The 2016 Tony Awards are almost here, and some of the year's most talked-about shows are musicals. From Hamilton to Waitress, lyrical hits have taken over Broadway, turning their shining stars into Tonys nominees. So who is in the race for Lead Actress in a Musical? Everyone from a five-time Tony nominee to a young star making her Broadway debut.
Theater veterans and Tony Award winners Jessie Mueller (Waitress) and Laura Benanti (She Loves Me) have their hat in the ring, and they're facing fierce competition from three up-and-comers who have earned their first nod.
Cynthia Erivo earned a nomination for her leading role as Celie in The Color Purple, Carmen Cusack is awing critics in Bright Star, and Phillipa Soo has made a name for herself as Eliza Hamilton in the pop culture sensation, Hamilton.
Before the awards are handed out on June 12, here's everything you need to know about the five nominees for lead actress in a musical.
1. CYNTHIA ERIVO
Erivo is nominated for her role as Celie in The Color Purple, but this year isn't the first time she's played the character. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the British actress earned acclaim back in 2013 for her part in the U.K. adaptation of the hit. Erivo made her New York stage debut in the 2015 revival of the musical, earning a Tony nomination for her very first role on Broadway.
2. CARMEN CUSACK
Cusack is nominated for the musical Bright Star, but her first role wasn't on a New York stage—it was on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship, sailing her way around the world. After making landfall, the actress has starred in everything from Phantom of the Opera to Wicked to Les Miserables, making her a familiar face in the theater community.
3. Phillipa Soo
Soo is nominated for her role as Hamilton's wife, Eliza, in the hit new musical, but Broadway isn't the only place she's starred. The Julliard graduate might look familiar for her part as Lexi in the NBC TV series, Smash.
4. Jessie Mueller
Mueller is nominated for her lead role in the new musical Waitress, and the star is a Tonys vet. She earned a nom in 2012 for her featured role in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, her Broadway debut, and won a Tony Award in 2014 for her lead role in Beautiful: The Carol King Musical. She was also honored with a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album for the same production.
5. LAURA BENANTI
Benanti, nominated for She Loves Me, is also a Tonys veteran. The actress earned the 2008 award for lead actress in Gypsy, starring alongside Patti LuPone, and has been nominated for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Swing!, and Into the Woods. You might also recognize the star from her roles in TV's Nashville, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, and The Sound of Music LIVE.