Tony Awards Snubs: ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Director Loses; 13-Time Nominee ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Wins Only Two Awards

Hell’s Kitchen was the first of the nominated musicals to get a performance at the 2024 Tony Awards, and the number featured Alicia Keys and Jay-Z reuniting to perform their hit “Empire State of Mind.”

But the semi-autobiographical show, for which Keys composed the score and helped arrange the music and served as a producer, ended the night losing the top prize of best musical and winning only two awards despite going into the 2024 Tonys with a leading 13 nominations.

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Hell’s Kitchen had been tied with Stereophonic as the most-nominated productions this year, but the play won five awards, including best play, on Sunday night. Hell’s Kitchen’s wins were in the categories of best actress (Maleah Joi Moon) and featured actress (Kecia Lewis) in a musical.

The best musical prize ended up going to 12-time nominee The Outsiders.

But arguably the biggest snub of the night was the best direction of a musical loss for Merrily We Roll Along‘s Maria Friedman, who had been the favorite to win and had been credited with transforming the 1981 flop into a hit revival. Instead, in perhaps an indication of the best musical win, the award went to The Outsiders‘ Dayna Taymor, which has been lauded, in particular for its cinematic fight scenes.

Elsewhere, a number of multiple nominees were shut out, including Water for Elephants, which was up for seven awards, including best musical, and four-time nominees Mother Play, Mary Jane and Here Lies Love.

The latter, from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, transformed the Broadway Theater to include a disco dance floor for attendees to stand and move around on during the show, was predicted by many to win in best scenic design, but it couldn’t match the immersive theater transformation of Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, which has also reconfigured the theater so that the audience sits in the round and to include several floors of bars and a preshow meant to evoke the Kit Kat Club. And, Here Lies Love closed in November, meaning it may have been distant in Tony voters’ minds, while Cabaret is still running.

Still, that scenic design award, presented during the Tonys’ Act One preshow, was the only win for nine-time nominee Cabaret.

Also going home with only one award were five-time nominee Illinoise and six-time nominees Purlie Victorious and An Enemy of the People.

In the lead actor in a play category, Enemy of the People‘s Jeremy Strong may have surprised some pundits when he triumphed over Leslie Odom Jr., who had been predicted by some to win in a close race.

Another surprise was the Will Brill (Stereophonic) win for featured actor in a play. And some observers may have been surprised by the Jessica Lange loss to Sarah Paulson in the best actress in a play category but the two actresses were in a close race for the win.

Caitlin Huston contributed to this report.

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