Musical duo pick up 10 nods each

“Billy Elliot” and “Shrek the Musical” top the 2009 list of nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Awards, with both tuners nabbing 10 noms each.

Among plays, “33 Variations,” “Waiting for Godot” and “Ruined” led with five mentions each, while “Blithe Spirit” picked up four.

“Billy” and “Shrek” will compete for the top Broadway tuner prize. The season’s other large-scale musical, “9 to 5,” was notably absent from the category. That show, in previews ahead of an April 30 opening, received three noms, two for performance (for lead Megan Hilty and featured actress Kathy Fitzgerald) and one for choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler).

Rialto musical list is rounded out by “Rock of Ages” and the short-lived “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Allison Janney, one of the topliners of “9 to 5,” was one of several high-profile thesps overlooked by the Outer Critics in a season that was particularly crowded with straight plays, many of which featured star performers. Also left off the list were Kristin Scott Thomas in “The Seagull,” Jane Fonda in “33 Variations,” Daniel Radcliffe in “Equus” and Susan Sarandon in “Exit the King,” among others.

The noms, which consider both Broadway and Off Broadway fare, also underscore how tough the Tony battle for Rialto play revivals will be after a packed season.

Broadway offerings “Blithe Spirit,” “Godot,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” and “The Norman Conquests” join Off Broadway outing “The Cripple of Inishmaan” in the nonmusical revival category. Other straight-play revivals scored multiple mentions in other categories, including dueling lead performance noms for “Mary Stuart” stars Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter and “Godot” topliners Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin.

But nowhere on the list of Outer Critics noms were the revivals of “The Seagull” or “All My Sons,” two strong-selling fall outings.

In the race for Broadway play, “33 Variations” competes with Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” Dan Gordon’s “Irena’s Vow” and Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to Be Pretty.” Actors Marcia Gay Harden (for “Carnage”) and Thomas Sadoski (for “Reasons”) were among the acting nominees.

Competish for top musical revival, Broadway or Off Broadway, include “West Side Story” (which garnered five noms total), “Hair” (which nabbed four), “Enter Laughing” and “Pal Joey.”

“Ruined,” which scored the most Outer Critics noms among all Off Broadway offerings, vies in the new Off Broadway play category with Gina Gionfriddo’s “Becky Shaw,” Beau Willimon’s “Farragut North,” Donald Margulies’ “Shipwrecked!” and Christopher Durang’s “Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them.” “Becky Shaw,” “Farragut North” and Annie Baker’s “Body Awareness” are all in contention for the John Gassner Award, presented to an American play preferably by an emerging scribe.

Off Broadway musical contenders are “Happiness,” “Rooms: A Rock Romance,” “The Toxic Avenger” and “What’s That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling.” (One of the higher-profile Off Broadway offerings of the season, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s “Road Show,” didn’t make the cut.)

Besides a nom in the top Broadway tuner category, the tally for “Billy” includes mentions for score (Elton John and Lee Hall), director (Stephen Daldry), choreographer (Peter Darling) and featured actor (Greg Jbara) and actress (Haydn Gwynne), along with design kudos.

The three young thesps who originated the role of Billy on Broadway — David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish — will receive a shared special achievement award.

The “Shrek” haul includes noms for tuner, score (Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire), director (Jason Moore), choreographer (Josh Prince) and performance noms for lead actor (Brian D’Arcy James) and actress (Sutton Foster) as well as two for supporting actor (Christopher Sieber and Daniel Breaker).

The Outer Critics’ kudo for acting ensemble will go to the cast of “The Norman Conquests,” the London hit in previews on Broadway for an opening set for Thursday.

This season’s Broadway incarnations of “Dividing the Estate” and “Next to Normal” were ineligible for honors, because they had been considered in prior years for their Off Broadway runs.

Outer Critics Circle membership consists of legit journalists from outlets that are mainly read outside the Gotham area. Noms are selected by the executive/nominating committee, topped by prexy Simon Saltzman.

OCC honors are traditionally the first legit awards that consider Broadway fare to be announced each season. Still, the often all-over-the-map roster of noms are rarely considered the most accurate bellwether of the Tony race.

Outer Critics award winners are announced May 11, with a ceremony set for May 21.

