NEW YORK — A tap-happy flapper faces off against a dark spoof of agitprop theater in the top Tony races this season, as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” led the balloting with 11 nominations and “Urinetown” nipped at her heels with 10.
The revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods” also nabbed a healthy 10 nominations, with other top tallies going to revivals of “Morning’s at Seven” (nine), “Private Lives” and “The Crucible” (six each).
The top races for the 56th annual awards — for new musical and new play — are unusually competitive this year, with no behemoths like last year’s “The Producers” in sight.
For new musical, “Millie” and “Urinetown” are considered the leading contenders, with Abba tuner “Mamma Mia!” (five nominations) the potential spoiler and the fourth nominee, “Sweet Smell of Success,” a virtual also-ran, despite a more-than-respectable seven nominations.
In the play category, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize winner “Topdog/Underdog” competes with Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?,” Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses” and “Fortune’s Fool” by Ivan Turgenev, an author who died well before the Tonys were a twinkle in anyone’s eye. (Indeed, in the official nominations list Turgenev’s name was strangely absent, with only adapter Mike Poulton credited.) Tony precedent indicates that any play not previously produced on Broadway can be eligible in the new play category, regardless of its age.
The season’s small crop of musical revivals resulted in just two shows competing in the often highly competitive category, “Into the Woods” and Trevor Nunn’s “Oklahoma!” The play revival crop, by contrast, was unusually healthy this season, with some 11 entries vying for four slots. The shows selected were “Morning’s at Seven,” “The Crucible,” “Private Lives” and “Noises Off,” all but the latter spring arrivals.
Fall openers “Hedda Gabler” and “Dance of Death,” as well as “The Elephant Man” and the Roundabout Theater Co.’s “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” were among the notable revivals overlooked.
The Roundabout, often a major presence in the nominations, received only a single nod for its productions this year (Sam Robards as featured actor for “Man Who Had All the Luck”). Its stagings of “Major Barbara,” “The Women” and “An Almost Holy Picture” were overlooked entirely.
The Roundabout’s chief not-for-profit Broadway competitor, Lincoln Center Theater, had a stronger Tony showing thanks to the nine nominations for “Morning’s at Seven” (five of those in the featured actor and actress fields), two nods for its ill-received fall tuner “Thou Shalt Not” and a nom in the relatively new “special theatrical event” category, for Barbara Cook’s concert “Mostly Sondheim.”
That show will compete with solo shows by Bea Arthur, John Leguizamo and Elaine Stritch, with Stritch easily the surest bet in the entire Tony field this season.
This season’s production of “Morning’s at Seven” fared considerably better than the seminal 1980 revival, which received just four noms; however, that production took home three Tonys, for play revival, director Vivian Matalon and featured actor David Rounds.
The most high-profile show to get blanked at the nominations was London import “The Graduate,” a critically lambasted show that is nevertheless the highest-grossing straight play on Broadway.
Other notable shows that came away empty-handed include the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Alan Ayckbourn musical “By Jeeves,” Neil Simon’s “45 Seconds From Broadway” and “One Mo’ Time,” a musical revival that did a fast fade at the Longacre. That show’s producer, the Williamstown Theater Festival, can take solace in winning the Tonys’ regional theater award this year.
Perhaps the most competitive category this season was leading actor in a play, where foreign names outweighed American ones: Alan Bates (“Fortune’s Fool”), Liam Neeson (“The Crucible”) and Alan Rickman (“Private Lives”) are the pond-crossing contingent vying with Billy Crudup (“The Elephant Man”) and Jeffrey Wright (“Topdog/Underdog”).
Among the highly regarded absentees: Bill Pullman in “The Goat,” Mos Def for “Topdog/Underdog,” Chris O’Donnell for “The Man Who Had All the Luck” and Ian McKellen for “Dance of Death.”
Brits in general had a fine showing, not unusual at Tony time. Both Howard Davies of “Private Lives” and Richard Eyre of “The Crucible” made the cut in the play directing field, alongside Daniel Sullivan for “Morning’s at Seven” and Zimmerman for “Metamorphoses.” (Perhaps the most surprising absence here: George C. Wolfe for “Topdog/Underdog.”) Trevor Nunn was among the nominees for directing a musical, alongside Lapine (“Into the Woods”), Michael Mayer (“Millie”) and John Rando (“Urinetown”).
