Broadway’s latest sensation, “Shucked,” has audiences roaring with applause every night, but it’s Alex Newell’s extraordinary performance as Lulu that steals the show. With the Tony Awards just around the corner, the question on everyone’s mind is which category Newell, who identifies as gender nonconforming, will be nominated in. Breaking barriers and challenging traditional norms, Newell has chosen to be considered for the Best Featured Actor category, regardless of gender.
Playing the captivating character of Lulu, a spirited whiskey distiller in the heartwarming production, Newell brings the house down with their show-stopping anthem, “Independently Owned.” This powerful song, filled with heart and conviction, captivates the audience and often ends with a rare mid-show standing ovation. Newell, known for their impressive performances in “Glee” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” has been frequently linked to Tony nominations, and their groundbreaking recognition is well-deserved.
In an interview with Variety, Newell shares their personal connection to the role, stating that Lulu reminds them of their own independent spirit. As they sit in their dressing room, adorned with small, bedazzled picture frames of corn and the legendary Dolly Parton, Newell reflects on their inspiration for Lulu’s aesthetic—channeling the iconic country vibe of their idol.
The conversation takes an intriguing turn as Newell discusses their decision to be considered for the Best Featured Actor category. They challenge the traditional gendered distinctions in acting, advocating for a more inclusive and genderless approach. By choosing the “actor” category, Newell hopes to spark a conversation about the art of acting itself, beyond gender constraints.
While some non-binary actors have chosen to withdraw from Tony consideration to protest gendered acting categories, Newell finds their decision admirable yet heartbreaking. They believe it should serve as a wake-up call to expedite the necessary changes in the industry to make it more inclusive.
As the Tony Awards draw near, Newell’s nomination not only marks a milestone but also highlights the need for a broader conversation about gender categories in award shows. They emphasize the importance of holding up a mirror to the industry and addressing its flaws and biases, with the potential to create meaningful change.
Amidst the excitement and exhaustion of their Broadway journey, Newell shares their post-show rituals, downtime activities, and the challenges of preserving their vocal abilities. They approach their role with passion, always striving to deliver their best performance, despite the pressure and scrutiny they face.
Alex Newell’s presence on Broadway is not only groundbreaking but also a testament to their exceptional talent and determination. With their nomination for a Tony Award, they set a new standard, paving the way for future generations of performers who refuse to conform to traditional gender norms. The theater world eagerly awaits the outcome of the Tony Awards, where Newell’s extraordinary talent and trailblazing spirit are sure to shine.