Curtains up

Two shows on antisemitism sweep 2024 Tony nominations

Revival of ‘Cabaret,’ about Weimar-era Berlin club, gets 9 nominations, while ‘Prayer for the French Republic,’ a 3-hour drama on antisemitism in France in 2016, snags 3

The Benhamou family of Paris conducts a Passover Seder in a scene from Broadway's "Prayer for the French Republic," which was nominated for three 2024 Tony Awards. (Jeremy Daniel via JTA)
The Benhamou family of Paris conducts a Passover Seder in a scene from Broadway's "Prayer for the French Republic," which was nominated for three 2024 Tony Awards. (Jeremy Daniel via JTA)

New York Jewish Week via JTA — At a time of rising antisemitism, two shows about Jews caught up in a dangerous climate of hate received multiple nominations on Tuesday for the 2024 Tony Awards.

A brand-new revival of the Kander and Ebb musical “Cabaret,” about the hedonistic antics at a late Weimar-era Berlin nightclub, received a total of nine nominations, while “Prayer for the French Republic,” a three-hour drama about antisemitism in France in 2016, received three.

Both productions trail this year’s most-nominated: David Adjmi’s “Stereophonic,” about a Fleetwood Mac-esque band, received 13 nominations — the most ever for a play — and the Alicia Keys jukebox musical “Hell’s Kitchen” also received 13.

“Stereophonic” playwright Adjmi hails from Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community, while “Hell’s Kitchen” director Michael Greif is also Jewish — along with many other cast and crew members up for awards.

Among the nominations received by “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club,” a revival that opened on Broadway last week, are for best lead actor and lead actress in a musical (Gayle Rankin, who plays Sally Bowles, and Eddie Redmayne, who plays the Emcee, a role made famous by Jewish icon Joel Grey). Jewish actors Bebe Neuwirth and Steven Skybell — who play doomed lovers Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor, in an enhanced Jewish story line that’s been described as “the heart of the musical”  — picked up nominations for featured actress and actor in a musical.

“If I only ever play Jewish characters for the rest of my life, I would be delighted and I would be honored,” Skybell, who previously played Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish,” recently told the New York Jewish Week. “I actually feel now it’s a calling for me to find myself in these stories that have Jewish points of view, because it’s more important now than I think it’s ever been in my life to give voice to the Jewish condition.”

Joshua Harmon’s “Prayer for the French Republic,” about generations of a French Jewish family grappling with antisemitism and their own Jewish identities, was nominated for best play, while star Betsy Aidem, who plays the matriarch Marcelle Salomon Benhamou, was nominated for best lead actor in a play.

Meanwhile, Jewish actor Michael Stuhlbarg, perhaps best known for portraying Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” picked up a nomination for best lead actor in a play for his portrayal of Russian Jewish oligarch Boris Berezovsky in the new play “Patriots.”

Stuhlbarg faces competition in the category from fellow Jewish actors Liev Schreiber, nominated for his portrayal of Father Flynn in “Doubt: A Parable,” and “Succession” star Jeremy Strong, whose father’s family is Jewish, for his role in “An Enemy of the People.”

Like Schreiber and Strong, the vast majority of the Jews on this year’s list are nominated for plays and musicals that have little, if any, Jewish content. For example, four of the five playwrights nominated for best play are Jewish: Amy Herzog (“Mary Jane”), Paula Vogel (“Mother Play”), Harmon (“Prayer for the French Republic”) and Adjmi (“Stereophonic”) — though only one, Harmon, was nominated for a Jewish-themed play.

Other notable Jewish nominations include seven for “Merrily We Roll Along,” a hit revival of 1981 Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s flop, which landed a best featured actor in a musical nod to Jewish actor Daniel Radcliffe — yes, Harry Potter himself. Jewish Broadway veteran Shoshana Bean picked up a nomination for her role as a domineering mother in “Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Suffs,” a musical about the women’s suffrage movement written and composed by Jewish actress, writer and musician Shaina Taub — who “wants to make Broadway accessible to all,” according to our colleagues at Hey Alma — received a total of six nominations.

The 77th Tony Awards ceremony will be at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on June 16 and will be broadcast on CBS.

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