The 2020 Broadway season may have been cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, but when it comes to the Tony Awards, the show must go on.
The annual awards, typically held in June, were delayed due to the pandemic, which closed Broadway theaters in early March. Since the season was so short, just 18 shows were eligible for Tony Awards, leading to smaller categories than usual when award nominations were announced Thursday afternoon.
One category was surprisingly small: Just one performer was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, despite at least one other actor being eligible.
Aaron Tveit, an actor with a long theater history who starred in the 2012 film adaptation of "Les Misérables," was nominated for his role as the male lead, Christian, in the stage adaptation of "Moulin Rouge!", based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film of the same name. "Moulin Rouge!" as a whole was one of the most-nominated productions of the season, with a total of 14 nominations.
The other actor eligible for a nomination in this category was Chris McCarrell, who starred in the stage adaptation of "The Lightning Thief," based on the first novel in the popular "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" book series by author Rick Riordan. When the musical first opened last October, it was critically panned, but young theater fans rallied around the show. "The Lightning Thief" was not nominated for any Tonys.
The last time just one show or performer was nominated in any category was 1995, when "Sunset Boulevard" was the only show nominated for Best Book of a Musical, as well as Best Original Score Written for the Theatre.
Though Tveit is the only one nominated in his category, he isn't actually guaranteed to win. A press release from the Tonys highlighted a rule that applies when just one actor is nominated.
"If the Tony Awards Nominating Committee has determined that if there is only one nominee in a category listed, such category shall be submitted to the Tony Voters which may, by the affirmative vote of sixty (60%) percent of the total ballots cast, grant an Award in that category," a note reads.
That means that if less than 60% of the 800 Tony Award voters don't vote for Tveit, the category won't have a winner.
This is the first time in decades that just one performer has been nominated in any of the eight acting award categories. When the Tonys first commenced in 1947, there were no nominees, just winners, but in 1956, the ceremony started nominating multiple performers per category.
"In the earliest years of the Tonys, there were definitely seasons of only one nominee in each acting category — years before nominations were a thing,” Jennifer Ashley Tepper, author and theater historian, told TODAY.
On social media, reactions came quickly. Many cheered for Tveit — this is the actor's first Tony nomination and likely win — but others criticized the award show for "snubbing" McCarrell and "The Lightning Thief."
Broadway theaters are not expected to reopen until at least May of next year. A date for the 2021 Tony Awards ceremony has not been announced.