What to Expect at This Weekend's Tony Awards

June 9, 2016

We all know why this year could very well be the most watched Tony Awards of all time. Not only has Hamilton converted the unlikeliest of people into musical theater lovers, but its tickets are so hard to come by that a live television performance may be the closest most of us get to seeing the revolutionary show. Though the Tonys, hosted by James Corden of “The Late Late Show,” will likely be a Hamilton love-fest, there’s still lots more to look out for this Sunday when the show airs—including one of the strongest, most diverse choreography line-ups in recent years.

Five shows are nominated for the Best Choreography award, each of them featuring completely different styles:

Audra McDonald and the cast of Shuffle Along in rehearsal. Photo by Devin Alberda, Courtesy Shuffle Along.

Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Savion Glover

The legendary hoofer has another show on Broadway, and, as to be expected, the tapping is out of this world. What’s unique about this show is that it isn’t only the ensemble that’s shuffling away—all the leads tap just as much and with just as much confidence. Though it seems like Shuffle Along isn’t going to be as big as Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, which won Glover a Tony, it’s still a strong contender. Plus, the choreographer will be joining the cast soon!

Hofesh Shechter teaching choreography at a Fiddler rehearsal. Photo by Kyle Froman.

Fiddler on the Roof

Hofesh Shechter

Who would have thought that modern dance giant Hofesh Shechter would choreograph a Broadway show—and be really good at it?! The Israeli-born choreographer’s reinvention of Jerome Robbins’ dances references and upholds the “Traditions” so integral to the show, and innovates them in exciting ways. Any other year, this would be my pick for Best Choreography.

Dames at Sea
—Randy Skinner 

Skinner’s choreography for Dames at Sea (which closed in November) is classic show tap. It’s fun and serves the show well, but among the other standout nominees, it lacks that sense of innovation and excitement. (Go “Behind the Curtain” with Mara Davi to get a peek at the moves.) This feels especially true when you consider who wasn’t nominated for this category—notably the revival of Spring Awakening, which featured Spencer Liff’s breathtaking fusion of sign language and dance.

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Sergio Trujillo 

Sergio Trujillo tapped into authentic Cuban rhythms to tell the story of pop sensation Gloria Estefan, and the result is a high-energy, nonstop dance party. It’s a style we haven’t seen much of on the Great White Way, and Trujillo seamlessly integrates it into the plot.


Andy Blankenbuehler

Hamilton ensemble members Sasha Hutchings, Voltaire Wade-Greene and Ariana DeBose at our June cover shoot. Photo by Jayme Thornton.

Surprise, surprise. Blankenbuehler’s hip-hop driven, style-bending magnum opus is the strongest contender for the Best Choreography prize—and the likely winner. No, Hamilton doesn’t need to win in all the 13 categories it’s nominated in. But the choreography—along with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book and score—are definitely aspects of the show that deserve extra recognition.

This brings me to only disappointing part of the Tony Awards—the fact that the Best Choreography award usually isn’t aired on the live broadcast. How is it that the Tonys uses dances from various shows (including all those mentioned above except for Dames at Sea) to pump up viewers, but the choreographers who made the moves don’t get to be recognized in front of the television audience? Come on, Tonys.

On the bright side, it seems like the dance lineup on Broadway just keeps getting better. Tune in to CBS at 8pm on Sunday for 10 exciting performances.

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