of a Musical category for co-producing “Cabaret,” in addition to earning a Best Actor in a Musical nomination for his performance as the Emcee.

The Best Actress in a Play category offered first-time nominations for Betsy Aidem (“Prayer for the French Republic”), Rachel McAdams (“Mary Jane”) and Sarah Paulson (“Appropriate’). Jessica Lange received her second nomination (for “Mother Play”) and Amy Ryan her third (for “Doubt”). Several of these performers share similar touch points in their Broadway careers. Both Paulson and Ryan made their Broadway debuts as replacements in 1993’s “The Sisters Rosensweig”; Paulson understudied Ryan. Both starred in Tennessee Williams revivals in the 2004-2005 season (Ryan as Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” while Paulson played Laura in “The Glass Menagerie”). Paulson’s “Menagerie” co-star was Lange, who made her Main Stem debut as Stella in an earlier revival of “Streetcar.”

For the first time in history, the Best Direction of a Play category encompasses three female-identifying directors: Anne Kauffman for “Mary Jane,” Lila Neugebauer for “Appropriate” and Whitney White for “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.” Rounding out the category are first-time nominee Daniel Aukin for “Stereophonic” and prior winner Kenny Leon (his fourth nomination in this category) for “Purlie Victorious.” 

Best Direction of a Musical also saw a record broken. For the first time, four female-identifying directors were named nominees: Maria Friedman for “Merrily We Roll Along,” Leigh Silverman for “Suffs,” Danya Taymor for “The Outsiders” and Jessica Stone for “Water for Elephants,” the latter of whom received her second consecutive nomination. The final directing slot went to “Hell’s Kitchen” helmer Michael Greif, his fifth nomination in this category.

Playwright Herzog proved herself a double nominee, receiving acknowledgment for the aforementioned Best Play nominee “Mary Jane” and well as a nod for her adaptation of “An Enemy of the People.” She is now the only playwright in history to have been nominated in both Best Play and Best Revival of a Play categories in the same year. Usually, only the producers are eligible for the Best Revival of a Play award. However, a rule established in 2019 allows for playwrights to also receive the nomination if the work had never before appeared on Broadway (but was deemed a revival) or if the author made substantial changes to the work. As Herzog’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama is new, she is eligible. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is also eligible for “Appropriate,” which is additionally nominated in this category, as the play was ruled a revival by the Tonys administration committee, despite having never been on Broadway before.

Beyond Herzog’s double acknowledgment, the design categories were marked by multiple nominations. Dede Ayite received three total costume nominations: two for the plays “Appropriate” and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” and one for the musical “Hell’s Kitchen.” David Zinn also received three nominations, two for his scenic design of “Jaja’s” and “Stereophonic” and one for his costume design of “An Enemy of the People.” The design firm “dots” received nominations for Best Scenic Design of a Play for “Appropriate” and “An Enemy of the People,” while Peter Nigrini received nominations (as part of a duo in each) for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Lempicka.”

Lighting-wise, Isabella Byrd made her Broadway debut this season designing the lights for “An Enemy of the People” and “Cabaret.” Byrd was nominated for each show. Like Byrd, Natasha Katz also received two nominations (one for a play, one for a musical) for “Grey House” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” With these two additions, Katz has now racked up 19 total Tony nominations for lighting, making her the second most decorated lighting designer (Jules Fisher holds the record with 24 nominations). 

The Best Orchestrations category was introduced in 1997, and before 2024 the category has only ever nominated musicals. Will Butler and Justin Craig were jointly nominated for their orchestrations of “Stereophonic,” becoming the first play ever included in this category. Also of note in the orchestrations field is Jonathan Tunick, who broke his own record with his nomination for “Merrily We Roll Along.” Tunick, the inaugural winner of the Best Orchestrations award for 1997’s “Titanic,” has now received 12 nominations in the category, more than any other orchestrator.

Overall, a majority of the 2023-2024 shows were acknowledged in at least one category. Twenty-eight out of 36 eligible productions received one nomination. Of those 28 nominated shows, nine have already closed. Similarly, nine of those 28 productions opened in the summer or fall of 2023.

Winners of the 77th annual Tony Awards will be announced at a ceremony on June 16 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. Hosted by Ariana DeBose, the ceremony will be broadcast on CBS and Paramount+ beginning at 8 p.m. ET. “Tony Awards: Act One,” a special pre-show including the presentation of several awards, will stream live on Pluto TV.

The Tony Awards are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.