'Producers' wins 15 noms; 'Monty' notches 10

NEW YORK — Things got sunnier still for Broadway’s newest star last week, as “The Producers” made Tony history by racking up a record-setting 15 noms for the 55th annual awards.

The musical, which also picked up a New York Drama Critics Circle award and ended “The Lion King’s” reign of more than three years as Broadway’s biggest weekly grosser, was cited in every Tony category in which it was eligible.

But the curtain came down quickly on some of the Great White Way’s less fortunate denizens, as four shows announced closings in the days following the May 7 announcement of the noms.

The seasonal culling is likely to gather steam in the next month, as Broadway’s post-Tony reduction diet kicks in.

It was definitely springtime at the St. James, however, where lines are still forming at the box office for Mel Brooks’ new baby.

Brooks himself could take home three trophies at the Tonys. He was nominated in the score and book categories (along with Thomas Meehan in the latter) and is among the “Producers” producers, too, meaning his name is included in the show’s best musical citation.

The show’s entire cast of principals was singled out: Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for leading actor in a musical; Cady Huffman for featured actress; and Roger Bart (Carmen Ghia), Gary Beach (Roger DeBris) and Brad Oscar (Franz Liebkind) for featured actor.

The show’s other noms were for Susan Stroman’s direction and choreography, Robin Wagner’s sets, William Ivey Long’s costumes, Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting and Doug Besterman’s orchestrations.

The show’s tally broke a record set in 1971 by “Company,” the Stephen Sondheim musical that took 14 noms and went on to win seven Tonys, including best musical.

The record for most wins is held by “Hello, Dolly!” which turned 10 of its 11 noms into trophies in 1964. “Producers” has a chance to break that record. With two nominees in one category and three in another, it could win as many as 12 Tonys (barring a tie in one of its multi-nommed categories).

Brooks & Co. weren’t the only shows celebrating healthy Tony tallies, however.

“The Full Monty” was in second place with a strong 10 noms, including best musical. The revival of “42nd Street” nabbed nine — one more than it secured when the show was originally produced on Broadway in 1980.

“Full Monty” producer Lindsay Law expressed satisfaction at the Tony announcements.

“Ten nominations is a lot, regardless of that other show. Don’t let that accomplishment be overshadowed,” Law cautioned with a laugh. “I’m pleased, because it is the whole gang. You get terrified if someone in your show is left out.”

August Wilson’s “King Hedley II” and David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winner “Proof” tied with six nominations each, including nods in the best play category.

Rounding out that category — a competitive one this season — were Tom Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love” (also named best play of the season by the New York Drama Critics Circle last week) and Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.”

Left out of the best-play running were Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party,” Marie Jones’ Irish import “Stones in His Pockets” and Abby Mann’s “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

The latter is among productions that announced quick shutterings following the noms.

The National Actors Theater production had struggled at the B.O., and its cast had recently voted to accept pay cuts in an effort to keep it running. But the show’s lackluster showing in the noms — it received two nods in the featured acting category, for Michael Hayden and Marthe Keller — ended hopes of a B.O. revival. It closed May 13 after 56 performances.

Also shuttering on the Sunday following the announcement were the critically clobbered Arje Shaw play “The Gathering,” which was blanked, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” a tepidly received tuner that received just two noms, for Heidi Ettinger’s set and Kenneth Posner’s lighting. The musical will have lost all of its reported $7.5 million capitalization after just 21 perfs on Broadway.

“The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” also announced a closing date, but its story is far rosier. The Lily Tomlin show received a best revival nom and recouped its $1 million capitalization after its initial 10-week run. The show, initially skedded to end in January, will run through May 20.

The Tony announcements were especially welcome news for “Jane Eyre” and “A Class Act,” both of which were nominated in the best-musical category and tallied five noms each.

Both shows were also cited for actress, score and book, and “Jane Eyre” was tipped for its lighting while “Class Act” won a nom for orchestration. The two musicals have been struggling at the box office since they opened in December and March, respectively.

