Many went into Sunday's Tony broadcast expecting Kelli O'Hara to take home the award for Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Musical for her role in Bridges of Madison County — turns out they were wrong. The voter sentiment swayed in a different direction, and instead the Tony went to Jessie Mueller for her role in Beautiful — The Carole King Musical.
The race was a contentious one. As theater critic Gordon Cox told CBS News, "It's a category full of people who are sort of major Broadway divas in the best sense of the word," said Cox. "They are people who have legitimate star power on Broadway. So it's a tough one."
And it's true: Three of the five nominees were some big of the biggest names in modern Broadway. Sutton Foster, up for her role in Violet, has been nominated for six Tonys including this one; she's won twice, for Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002 and Anything Goes in 2011. Idina Menzel, who gained more mainstream fame this year thanks to her voice work in mega-blockbuster Frozen, has been nominated for three Tonys, starting with the nom she got for Rent in 1996; she won one for her turn as Elphaba in Wicked in 2003. O'Hara, too, has been nominated for five Tonys, for her roles in The Light In the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Bridges Of Madison County.
Mueller, for comparison, was a first-time nominee. In her speech, the actress thanked God first, then her parents for raising four kids and putting them all through school. She wrapped up by thanking Carole King, saying "You have taught me so much. I go up on stage every night and try to go through what you went through and come out of it with a pure heart."