“The Lehman Trilogy” proved to be unbeatable in the Tony race for Best Play, as many pundits predicted all season long. Written by Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben Power, this epic drama takes audiences through the rise of the Lehman brothers, the collapse of their company, and the ensuing financial crisis which rocked the world. While the trio of hardworking actors were incredible and director Sam Mendes’ massive production was eye popping, “Lehman’s” Tony win is even more impressive because the show has been closed for months.
“The Lehman Trilogy” was set to premiere in the spring of the scuttled 2019-2020 Broadway season before the global pandemic ground the industry to a halt. Once audiences could congregate again in 2021, the production wound up with a limited run in the fall. It officially opened at the Nederlander Theatre on October 14, 2021 and ended its engagement on January 2nd, 2022.
At the time of its Tony victory for Best Play, “The Lehman Trilogy” had been closed for over five months. That is a rarity for this Tony category, as voters tend to reward dramas that are still open. After all, the telecast serves as Broadway’s biggest commercial, and plenty of voters are surely hoping to aid the box office of whatever production wins the top category. Plus, memories are fickle, and it’s easy to be distracted by the shiny new shows of the spring, even if the drama from the fall and winter is superb.
A closed show prevailed in Best Play last season when Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance” took the prize. But that ceremony was honoring the truncated 2019-2020 season which Covid cut short, so all the nominees were closed! Beyond that strange year, we have to head back to 2007 to find a similar result. In that race Tom Stoppard’s three-part epic “The Coast of Utopia” was the Tony winner. But “Utopia” closed in May of that year, after Tony nominations had already been announced. Hardly the same scenario.
In order to find an equal for “The Lehman Trilogy,” one has to turn the history books back a whopping 40 years to 1982. David Edgar’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” took the top prize. “Nickleby” opened on October 4, 1981 before closing on January3, 1981. An eerily similar time frame to “The Lehman Trilogy.” Another eerie coincidence: “Nickleby” featured a Tony nominated performance from David Threlfall, who was nominated for just the second time in his career this year for “Hangmen.” Perhaps it was fated for “The Lehman Brothers” to clean up at the Tony Awards this year, proving that powerful performances and sizzling stagecraft can be remembered despite the passage of time.
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