Vintage Vibes but not Vintage Values

By Jim Glaub

The 2023 Tony Awards nominations are in, and this year’s shows reflect a growing interest in nostalgia, with many productions harking back to classic Broadway eras and themes. Some of the most notable examples include New York, New York, a musical set in the 1940s with all the makings of a classic Broadway show, and Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot, which stayed true to its original production and presented a big, beautiful revival. Other shows like & Juliet, Kimberly Akimbo, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street also incorporate nostalgic elements, using the music and vibes of the ’90s, classic Broadway comedy, and Golden Age musicals as inspiration.

One reason for this trend towards nostalgia is the growing interest in it among younger audiences. According to a study by JWT Intelligence, Gen Z is increasingly interested in nostalgia, with 82% of them saying that they enjoy retro design and 77% saying that they enjoy old-fashioned experiences. This trend is reflected in the success of shows like Some Like It Hot, which is based on the classic film and harkens back to the Golden Age of musical comedies.

But it’s not just about looking back – this year’s Tony nominees also highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion in theater. Many of the shows are written by diverse playwrights, including James Ijames, Lolita Chakrabarti, Jordan E Cooper, and Martyna Majok. And book writers like Amber Ruffin and Sharon Washington bring unique perspectives to their works, adding to the richness and depth of the stories being told.

Some of the most diverse shows this year include Ain’t No Mo’, a play that explores the Black American experience, and Prima Facie, a powerful drama about sexual assault and the legal system. A Doll’s House, which reimagines Ibsen’s classic play with a contemporary twist, and Cost of Living, a poignant exploration of disability and relationships, are also among the nominees.

Overall, this year’s Tony Awards nominations reflect a fascinating mix of nostalgia and diversity, showcasing the rich history of Broadway while also pushing boundaries and bringing new voices to the forefront. It will be exciting to see which shows come out on top and what they have to say about the state of theater in 2023.

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