‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘Stereophonic’ Tie for Most Tony Nominations

‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘Stereophonic’ Tie for Most Tony Nominations

A semi-autobiographical Alicia Keys musical and a play about a group of musicians struggling to record an album each got 13 Tony nominations on Tuesday, tying for the most nods in a packed Broadway season when shows need all the help they can get.

The musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” features some of Keys’s biggest hits as well as new songs by her. The play, “Stereophonic,” David Adjmi’s exploration of creativity and conflict inside a recording studio, is now the most-nominated play in Tony Awards history, besting a record set in 2021 by “Slave Play,” which had 12 nominations.

A star-studded production of “Merrily We Roll Along” that turned a storied Stephen Sondheim flop into one of the season’s biggest hits is favored to win the musical revival category. But it faces several other big revivals, including a lavish production of “Cabaret” starring Eddie Redmayne that got the most nominations of any show in the category, as well as a rollicking revival of “The Who’s Tommy” and a now-closed production of “Gutenberg! The Musical!” that found success with two appealing co-stars.

The two most nominated shows, “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Stereophonic,” opened 24 hours apart less than two weeks ago.

“Stereophonic,” which features songs by Will Butler, formerly of Arcade Fire, had an initial run last fall at the Off Broadway nonprofit Playwrights Horizons. It succeeded despite a three-hour running time and no high-wattage celebrities — powered by strong reviews and word-of-mouth.

“I’m just gobsmacked,” said Adjmi, a longtime downtown playwright whose work has never before made it to Broadway. “I started this play 11 years ago and didn’t know if it would ever even be produced — it was impractical and wildly demanding on every level and I just made it from a place of passion and obsession. To be rewarded at a platform like this is so mind-bogglingly incredible I don’t have words.”

“Hell’s Kitchen,” which had an Off Broadway run starting last fall at the nonprofit Public Theater, is about a 17-year-old girl growing up in Manhattan and struggling to navigate first love, a hunger for independence and a tense relationship with a well-intentioned but overprotective single mother.

“I’m definitely in a deep state of freaking out, in a really great, awesome, grateful way,” said Keys, whose challenges as an adolescent in the 1990s shaped the plot of “Hell’s Kitchen.” “I have felt so connected to the mission of this story. I always felt that there was a purpose, there’s a reason, there’s something important about the story.”

The nominations come at a challenging time for Broadway. Theaters are packed with shows — 36 Tony-eligible shows opened this season, including an unusually large slate of 15 new musicals. But the costs of production have skyrocketed while the number of ticket buyers has fallen since the pandemic.

Here are some other highlights of the nominations:

  • Daniel Radcliffe finally broke whatever spell had impeded him from getting nominated for a Tony Award. The actor, beloved for his portrayal of Harry Potter in all eight films, has been overlooked by nominators during four previous Broadway outings, but on Tuesday he was recognized for his work in “Merrily We Roll Along.”

  • “Hell’s Kitchen” now heads into a race for the best musical prize that is unusually competitive, because none of the contenders has broken out as a consensus favorite at the box office or among critics. Just behind “Hell’s Kitchen” in the nominations derby is “The Outsiders,” a musical adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s classic young adult novel, which received 12 nods. The other nominees are “Illinoise,” a narrative dance telling a story of self-discovery, with songs from Sufjan Stevens; “Suffs,” a look at the women’s suffrage movement in the United States; and “Water for Elephants,” based on the novel about a circus romance.

  • “Stereophonic” appears to be the favorite in the best play race, but is up against four strong competitors: “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” “Mary Jane,” “Mother Play” and “Prayer for the French Republic.”

  • Notably, three of the nominated plays (“Jaja’s,” “Mary Jane” and “Prayer”) were produced on Broadway by a single nonprofit organization, the Manhattan Theater Club, and two of the nominated musicals (“Hell’s Kitchen” and “Suffs”) began at the Public Theater.

  • Among the screen stars who picked up Tony nods, in addition to Radcliffe and Redmayne, are Jessica Lange, Jim Parsons, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Paulson, Jeremy Strong, Liev Schreiber, Leslie Odom Jr. and Amy Ryan.

The nominations were chosen by a group of 44 people with theatrical expertise (many of them are artists or arts administrators) but no financial stake in the eligible shows. There were originally 60 in the group, but since they are required to see all 36 eligible shows, their number dwindled as some missed shows or developed conflicts of interest.

The Tony Awards, which are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, will be presented on June 16. The ceremony is to take place at Lincoln Center, hosted by Ariana DeBose, and broadcast on CBS.

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