Meet the 2016 Tony Awards Nominees: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

This is one category we'll be watching very closely on Tony Sunday! A mix of Broadway debuts and Broadway royalty, these ladies are all deserving of the award for their powerhouse vocals and unique interpretations (4/5 nominees are originating their roles on Broadway!). We have fallen in love with each and every one of them and we're so glad someone else has to decide the ultimate winner!

Today's Spotlight: Best Performance by an

Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Meet Laura Benanti

She Loves Me (Amalia Balash)

Hometown: Kinnelon, New Jersey

Training: She attended N.Y.U. for 2 weeks before she booked The Sound of Music. The rest is history.

Big Break: At 16, she won Paper Mill Playhouse’s “Rising Star Award,” and when The Sound of Music Broadway revival (1998) Casting Director called Paper Mill up for Liesl recommendations, Laura was sent in. She was better suited for Maria and she ultimately made her Broadway debut as Rebecca Luker’s understudy and took over the role of Maria at 19. She went on to receive Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award nominations for Swing! (1999) and Into the Woods (2002) and won the award for Gypsy (2008). On TV, she is best known for her work on Nashville, Supergirl, and of course, Sound of Music Live!

Fun Fact: Her mom (also her voice teacher) and her dad were performers and she was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma…while her parents were doing Oklahoma! She literally grew up in their dressing room and everyone took turns taking care of her when they weren’t on stage. Also, she believes in the power of Twitter. She swears that she got her role on Nashville because she tweeted about how much she loved the show. “If you tweet it, it will come!”- Laura Benanti

Meet Carmen Cusack

Bright Star (Alice Murphy)

Hometown: Denver, Colorado, but grew up in Fountain, Florida and Houston, Texas