Tonys set the stage

Older works deemed new by awards panel

NEW YORK — “Contact” is a musical and “True West” is a new play — at least in Tony terms — according to the Broadway awards’ administration committee, which met Wednesday to decide the eligibility of a number of shows.

“Contact,” which has advertised itself as a “dance play,” was seeking eligibility in the musical categories, and the committee agreed to the request. The show is considered a front-runner for the coveted top musical nod.

Brand-new competitor

The Sam Shepard play, which had two prior Off Broadway productions in the 1980s, will be allowed to compete as a new play for the Tonys since it was not previously produced on Broadway.

The show’s stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly, who alternate in the leading roles, will be considered for individual nominations only in the roles they essayed in the production’s opening night, the March 9 performance (in which Reilly played the drifter Lee and Hoffman was the milquetoast screenwriter Austin).

Following the logic of the “True West” best play decision, the committee deemed that Noel Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings,” written and first produced in London in 1960 but never staged in America, should be considered in the new play category, not as a revival.

Roy Dotrice, who plays Phil Hogan in the current production of “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” is eligible as a featured actor. Although they are billed below the title, Heather Headley and Adam Pascal of “Aida” are eligible in the leading actor category.

‘Squonk’ squelched

“Swing” and “Riverdance” were voted eligible for best musical, but the short-lived “Squonk” was deemed neither a play nor a musical by the committee. As with “Dame Edna: The Royal Tour” and last season’s “Swan Lake” (which won in other categories but was not allowed to compete as a musical), the show may be considered for a special Tony honor. Those will be decided at a meeting May 4, one day after the 1999-2000 legit season ends.

Tony nominations will be announced May 8.

The Tony Awards administration committee includes 10 members from the American Theater Wing, 10 from the League of American Theater Owners and Producers, and four from the crafts unions and guilds.

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