Queer, Black meta-musical A Strange Loop sweeps Tony nominations with historic nod for trans actor

The cast of A Strange Loop perform on stage

Queer musical A Strange Loop has dominated the Tony Awards nominations, with L Morgan Lee becoming the first out trans performer nominated in an acting category.

A Strange Loop garnered 11 nominations across some of the Tony’s biggest categories including Best Musical.

Three of its stars are up for acting awards: lead Jaquel Spivey, John-Andrew Morrison and L Morgan Lee, who becomes the first out trans performer to be nominated in an acting category in the 75-year history of Tonys.

Michael R Jackson, the show’s writer and composer, also received nominations for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. 

The metafictional musical follows the creative process of Usher (Spivey), a Black gay man, as he writes a musical about a Black gay man creating a musical. The show won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2020 before it even debuted on Broadway for its exploration of identity, race and sexuality. 

Lee plays one of the multiple intrusive thoughts, “Thought 1”, who distracts Usher as he tries to create his creative masterpiece. 

“I can’t stop crying,” Lee tweeted on the day that the Tony nominations were announced. 

Lee, who made her Broadway debut in A Strange Loop, told the New York Times that she found her nomination “overwhelming”. 

“I know of many trans and non-binary and gender-expansive people who are out here trying to be seen and trying to put stories out into the world,” she said. “Having this happen today helps more people know that it’s possible.”

She added that she was “still trying to wrap my head around the importance of a Black trans woman” starring in a “principal role on a Broadway stage, period”. Lee said this is especially important as it comes at a time when “so many of us are simply fighting for our basic well being”. 

“So to be able to be part of a story that is challenging the form in so many ways — challenging what people have known Broadway to be — it’s a gift,” Lee said. “It is all bigger than me.”

There are also a host of LGBTQ+ and queer-adjacent shows fighting for a Tony this year. 

The gender-swapped hit Company is in the running for nine Tony awards including one for Broadway legend Patti LuPone, who starred in the show’s previous outing in the West End. The potential win could bring LuPone her third Tony award. 

Award-winning musical Six, which tells the stories of the six wives of Henry VII, received eight nominations. The Tudor extravaganza will be up against A Strange Loop for Best Musical, and Six creators and directors Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss will be battling Jackson for Best Original Score.

The award ceremony itself will be super queer as it’s being hosted by West Side Story star Ariana DeBose, who recently became the first openly queer woman of colour to win an Oscar.

The performer also was the first out queer woman and first Afro-Latina to win an individual film award from the Screen Actors Guild – truly a legend. 

The 75th Tony Awards will take place on 12 June.