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Share the Excitement of First-Time Tony Nominees for Best Score of a Musical

For theater artists, a Tony Award nomination is the ultimate recognition, an honor that’s especially exciting the first time it happens. This season, seven composers and writers — six making their Broadway debuts — joined the ranks of first-time nominees in the categories of Best Original Score. You can see their work on the Great White Way right now in Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, and Hadestown. Below, the three newly minted nominees for Best Score share favorite memories of the Tony Awards and chart their path as theater artists.


Joe Iconis

2019 Tony Award Nominee for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics), Be More Chill

"Michael In The Bathroom" from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Be More Chill

Career highlights: A prolific musical-theater writer and performer, Joe Iconis is the author or coauthor of Broadway Bounty Hunter, Bloodsong of Love, The Black Suits, and ReWrite. Before arriving on Broadway, the sci-fi–flavored Be More Chill debuted at New Jersey’s Two River Theatre in 2015 and played a sold-out run Off-Broadway. The original cast recording has been streamed more than 220 million times. His concert act, Joe Iconis and Family, frequently plays at Feinstein’s 54 Below.

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatergoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

I saw the original production of Little Shop of Horrors on September 27, 1987, five days after my 6th birthday. Of course, I remember the date — it changed the course of my life! I was so taken with the characters, the songs, and the wild sci-fi story; when the vines fell from the ceiling at the end, it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I’m so lucky that my first experience with theater was at an Off-Broadway show. It felt so immediate, and I just loved it.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards? What’s your favorite memory of watching the Tonys?

You could not find a young person more obsessed with the Tony Awards than I was. I’m from Long Island, so for every birthday and holiday, my gift would be tickets to a musical, and I would study the ads in the Sunday Times and put together a list of shows nominated for awards. One of my favorite years was 1993, when I was 12. Kiss of the Spider Woman, my favorite musical of that season, was up against The Who’s Tommy, which I also loved, and Blood Brothers, this scrappy show that beat the odds to get to Broadway.

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on Be More Chill

The biggest surprise is seeing people totally unfamiliar with our show react positively. We had a strange path, because the show had a fan base of young people [from the cast recording] before it ever played in New York. My greatest joy is seeing people of different ages having this shared experience on Broadway. I write for kids who would never think of going to a musical and for people who have loved the art of musical theater for 40 years. 

What excites you most about being a 2019 Tony nominee?

My Tony nomination is 100 percent shared with the entire Be More Chill family, people I have been collaborating with for five, 10, even 15 years. The fact that so many of us are making our Broadway debuts together means the world to me. When I think of myself as a little kid obsessing over who would be nominated for a Tony, it feels like I’m part of a legacy. I take this honor very seriously.

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Anaïs Mitchell

2019 Tony Award Nominee for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics) and Best Book of a Musical, Hadestown

Breaking Open the World of Hadestown On Stage

Career highlights: Anaïs Mitchell is a Vermont-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter with a background in narrative folk song, poetry, and balladry. She released the original studio album of Hadestown in 2010, a few years before joining director Rachel Chavkin to transform the myth-based folk opera into a staged musical. After a 2016 Off-Broadway run, Hadestown played London’s National Theatre and opened on Broadway in April, earning 14 Tony nominations, including two for Broadway newcomer Mitchell. 

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatergoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

I remember seeing Les Misérables with my mom at a tender age and falling in love with that story and those songs, every single character, and how the whole thing felt like a profound collective spiritual experience. I fell completely under the spell of it. I saw the show several subsequent times, including a nonsanctioned community theater production in some kind of warehouse or church where you got handed a can of beer when you entered. It was a wild and wooly and very unprofessional production, and that did not matter a bit. The story and the music moved me just as deeply, and it was, again, collectively spiritual, an affirmation of our humanity.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards? What’s your favorite memory of watching the Tonys?

I never actually watched the Tonys until a few years ago when I had been working in NYC theater long enough to know some folks up for awards. First it was that crazy year with Hamilton and Waitress and The Color Purple. I was so moved watching “She Used to Be Mine,” “I’m Here,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sonnet/speech about “Love is love is love.” Then there was that amazing year when [Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812] was up for a zillion awards. I watched in Rachel Chavkin’s apartment; she was at the ceremony, of course, but had given someone her keys! There was disappointment that the show didn’t grab more wins, but the company’s performance was so mind-bogglingly great, and at the end of the night, our whole crew was drunkenly singing the Comet theme.

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on Hadestown

I’ve been working on the show with Rachel Chavkin for the past six years, and she really brought something out in me. It’s hard to explain, but she has this combination of joy and toughness that pushed me to write better and lean into a different kind of writing than I ever thought myself capable of. So the pleasant surprise partly was discovering the superpowers that are unique to Rachel, but also discovering that I could stretch further as a writer, delve deeper than I imagined was possible.

What excites you most about being a 2019 Tony nominee?

I’m so proud that so many folks have been recognized for their work. This show took a village to create, and I’m so grateful that so many of those villagers were nominated! As for me, I’m very excited, as a woman, to be up for Best Score and Book, because it’s unfortunately still so rare for women to be recognized in those categories. I’m psyched to represent for my fellow women writers and, hopefully, be part of a turning tide where women’s voices and stories are coming fully to light.

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Eddie Perfect

2019 Tony Award Nominee for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics), Beetlejuice

Meet Eddie Perfect | Beetlejuice The Musical

Career highlights: Australian-born composer, lyricist, playwright, musician, and actor Eddie Perfect made dual Broadway debuts this season with Beetlejuice and King Kong. Honing his talents by writing and performing solo shows, the Melbourne native won the prestigious Helpmann Award in 2008 for Shane Warne: The Musical. He was hired to compose Beetlejuice after submitting spec songs on the advice of his friend Tim Minchin, the Tony-nominated composer of Matilda.

Before you began writing for the stage, what was your most memorable experience as a theatergoer, and why did it affect you so strongly?

My parents took me to a lot of theater, but my most memorable experience as a kid was listening to the live recording of Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. My father taped it off the radio onto cassettes and would play it in our van as we were riding out to the bush for family camping trips. The combination of lyrics and music and theatrical storytelling made my imagination run wild; it was a world that I could get lost in. I ended up writing black comedy, so Sweeney Todd had a massive impact on my life.

When did you become aware of the Tony Awards?

I didn’t know what the Tonys were until after high school, when I studied fine art in Perth and made friends with a bunch of people who were obsessed with musical theater. This was before YouTube, so the only way to discover stuff was by listening to cast albums at the library. I had no idea how the commercial side of Broadway worked until I moved to New York eight months ago!

What has been the biggest or most pleasant surprise about working on Beetlejuice

I’m constantly blown away by how hard theater people work and how generous they are. Maybe it takes an outsider to see it, but there is nothing like Broadway on the planet. To see the songs you wrote and recorded in a church hall in Melbourne brought to life at the Winter Garden Theatre with an 18-piece orchestra is the most extraordinary experience.

What excites you most about being a 2019 Tony nominee?

I’ve always wanted to be part of the Broadway community, but you don’t automatically get a seat at the table; you have to prove yourself. My wife and two daughters moved all the way from the other side of the world to support this dream of mine, and the Tony nomination is a way to repay the faith of people who believed in me — my agent, John Buzzetti, [producer] Mark Kaufman, [record producer] Kurt Deutsch, and Alex Timbers, our director. They took a huge risk on an Australian with a crazy name, and that’s something I will never forget or take for granted.

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