“MJ”, “A Strange Loop” and Hugh Jackman beg for Tony votes

The sequined gloves are off.

Voting for the 2022 Tony Awards began last week and will honor Broadway’s best on June 12 on CBS.

The race that wraps up a bizarre year is closer and meaner than it looks.

The battle, which has intensified considerably, is best musical, and right now it’s the late Michael Jackson versus composer Michael R. Jackson.

“A Strange Loop,” R. Jackson’s meta-musical about a young gay black musical writer who creates the very show audiences see, topped the charts for weeks – buoyed by strong reviews in late April.

But sources said the race is now a neck-and-neck race between “Loop” and “MJ,” the musical about the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Some voters The Post spoke to aren’t as enthusiastic about “Loop” as the critics. One said: “I think ‘MJ’ is a better musical than ‘Strange Loop’ which is so talented but small.”

Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves) & Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr)
“Six: The Musical” is nominated for a Best Musical Tony Award.
Joan Marcus©

‘Six: The Musical,’ the UK’s royal pop concert, also fails to count, although as the same voter noted, ‘it could be this year’s ‘Wicked.’ [a famous Best Musical Tony loser] and make the most money.”

Participation is the dilemma du jour. The always-thin pool of some 846 voters — including everyone from theater hosts to actors, directors, producers and critics — has been decimated by their unwillingness to return to the theater, particularly during the fall and winter Omicron surge.

Because each person must prove they’ve seen every nominee in a category in order to vote, one source estimates there are only 500 eligible people to choose the musical winners (possibly even fewer for the revival) and a meager 200 for the pieces. That is two thirds of a table service at Sardi.

“This year every vote counts,” the source said.

And so are the tactics for getting them.

Jaquel Spivey makes his Broadway debut as Usher.
A Strange Loop star Jaquel Spivey is nominated for Best Actor in a Musical.
Marc J Franklin

Productions, which until moments ago had been reluctant to throw traditional opening parties, threw boisterous parties this month as the 100 out-of-towners known as “street voters” descended on New York to see the nominees and be celebrated.

“Six” invited her to a party at Sony Hall; “A Strange Loop” brought the fun to Margaritaville in Times Square; Company performed a documentary about its founding at the SVA Theater and held a soiree at a nearby art gallery where nominees Patti LuPone and Matt Doyle held court. “MJ”, meanwhile, secured Tavern on the Green and let Andrew Lloyd Webber DJ. (Though I’d rather hear him sing “Smooth Criminal.”)

“If there are only 500 voters for musicals, will street elections become more important? I bet it does,” said one producer. “It doesn’t bode well for ‘A Strange Loop.’ Good for ‘MJ.’ As another source put it, “‘A Strange Loop’ makes ‘Fun Home’ look like ‘The Sound of Music’.”

Not everyone is convinced of the power of “MJ”. “The show could take it if it weren’t for the terrified producer and cautious estate,” a source said, adding that they tiptoed over Jackson’s controversy.

Myles Frost and the cast of "MJ"
Myles Frost and the cast of MJ: The Musical.
Matthew Murphy

Best Actor in a Musical is another fun contest. Myles Frost, the charismatic 22-year-old actor who was a star as Jackson, won’t stop until he gets a Tony, a source said. “He’s incredibly ambitious.”

Frost is struggling with another acclaimed newcomer, Jaquel Spivey, 23, to star in ‘A Strange Loop’, who has been ill for the past few days, forcing producers to beg voters to reschedule. (The deadline for ballots is June 10.) And of course Hugh Jackman, whose “The Music Man” is the only musical hit of the season and who opened the street conference with a charming speech. A passed-out visitor said Jackson and co-star Sutton Foster were “lovely” speakers.

Hugh Jackman stars "the music man" On Broadway.
Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster from The Music Man opened the Road Conference with a well-received speech.
Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

While LuPone once won Best Actress in Company, there’s now momentum around L Morgan Lee in A Strange Loop. LuPone, sources say, won’t be toasting.

The actress, who is set to take a third Tony home to her Connecticut home, has been everywhere, including singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night. She doesn’t kiss babies though – she urges adults to wear their f – – king masks.

Patti LuPone appeared on "The late show with Stephen Colbert" Tuesday night.
Patti LuPone appeared on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night.
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

“Company” wins Best Musical Revival as Stephen Sondheim passed away just a few months ago. And in case anyone has forgotten this sad fact, the late composer’s face is currently featured on all of their free commemorative playbills.

The rare point of stability is Best Play – a ban on The Lehman Trilogy. But that doesn’t stop the competition from venting their grievances.

Jeffrey Richards, producer of Best Play-nominated The Minutes, on Wednesday emailed voters who ripped The New York Times for their scant coverage of Tracy Letts’ dramedy — and boasted that his show was still going strong despite the Armie Hammer sex scandals could be opened.

“We were surprised (but not amazed) to be the only Tony nominee for Best Game in the important Tony issue of the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times, not to have featured in the three main articles only featured with (1) a review of the season, (2) a look at the season’s key ensembles, and (3) a key critic discussion of the year’s key works,” Richards said.

Honestly, the omissions aren’t that important. Last year’s Best Play winner, “The Inheritance,” wasn’t even a Times Critic pick. A Broadway expert agreed. “A Tony edition read only on Ninth Avenue and 45th Street,” they said.

About Hammer, whose role was taken over by Schitt’s Creek’s Noah Reid: “We overcame the obstacles of. . . [having] to replace a major artist who was embroiled in a scandal that led to his decision to leave the production.”

Sorry about Arts & Leisure, Jeffrey. But you’re always welcome to complain to The Post!

https://nypost.com/2022/05/24/mj-a-strange-loop-and-hugh-jackman-beg-for-tony-votes/ “MJ”, “A Strange Loop” and Hugh Jackman beg for Tony votes

JOE HERNANDEZ

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