'History Boys' most nommed new play of the season

See Nominees

Cementing its claim as the sleeper hit of the Broadway season, “The Drowsy Chaperone” woke up to good news Tuesday as it led the Tony field with 13 nominations. Show scored noms for musical, book, score, direction, choreography and orchestrations, as well as in design categories and for four of its cast.

The musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” presented by Oprah Winfrey, logged 11 noms, including tuner, book, score and four for acting. Steven Spielberg’s film version landed 11 Oscar noms in 1986 but went home empty-handed.

Toughest competition for the top Tony spot likely will come from “Jersey Boys,” a favorite along the Rialto. The bio-tuner about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons racked up eight noms, including tuner and book, plus two for performances. While the pop-packed show is handicapped by its lack of an original score, its strong touring prospects are expected to provide a leg up with voters.

The much-debated fourth slot in the tuner race went to “The Wedding Singer,” the adaptation of the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore pic that tallied five noms — musical, score, book, actor and choreography.

The musical contenders mark one of the rare years in which all four shows are by composers and writers new to Broadway.

Head of the class among new plays is Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys,” the rapturously received transfer of Nicholas Hytner’s National Theater production, with seven noms, including play, director and lead actor (Richard Griffiths).

“History” faces off against two Irish entries — Martin McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (five noms) and “Shining City” (two). The sole American play in the field, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” fared well, surfacing in five categories including director and lead actress (Cynthia Nixon).

Musical revival race likely will come down to a tug-of-war between Harry Connick Jr. starrer “The Pajama Game,” which scored nine noms, and “Sweeney Todd,” with six. The third nominee in that race is the poorly received remount of “The Threepenny Opera,” which stands a stronger chance of winning a trophy for beloved Broadway vet Jim Dale in the featured actor stakes.

Among revivals of plays, Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Clifford Odets’ “Awake and Sing!” snagged eight noms, the most of any play this season, including revival, direction of a play and three acting mentions. Chief competition for play revival honors will come from “Faith Healer,” its four noms including lead and featured actor for Ralph Fiennes and Ian McDiarmid, respectively.

Direction of a musical pits several well-received efforts against one another. John Doyle may be the top candidate for his pared-down approach to Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney,” but Tony prognosticators are not counting out Des McAnuff’s slick work on “Jersey Boys.” Also viable contenders are Kathleen Marshall for her crowd-pleasing take on “Pajama Game” and choreographer-director Casey Nicholaw, who channels theater-geek affection in “Drowsy.”

The battles for leading actor and actress in a musical won’t be quick and clean, either. Michael Cerveris (“Sweeney”), Connick (“Pajama Game”), Bob Martin (“Drowsy Chaperone”) and John Lloyd Young (“Jersey Boys”) all look like worthy contenders for actor, while the selection on the distaff side includes Broadway legends Patti LuPone (“Sweeney”) and Chita Rivera (“Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life”), up against newer talents Sutton Foster (“Drowsy”), LaChanze (“The Color Purple”) and Kelli O’Hara (“Pajama Game”).

The leading actress in a play category honored five perfs no one can see anymore: All of the thesps — Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave in “The Constant Wife,” Judy Kaye in “Souvenir,” Lisa Kron in “Well” and Nixon in “Rabbit Hole” — appeared in shows that have closed. Along with Griffiths and Fiennes, contenders for actor in a play are Oliver Platt in “Shining City,” David Wilmot in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and Zeljko Ivanek in “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”

The single nom for the latter revival has not saved the struggling production. “Caine” producers have announced it will close Sunday after running only five weeks. Producers will be hoping the five noms for “Inishmore” will rescue that play from a similar fate; glowing reviews have not translated into strong sales for the Off Broadway transfer.

In the musical race, “The Wedding Singer” stands to make the biggest immediate gains at the box office. Having underperformed since it opened April 27, the ’80s retro comedy could score a boost in the Tony Awards runup from its robust showing in the noms — not to mention the push from its musical number to be performed on the televised kudocast.

While the recent Tonys have been dominated by a single behemoth such as “The Producers” or “Hairspray,” last year’s musical field spread the wealth among four hits that continue to sell well a year later. That adrenaline shot to business looks to be repeated this year as hefty nomination counts help consolidate the success of “Jersey Boys,” “Drowsy Chaperone” and “The Color Purple,” fueling what is likely to be a strong summer for Broadway.

Underlining again that Tony nominators are not easily influenced by Hollywood star power, Julia Roberts (like Denzel Washington last year for “Julius Caesar”) was snubbed for her turn in “Three Days of Rain,” which garnered smash-hit sales but tepid critical response. Roberts’ co-stars, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper, also went unrecognized. Ditto past Tony-winning director Joe Mantello, who failed to make the cut this year for both “Rain” and “The Odd Couple.” Having reunited for the Neil Simon revival, the golden-boy duo from “The Producers,” Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, also were absent.

