Tony lineup has American accent — for a change

Irish Hill, Campion of 'Stones' among happy few

NEW YORK — Where are the Brits?

The 2001 Tony nominations were far less abundant in English accents than is normally the case.

Those foreigners who made the final mix largely hail from Ireland: Conleth Hill and Sean Campion, the competing best actor candidates from “Stones in His Pockets.”

And Bob Crowley, the London-based Irishman who already has two Tonys to show for his scenic design (for “Carousel” and, just last year, “Aida”) is up for the seventh time — for “The Invention of Love,” whose author, Tom Stoppard, is an Englishman with three best play Tonys to his name. This year could see a fourth.

But the pickings from across the pond remain pretty slim compared to recent years. Last May, “Copenhagen” and the revival of “The Real Thing” dominated the straight play prizes. What’s more, three of last season’s four nominees for director of a play were Londoners, including the Australian-born winner, Michael Blakemore (who also won the musical directing trophy).

The play directing category has often had a foreign accent. Garry Hynes, Howard Davies and Trevor Nunn all were nommed in 1999, only to lose to the lineup’s sole American, Robert Falls (for “Death of a Salesman”). The season before, Hynes became the first woman to win in the same category for “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” In 1997, England’s Anthony Page (“A Doll’s House”) beat countrymen Richard Eyre and John Caird.

But this year the nominees are three Americans and Ian McElhinney, of “Stones.”

Aside from the “Stones” duo, the acting categories are devoid of Anglo-Irish names, as was Broadway for a change.

The season featured several British plays acted mostly by Americans — nominee Juliette Binoche’s male colleagues in “Betrayal”; the flawlessly accented “Invention of Love” — but there was also a fascinating American production of a British play (“Design for Living”) that was entirely blanked, its three English leads included. (OK, Jennifer Ehle has an American father and grew up in North Carolina, but hey…)

Indeed, the 2001 roster marked a confident American reclamation of home turf, with “The Producers” conspicuously dominating a season that many early on assumed would be in thrall to Brit-director Matthew Warchus’ revival of “Follies” — a flawed but fascinating Donmar Warehouse-style production charging non-Donmar prices. (And shame on the nominators, incidentally, for overlooking Judith Ivey’s wrenchingly acted Sally.)

Still, there’s always next year, when such Brit hits as “Oklahoma!,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Caretaker” look likely to factor into the Broadway — and Tony — mix. The Empire isn’t extinct yet.