Tony Awards 2012: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises

Evita Ricky Martin - H 2012
Richard Termine

Evita Ricky Martin - H 2012

Matthew Broderick, Tyne Daly, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Lansbury, Alan Rickman and Ricky Martin are among starry shutouts from the shortlist, while the positioning of James Earl Jones in lead rather than featured-actor stakes gives him steep odds to overcome.

NEW YORK – CBS can count on a sprinkling of star wattage for its live broadcast of the Tony Awards June 10, with Andrew Garfield, Hugh Jackman, Cynthia Nixon and Philip Seymour Hoffman among those likely to be trolling the red carpet. But as is often the case with Broadway’s annual honors list, what’s more notable are the boldface names excluded from the nominations lineup.

This year’s high-profile shut-outs, some of whom were expected to nab a nomination, include Tyne Daly, Alan Rickman, Rachel Griffiths, Angela Lansbury, Matthew Broderick, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Hugh Dancy and Blair Underwood.

Though he wasn’t snubbed, securing a nomination as best actor in a play for Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, James Earl Jones has been severely handicapped by the Tony nominating committee with his placement in lead rather than featured category. Despite being petitioned by the show’s producers to consider Jones in the supporting ranks of that starry ensemble, the Tony gatekeepers have positioned him -- in what's arguably a secondary role -- up against unequivocal lead performances such as Hoffman in Death of a Salesman and James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors.

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While the featured actor statue practically had the 81-year-old Jones’ name engraved on it, he now faces stiff odds. That makes it less likely Tony watchers will get to see one of the most beloved elder statesmen of the American theater rewarded. This comes after last season, when Jones’ towering performance in the tepid revival of Driving Miss Daisy was edged out of the nominations in a highly competitive lead actor race.

Jones has two previous Tonys under his belt, for The Great White Hope in 1969, and Fences in 1987. He also won an honorary Oscar last year and has a pair of Emmys, so his trophy cabinet is far from empty.

Jones scored the sole acting nod for The Best Man, leaving co-stars including Lansbury, Candice Bergen, John Larroquette and Eric McCormack out in the cold.

Among the notable snubs, there was no love for the cast of the multiracial revival of Tennessee WilliamsA Streetcar Named Desire, with both Nicole Ari Parker and Underwood overlooked in the iconic roles of Blanche and Stanley. That production scored just a single shout-out for costumes.

Coming up empty-handed was Katori Hall’s metaphysical reflection on the last night in the life of Martin Luther King, The Mountaintop, which was a surprise winner for best play at London’s Olivier Awards in 2010. That left both its stars, Jackson and Bassett, out of the nominations field.

Theresa Rebeck’s play Seminar was another shut-out, despite predictions that Rickman would make the cut for lead actor. The producers of Seminar clearly had been holding out hope of Tony attention to boost business; within hours of the nominations being announced, a closing notice was posted for May 6. Also quick to announce its exit after failing to snag a single Tony nom was Magic/Bird, the NBA-backed basketball play, which will close May 12.

Among others excluded from the nominations was Elena Roger, who rode into town on a wave of London acclaim for her performance in the title role of Evita, but was greeted with mixed reviews in New York. Ricky Martin also was overlooked for the musical, with only his co-star Michael Cerveris scoring a featured actor nod. However, that production has opened to stellar box office, suggesting it might be critic-proof.

While the revival of Follies drew a hefty eight nominations, including four performance nods, lead actress Bernadette Peters and featured star Elaine Paige were omitted. (Peters will receive a humanitarian award at the Tonys, with another special honor going to Jackman.) Also cold-shouldered in a much-nominated musical was Broderick in Nice Work If You Can Get It, the 1920s-styled Gershwin confection that earned nods for three of his co-stars.

A casualty of an extremely crowded field for lead actress in a play, Griffiths missed out for Other Desert Cities, as did Stacy Keach for lead actor. That production yielded nods for Stockard Channing and Judith Light.

While Terrence McNally’s Master Class figured among play revival nominees, Daly was overlooked for her titanic turn in the Maria Callas biodrama. She perhaps fell victim to the syndrome by which performances from early in the season tend to fade from the nominating committee’s memory. And as an observant THR reader points out in the comments section, stage veteran Rosemary Harris was also neglected for her much-admired work in The Road to Mecca.

While they had not figured among awards predictions, other marquee names left out of the race include Dancy for Venus in Fur, Kim Cattrall for Private Lives, Hunter Parrish for Godspell and Harry Connick Jr. for the quick flop On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

An interesting, if hardly controversial, exclusion was Julie Taymor. Despite her being unceremoniously booted off Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark and replaced by an associate director before the show’s official opening, the Tony committee ruled Taymor eligible for consideration. Pundits eager for another chapter in the ongoing Spidey saga had hoped that a nomination for her might stir further animosity between the querulous deposed director and her former collaborators.

Considered a likely featured actor nominee for his villainous turn as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man, Patrick Page also didn’t make the list, with the mega-musical scoring just two mentions for sets and for its costumes, by the celebrated late Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka.

While their music was ineligible for original score given that it was not written directly for the stage production, composers Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova can claim ample representation with the 11 nominations for Once.

However, elsewhere it was not a banner year for popular music figures dipping a toe in the theater world. U2 frontmen Bono and The Edge went unnoticed for their Spider-Man score, as did former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart and popmeister Glen Ballard for their tunes for Ghost The Musical.

On the more positive end of the composer spectrum, Alan Menken was nominated (with lyricist Jack Feldman) for original score for his work on Disney’s Newsies. Menken is an eight-time Oscar winner for his songs and scores from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, but despite three previous nominations, he has yet to take home a Tony. Maybe this will be his year.