Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was declared a new musical today at a meeting of the Tony Administration committee. The ruling means that when the committee of 48 Tony Awards nominators meets on Monday to determine the nominees for this year’s awards, the Scott Rudin production will be eligible for nomination in the Best Musical category, facing Pulitzer Prize-winner Hamilton, which is considered all but a shoo-in for the award.
Shuffle Along has been heavily promoted as a revival, although the show has a new book by director George C. Wolfe and makes minimal reference to the decidedly gossamer plot of the 1921 Broadway hit. The score contains the original songs by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle.
“I’m sure it was given serious consideration in the room, and that’s honestly all anybody could ask for. The process is the same for everybody and as long as that is the baseline, that’s the whole story. Fair is fair.” – Producer Scott Rudin
The decision was made “without contention,” according to two members present, who spoke with Deadline anonymously because the deliberations are private. They said that there was agreement that the show is new and that while the producers’ component of the committee generally “wants to honor” producers’ requests, the issue of new-versus-revival in this case seemed clear cut. “The committee functions pretty well,” one member said.
“I’m sure it was given serious consideration in the room, and that’s honestly all anybody could ask for,” Rudin told Deadline. “The process is the same for everybody and as long as that is the baseline, that’s the whole story. Fair is fair.”
The 24-member Tony Administration committee includes 10 members each from American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League, along with one each from the Dramatists Guild, Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. The committee determines eligibility for nominations in all awards categories and reviews the rules governing the awards.
Meeting for the final time this season, the Tony Administration committee discussed several categories, though none as significant as this. The winners of the Best Musical and Best Musical Revival slots typically have the most impact on ticket sales and future prospects for tours. In either category, Shuffle Along would face stiff competition in an unusually strong season. Among the possible contenders for Best Musical besides Hamilton are School of Rock, Waitress, American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, Bright Star and On Your Feet! Among the revivals are She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof, Spring Awakening and The Color Purple.
The committee also ruled that the four male stars of Shuffle Along — Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter — will be eligible in the featured, rather than leading actor category even though they appear above the title with Audra McDonald. McDonald is likely to be a contender for her seventh Tony Award; she already holds the record, with six.
Among the other interesting rulings, the committee determined that Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s one-man show Fully Committed may be considered in the Best Revival category. Although the generally praised production is the play’s first on Broadway, it has been a staple of resident theaters for over a decade. Tyler Ferguson is still eligible for consideration in the Best Actor competition.
The Tony nominations for the 2015-2016 season will be announced Tuesday morning at 8:30. The Tony Awards, broadcast live by CBS from the Beacon Theatre, are slated for June 12.