Although a best musical nom doesn’t spell a big B.O. boost, it does ensure a chance to appear on the Tony telecast before a big TV audience, which can be important for a show’s road future.

Annette Niemtzow, a producer of “Jane Eyre,” already is looking to the show’s post-Broadway life.

“We broke box office records in La Jolla,” she says, referring to “Jane’s” pre-Broadway success. “And we’re hopeful that we can emulate the success of ‘Secret Garden’ on tour. A lot of people want to see ‘Jane Eyre,’ and on tour you need only fill up a theater for a week or two in a particular city.”

In an unusual turn, “Class Act” producer Marty Bell said the show’s multiple noms could bring about a recasting of the leads, with the exception of Randy Graff, who took a nom for best actress in a musical.

“Now we’re liberated to do some star casting,” Bell said. “In this market of well-known titles, it is impossible to do a show without star names. It was probably a mistake from day one for us. We’re going to Weissler-ize the show,” he added, referring to Barry and Fran Weissler’s use of rotating stars in “Seussical.”

But Bell also sounds philosophical about his producing team’s decision to keep the show open despite not meeting their nut on a weekly basis.

“You do different shows for different reasons,” he says. “Our feeling is that we now have played the show for over 21 weeks on Broadway and at MTC. We’ve got the album out. We got Tony nominations, the songs will be performed on national TV. This was all about getting that music about there. It was Ed’s dream. Mission accomplished.”

As is regularly the case, all four musical revivals produced on Broadway this season were given noms in that category: “Bells Are Ringing,” “Follies,” “42nd Street” and “The Rocky Horror Show.”

The latter two also scored nods in the hotly contested category for director of a musical.

Nominees Stroman, Jack O’Brien (“The Full Monty”), Mark Bramble (“42nd Street”) and Christopher Ashley (“Rocky Horror Show”) beat out competition that included Lonny Price (“A Class Act”) and Scott Schwartz and John Caird (“Jane Eyre”) as well as Brit helmer Matthew Warchus (“Follies”).

Although “The Rocky Horror Show” has bounced back and forth over its break-even point in the past two months, producer Jordan Roth says his marketing plans for the show never hinged on Tony noms.

“The nominations were never indicators for whether we keep the show open or not,” he says. “This spring has been a rollercoaster ride for the whole industry. We do well on school holidays and spring breaks, so we anticipate the summer as being one big holiday.”

Roth does believe the noms will benefit a tour planned for this fall. ” ‘Rocky’ is a little racy for your normal Broadway subscription (series), so the nominations could help there.”

Special Tony Awards include one in the new category of special theatrical event, given to the production of “Blast!”

The category was created last season following controversy surrounding the inclusion of “Contact” in the musical category. (The show did not have an original score or use a live orchestra.)

The Tony for regional theater goes to the Victory Gardens Theater of Chicago, with a Tony for lifetime achievement to be presented to musical director Paul Gemignani.

Theatre World, New Dramatists, and Betty Corwin and the Theatre on Film & Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center each will receive a Tony honor for excellence in theater.

Reba McEntire, starring in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and Eric McCormack, who made his Broadway debut last week in “The Music Man,” announced the Tony Award nominees May 7 at Sardi’s.

The awards ceremony takes place June 3 at Radio City Music Hall and will be hosted by “Producers” stars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

Producers of the nominated musicals now are huddling with Tony execs to decide how best to showcase their shows. Already set is a complex opening number showcasing the four nominated revivals.

The day after the noms were announced, producers met with Tony exec producer Gary Smith and execs from the Metropolitan Transit Authority to coordinate a lavish tap number involve a subway trip.

Just how the differing sensibilities of “Bells Are Ringing,” “Follies,” “42nd Street” and “The Rocky Horror Show” will be melded together — along with the unique aesthetics of a No. 9 train, say — remains to be seen.

(Army Archerd in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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