Replacement thesps to get a shot at Tonys

Under category, 'Fiddler's' Fierstein could be contender

Now Broadway’s replacement stars can get a statue, too. The Tony Awards administration committee, in the first of four meetings this season, established a new category for performance by an actor/actress re-creating a role.

Eligibility guidelines state that in order to be considered for the award, a performer must be contracted in a leading role for six months of a “long-running show” (defined as a Broadway play, musical or revival that opened in a previous season).

Producers eager to boost their Broadway distance-runners with a shot of Tony hype can submit no more than two contenders per production.

Under these rules, Reba McEntire’s much-praised 2001 turn in “Annie Get Your Gun,” for instance, could have earned her a trophy for stepping into a role originated in the 1999 revival by Bernadette Peters.

Another example: Harvey Fierstein could be a contender for his current, well-received stint as Alfred Molina’s successor in “Fiddler on the Roof.” (It has yet to be determined whether Fierstein, whose January start date technically came last season, would be eligible for the 2006 award.)

The committee also decided the eligibility of the first five Broadway shows of the season, including “The Blonde in the Thunderbird.” Suzanne Somers’ one-woman flop will be considered in the category of special theatrical event, whereas Antony Sher’s one-man depiction of Primo Levi, “Primo,” will be considered a play.

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