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How Did Ruthie Ann Miles Pull Off that Surprise Win at the Tony Awards?

Beau Salant ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Ashley Park and Ruthie Ann Miles in The King and I. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik/Broadway.com
Ashley Park and Ruthie Ann Miles in The King and I. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik/Broadway.com

One of the most exciting things that can happen at an awards show is an unexpected victory; an underdog emerging victorious at the last minute. This year at the Tony Awards, the victorious underdog was Ruthie Ann Miles, who won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Lady Thiang in The King and I, which also took home the award for Best Musical Revival among others.

Miles was one of the production’s most acclaimed aspects, and her performance of the song “Something Wonderful” (which can be heard on the new cast recording) is nothing short of mesmerizing. She has also earned a huge amount of respect in the New York City theater industry, having played Imelda Marcos to perfection in the 2014 off-Broadway musical Here Lies Love.

In many other years, Miles would have been deemed a sure thing to take home the award. But this year, many people thought she would be overlooked in favor of one of the three women from the acclaimed Fun Home that she was nominated against. Most of the pundits thought the race was between Fun Home’s Sydney Lucas and Judy Kuhn, a classic battle between newcomer and veteran (we profiled Kuhn for our Broadway Backstory column a few months ago, you can check it out here), or possibly even Emerson alum Emily Skeggs, who also received immense praise for her work in Fun Home.

Sydney Lucas, Beth Malone and Emily Skeggs in Fun Home. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus and Jenny Anderson/Broadway.com
Sydney Lucas, Beth Malone and Emily Skeggs in Fun Home. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus and Jenny Anderson/Broadway.com

So how did Miles do it? Well it turns out that, statistically, being nominated against three women from Fun Home helped Miles more than it hindered her.

While Fun Home clearly had a lot of support in this category, the support most likely wound up being divided. Since there was no clear favorite among the three, each lady probably received roughly a third of the votes that Fun Home received here. Suppose that 60% of the total number of voters voted for a Fun Home girl. That would mean that each lady received roughly 20% of the total vote. That leaves 40% remaining, and it probably looked a little something like this:

Judy Kuhn (Fun Home) – 20%

Sydney Lucas (Fun Home) – 20%

Emily Skeggs (Fun Home) – 20%

Victoria Clark (Gigi) – 10%

Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I) – 30%

So, even though more voters went for the Fun Home ladies, Ruthie Ann Miles was able to receive a majority despite having less support overall.

This is not trying to take away from Miles’ performance, which is absolutely divine and more than deserving of being showered with awards. But even though her performance more than speaks for itself, and while it is possible that the majority of the voters picked her based on performance alone, she most likely has statistics to thank for the Tony that currently sits on her mantle.

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