Outer Critics Circle 2008-2009 Award Nominations

NEW BROADWAY PLAY
“God of Carnage”
“Irena’s Vow”
“Reasons To Be Pretty”
“33 Variations”

NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
“Billy Elliot the Musical”
“Rock of Ages”
“Shrek the Musical”
“A Tale of Two Cities”

NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
“Becky Shaw”
“Farragut North”
“Ruined”
“Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself)”
“Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them”

NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
“Happiness”
“Rooms A Rock Romance”
“The Toxic Avenger”
“What’s That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling”

NEW SCORE (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
“Billy Elliot the Musical”
“Happiness”
“Rooms A Rock Romance”
“Shrek the Musical”

REVIVAL OF A PLAY (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
“Blithe Spirit”
“The Cripple of Inishmaan”
“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”
“The Norman Conquests”
“Waiting for Godot”

REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
“Enter Laughing”
Hair
“Pal Joey”
“West Side Story”

DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Garry Hynes – “The Cripple of Inishmaan”
Anthony Page – “Waiting for Godot”
Bartlett Sher – “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”
Matthew Warchus – “The Norman Conquests”
Moisés Kaufman – “33 Variations”

DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Stephen Daldry – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Arthur Laurents – “West Side Story”
Jason Moore – “Shrek the Musical”
Diane Paulus – “Hair”
Susan Stroman – “Happiness”

CHOREOGRAPHER
Karole Armitage – “Hair”
Andy Blankenbuehler – “9 to 5″
Peter Darling – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Josh Prince – “Shrek the Musical”
Susan Stroman – “Happiness”

SET DESIGN (Play or Musical)
Tim Hatley – “Shrek the Musical”
Santo Loquasto – “Waiting for Godot”
Derek McLane – “33 Variations”
Ian MacNeil – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Walt Spangler – “Desire Under the Elms”

COSTUME DESIGN (Play or Musical)
Nicky Gillibrand – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Tim Hatley – “Shrek the Musical”
John Napier – “Equus”
Martin Pakledinaz – “Blithe Spirit”
Catherine Zuber – “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”

LIGHTING DESIGN (Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams – “Hair”
Rick Fisher – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
David Hersey – “Equus”
Peter Kaczorowski – “Ruined”
David Lander – “33 Variations”

ACTOR IN A PLAY
Raúl Esparza – “Speed-the-Plow”
Bill Irwin – “Waiting for Godot”
Nathan Lane – “Waiting for Godot”
Geoffrey Rush – “Exit the King”
Thomas Sadoski – “Reasons To Be Pretty”

ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Saidah Arrika Ekulona – “Ruined”
Carla Gugino – “Desire Under the Elms”
Marcia Gay Harden – “God of Carnage”
Janet McTeer – “Mary Stuart”
Harriet Walter – “Mary Stuart”

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
James Barbour – “A Tale of Two Cities”
Matt Cavenaugh – “West Side Story”
Brian d’Arcy James – “Shrek the Musical”
Josh Grisetti – “Enter Laughing”
David Pittu – “What’s That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling”

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sutton Foster – “Shrek the Musical”
Megan Hilty – “9 to 5″
Leslie Kritzer – “Rooms A Rock Romance”
Nancy Opel – “The Toxic Avenger”
Josefina Scaglione – “West Side Story”

FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Zach Grenier – “33 Variations”
John Benjamin Hickey – “Mary Stuart”
Russell G. Jones – “Ruined”
Patrick Page – “A Man For All Seasons”
David Pearse – “The Cripple of Inishmaan”

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Angela Lansbury – “Blithe Spirit”
Andrea Martin – “Exit the King”
Kristine Nielsen – “Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them”
Susan Louise O’Connor – “Blithe Spirit”
Condola Rashad – “Ruined”

FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Daniel Breaker – “Shrek the Musical”
Aaron Simon Gross – “13”
Gregory Jbara – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Christopher Sieber – “Shrek the Musical”
Wesley Taylor – “Rock of Ages”

FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kathy Fitzgerald – “9 to 5″
Haydn Gwynne – “Billy Elliot the Musical”
Karen Olivo – “West Side Story”
Martha Plimpton – “Pal Joey”
Carole Shelley – “Billy Elliot the Musical”

SOLO PERFORMANCE
Mike Birbiglia – “Sleepwalk With Me”
Mike Burstyn – “Lansky”
Mike Daisey – “If You See Something, Say Something”
Lorenzo Pisoni – “Humor Abuse”
Matt Sax – “Clay”

ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter, Amanda Root
Cast of “The Norman Conquests”

JOHN GASSNER AWARD (Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Annie Baker – “Body Awareness”
Gina Gionfriddo – “Becky Shaw”
Beau Willimon – “Farragut North”

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish for their performances in “Billy Elliot the Musical

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