The other high-profile shutout was Disney Theatrical’s critically mauled mega-musical, “Tarzan,” which scored just one nom, for Natasha Katz’s lighting design. (Bob Crowley, the show’s director-designer, picked up a nom for his set design of “History Boys.”)

More surprising was the exclusion of Brian F. O’Byrne for “Shining City.” Thesp is a Tony favorite, having won for “Frozen” and figuring among nominees last year for “Doubt.” The 2005 actress winner for that play, Cherry Jones, also was left out of this year’s noms for her work in “Faith Healer.” Another also-ran was Anthony Sher for leading actor in “Primo,” a limited run that perhaps appeared too early in the season to stick in voters’ memories.

The nominating committee also passed over Maria Friedman, widely expected to be recognized for her role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s short-lived return to Broadway, “The Woman in White.” That show received a single nom for score.

A Tony for lifetime achievement will go to director Harold Prince.

The annual regional theater award goes to the Intiman in Seattle. The Washington city’s theater community has additional reason to celebrate given the multiple noms to Intiman a.d. Bartlett Sher’s production of “Awake and Sing!” and to “Wedding Singer,” which originated at the city’s 5th Avenue Theater.

As previously announced, a special Tony will go to Sarah Jones, the writer-performer of solo show “Bridge & Tunnel.” However, in the inaugural year for the replacement performer category, no award was given.

Of the nonprofit companies staging Broadway productions, Roundabout came out in front with a combined 16 noms for “The Pajama Game,” “The Constant Wife,” “Threepenny Opera” and “A Touch of the Poet”; Lincoln Center Theater scored 10 for “Awake and Sing!” and “Seascape”; and Manhattan Theater Club earned seven for “Rabbit Hole” and “Shining City.”

The nominations were announced by previous Tony winners Phylicia Rashad, Natasha Richardson and Liev Schreiber on Tuesday morning at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

Tonys will be presented June 11 at Radio City Music Hall. No host has been announced for the ceremony, but the high profile of “The Color Purple” in the nominations has raised industry speculation that its presenting p
roducer Winfrey may reconsider and take on the gig. Hugh Jackman, who hosted the last two editions, reportedly is unavailable this year.

Nominations for the 2006 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards:

PLAY
The History Boys – Author: Alan Bennett; Producers: Boyett Ostar Productions, Roger Berlind, Debra Black, Eric Falkenstein, Roy Furman, Jam Theatricals, Stephanie P. McClelland, Judith Resnick, Scott Rudin, Jon Avnet/Ralph Guild, Dede Harris/Mort Swinsky, The National Theatre of Great Britain
The Lieutenant of Inishmore – Author: Martin McDonagh;Producers: Randall L. Wreghitt, Dede Harris, Atlantic Theater Company, David Lehrer, Harriet Newman Leve & Ron Nicynski, Zavelson Meyrelles Greiner Group, Mort Swinsky & Redfern Goldman Productions, Ruth Hendel
Rabbit Hole – Author: David Lindsay-Abaire; Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove
Shining City – Author: Conor McPherson; Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Debra Black

MUSICAL
The Color Purple; Producers: Oprah Winfrey, Scott Sanders, Roy Furman, Quincy Jones, Creative Battery, Anna Fantaci & Cheryl Lachowicz, Independent Presenters Network, David Lowy, Stephanie P.Clelland, Gary Winnick, Jan Kallish, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Andrew Asnes & Adam Zotovich, Todd Johnson
The Drowsy Chaperone; Producers: Kevin McCollum, Roy Miller, Boyett Ostar Productions, Stephanie P. McClelland, Barbara Freitag, Jill Furman
Jersey Boys; Producers: Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Pelican Group, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Latitude Link, Rick Steiner/Osher/Staton/Bell/Mayerson Group
The Wedding Singer; Producers: Margo Lion, New Line Cinema, The Araca Group, Roy Furman, Douglas L. Meyer/James D. Stern, Rick Steiner/The Staton Bell Osher Mayerson Group, Jam Theatricals, Jujamcyn Theaters, Jay Furman, Michael Gill, Dr. Lawrence Horowitz, Rhoda Mayerson, Marisa Sechrest, Gary Winnick, Dancap Productions, Inc., Élan V. McAllister/Allan S. Gordon/Adam Epstein

BOOK OF A MUSICAL
The Color Purple – Marsha Norman
The Drowsy Chaperone – Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Jersey Boys – Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
The Wedding Singer – Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy

ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
The Color Purple – Music & Lyrics: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray
The Drowsy Chaperone – Music & Lyrics: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
The Wedding Singer – Music: Matthew Sklar; Lyrics: Chad Beguelin
The Woman in White – Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics: David Zippel

REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Awake and Sing! – Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
The Constant Wife – Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Ellen Richard, Julia C. Levy
Edward Albee’s Seascape – Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
Faith Healer – Producers: Michael Colgan & Sonia Friedman Productions, The Shubert Organization, Robert Bartner, Roger Berlind, Scott Rudin, Spring Sirkin, Gate Theatre Dublin

REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Pajama Game – Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Jeffrey Richards, James Fuld, Jr., Scott Landis
Sweeney Todd – Producers: Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Ambassador Theatre Goup, Adam Kenwright, Tulchin/Bartner/Bagert
The Threepenny Opera – Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy

PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ralph Fiennes, Faith Healer
Richard Griffiths, The History Boys
Zeljko Ivanek, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
Oliver Platt, Shining City
David Wilmot, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Kate Burton, The Constant Wife
Judy Kaye, Souvenir
Lisa Kron, Well
Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole
Lynn Redgrave, The Constant Wife

PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Cerveris, Sweeney Todd
Harry Connick, Jr., The Pajama Game
Stephen Lynch, The Wedding Singer
Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone
John Lloyd Young, Jersey Boys

PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sutton Foster, The Drowsy Chaperone
LaChanze, The Color Purple
Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd
Kelli O’Hara, The Pajama Game
Chita Rivera, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life

PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Samuel Barnett, The History Boys
Domhnall Gleeson, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Ian McDiarmid, Faith Healer
Mark Ruffalo, Awake and Sing!
Pablo Schreiber, Awake and Sing!

PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Tyne Daly, Rabbit Hole
Frances de la Tour, The History Boys
Jayne Houdyshell, Well
Alison Pill, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Zoë Wanamaker, Awake and Sing!

PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Danny Burstein, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jim Dale, The Threepenny Opera
Brandon Victor Dixon, The Color Purple
Manoel Felciano, Sweeney Todd
Christian Hoff, Jersey Boys

PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Carolee Carmello, Lestat
Felicia P. Fields, The Color Purple
Megan Lawrence, The Pajama Game
Beth Leavel, The Drowsy Chaperone
Elisabeth Withers-Mendes, The Color Purple

SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
John Lee Beatty, Rabbit Hole
Bob Crowley, The History Boys
Santo Loquasto, Three Days of Rain
Michael Yeargan, Awake and Sing!

SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
John Lee Beatty, The Color Purple
David Gallo, The Drowsy Chaperone
Derek McLane, The Pajama Game
Klara Zieglerova, Jersey Boys

COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Michael Krass, The Constant Wife
Santo Loquasto, A Touch of the Poet
Catherine Zuber, Awake and Sing!
Catherine Zuber, Edward Albee’s Seascape

COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregg Barnes, The Drowsy Chaperone
Susan Hilferty, Lestat
Martin Pakledinaz, The Pajama Game
Paul Tazewell, The Color Purple

LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Christopher Akerlind, Awak
e and Sing!

Paul Gallo, Three Days of Rain
Mark Henderson, Faith Healer
Mark Henderson, The History Boys

LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Ken Billington and Brian Monahan, The Drowsy Chaperone
Howell Binkley, Jersey Boys
Natasha Katz, Tarzan
Brian MacDevitt, The Color Purple

DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Nicholas Hytner, The History Boys
Wilson Milam, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Bartlett Sher, Awake and Sing!
Daniel Sullivan, Rabbit Hole

DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
John Doyle, Sweeney Todd
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

CHOREOGRAPHY
Rob Ashford, The Wedding Singer
Donald Byrd, The Color Purple
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

ORCHESTRATIONS
Larry Blank, The Drowsy Chaperone
Dick Lieb and Danny Troob, The Pajama Game
Steve Orich, Jersey Boys
Sarah Travis, Sweeney Todd

* * *

SPECIAL TONY AWARD
Sarah Jones for Bridge & Tunnel
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Harold Prince
Regional Theatre Tony Award
Intiman Theatre, Seattle, WA

* * *

TOTAL NOMINATIONS BY PRODUCTION
The Drowsy Chaperone – 13
The Color Purple – 11
The Pajama Game - 9
Awake and Sing! - 8
Jersey Boys – 8
The History Boys – 7
Sweeney Todd – 6
Rabbit Hole – 5
The Lieutenant of Inishmore – 5
The Wedding Singer – 5
The Constant Wife – 4
Faith Healer – 4
Edward Albee’s Seascape – 2
Lestat – 2
Shining City – 2
Three Days of Rain – 2 The Threepenny Opera – 2
Well – 2
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial – 1
Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life – 1
Souvenir – 1
Tarzan – 1
A Touch of the Poet – 1
The Woman in White – 1

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more