Broadway’s biggest, brightest night is this Sunday: The 69th annual Tony Awards. And we’re looking forward to watching not just because our friend (and Studio 360 guest-host) Alan Cummingis mastering the ceremonies, with Kristin Chenoweth, but also because this year has felt very un-Broadway-like — in the best possible way.

Over the years, Broadway shows have gotten a reputation for lowest-common-denominator flash, stale revivals, a parade of big name stars and British virtuosos stomping through the Shakespearean catalogue. But this year saw a really good crop of challenging new works. Kurt Andersen had the pleasure of talking with a number of the creators behind these shows. Here’s a roundup of his conversations with some of the nominees.

Jeanine Tesori

Fun Home — Jeanine Tesori

The new musical Fun Hometells the real-life story of cartoonist Alison Bechdel growing up in her family’s funeral home. The show is staged in the round, with three different actresses playing Alison at different ages — including one of the best child actors we’ve ever seen. It’s also, kind of shockingly, the first Broadway show ever with a lesbian protagonist. Fun Home is up for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show’s composer, Jeanine Tesori, came in to talk about her career as Broadway’s most prolific female composer, and to play a few songs for us.

Robert Fairchild (Jerry) and Leanne Cope (Lise) in the Broadway production of 'An American in Paris'

An American In Paris — Christopher Wheeldon

Christopher Wheeldon, the former dancer and first-time director leaps onto the scene with An American in Paris, which racked up a staggering 12 nominations. It’s a new musical based on the beloved 1951 film that starred Gene Kelly as a World War II G.I. who decides to stick around Paris and become an artist — and falls in love with a ballerina who’s got other plans. Wheeldon, who is both director and choreographer overhauls the story by putting the dance at the center of this Broadway production.

John Cameron Mitchell in the Broadway production of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'

Hedwig and the Angry Inch— John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell is getting a special Tony for his performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. When Mitchell first created and starred in Hedwig two decades ago, pretty much no one talked about transgender issues. So a punk cabaret musical about a rock singer with a botched sex change broke all sorts of taboos when it debuted off Broadway. Twenty years later, Hedwig is a smash success on Broadway and for a few short months earlier this year, Mitchell stepped back into the role he created, twenty years older and wiser, bringing with him “exhaustion and awareness of impending death.”

A detail of the poster for the stage adaptation of Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall — Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel’sbest-selling, Man Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have revised our idea of Henry VIII — making a hero out of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son who rose to become Henry’s right-hand-man. Now they’ve been adapted into a Broadway playthat’s up for aeightTony Awards. Kurt spoke with Mantel about the process of adapting her densely detailed, layered books into live theater — and about the insights she’s gained into her characters from working with the actors.

Tavi Gevinson

This is Our Youth — Tavi Gevinson

The 19-year-old Renaissance Girl Tavi Gevinson, who made her name as a fashion bloggerand had a profile in The New Yorker, all by the time she was 14, made her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of This Is Our Youth. She spoke with Kurt about helming her own magazine, Rookie, and taking up acting on such a high-profile stage.

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