There were some interesting historical footnotes, as is also not unusual. Laura Linney made the cut for leading actress in a play for her perf in “The Crucible,” while Beatrice Straight, who created the role in 1953, won for featured actress.
Kate Burton was nominated in two categories, as leading actress in “Hedda Gabler” and featured actress in “The Elephant Man.” The only other performers to win two nominations in a single season are Dana Ivey and Amanda Plummer. (In the original 1979 Broadway production of “Elephant Man,” Carole Shelley won the leading actress trophy for the same role.)
Also winning two nominations this season: choreographer John Carrafa, for “Urinetown” and “Into the Woods.”
Frank Langella’s and Brian d’Arcy James’ featured-actor noms for “Fortune’s Fool” and “Sweet Smell of Success,” respectively, could be interpreted as political maneuvers to keep them from competing with their respective co-stars Bates and John Lithgow, each nominated in the leading actor category. (Lithgow has three prior nominations, including one win, but he’s never before been in the musical category.)
Lapine’s nomination was something of a surprise. He helmed “Into the Woods’ ” original 1987 Broadway production, and thesps and creatives generally are considered ineligible when they repeat stints in shows they preemed with on Broadway.
Special Tonys for lifetime achievement this year go to Julie Harris, who has won five Tonys, more than any other performer, and producer Robert Whitehead, a four-time Tony winner.
Steven Weber and Jennifer Jason Leigh made the announcements Monday morning at Sardi’s restaurant, scene of the annual awards press conference that ostensibly signals the end the Broadway season and the beginning of major marketing drives to insure a show’s longevity with Tony wins on June 2.
The show will be telecast live from Radio City Music Hall on PBS and CBS. Hosts have not yet been announced.
“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee. Produced by Elizabeth Ireland McCann, Daryl Roth, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Terry Allen Kramer, Scott Rudin, Bob Boyett, Scott Nederlander, Sine/ZPI
“Fortune’s Fool” by Ivan Turgenev, adapted by Mike Poulton. Produced by Julian Schlossberg, Roy Furman, Ben Sprecher, Ted Tulchin, Aaron Levy, Peter May, Bob Boyett, James Fantaci
“Metamorphoses” by Mary Zimmerman. Produced by Roy Gabay, Robyn Goodman, Allan S. Gordon, Elan V. McAllister, D. Harris/M. Swinsky, Ruth Hendel, Sharon Karmazin, R.L. Wreghitt/J. Bergere, Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Carol Fishman
“Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks. Produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays, Waxman Williams Entertainment, Bob Boyett, Freddy De Mann, Susan Dietz/Ina Meibach, Scott E. Nederlander, Ira Pittelman, Hits Magazine, Kelpie Arts, Rick Steiner/Frederic H. Mayerson, Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival
“Mamma Mia!” produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Bjorn Ulvaeus for Littlestar, Universal
“Sweet Smell of Success” produced by Clear Channel Entertainment,
David Brown, Ernest Lehman, Marty Bell, Martin Richards, Roy Furman, Joan Cullman, Bob Boyett, East of Doheny, Bob and Harvey Weinstein
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” produced by Michael Leavitt, Fox Theatricals, Hal Luftig, Stewart F. Lane, James L. Nederlander, Independent Presenters Network, L. Mages/M. Glick, Berinstein/Manocherian/Dramatic Forces, John York Noble, Whoopi Goldberg
“Urinetown” produced by the Araca Group and Dodger Theatricals, TheatreDreams, Lauren Mitchell
Book of a musical
Catherine Johnson, “Mamma Mia!”
John Guare, “Sweet Smell of Success”
Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan,“Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Greg Kotis, “Urinetown”
Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Craig Carnelia(lyrics), “Sweet Smell of Success”
Jeanine Tesori (music) and Dick Scanlan(lyrics), “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Harry Connick Jr. (music & lyrics), “Thou Shalt Not”
Mark Hollmann (music) and Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis(lyrics), “Urinetown”
Revival of a play
“The Crucible,” produced by David Richenthal, Manocherian/Leve/Boyett, Max Cooper, Allan S. Gordon, Roy Furman, Us Prods., Elan V. McAllister, Adam Epstein, Margo Lion, Dede Harris/Morton Swinsky, Clear Channel Entertainment, Old Ivy Prods., Jujamcyn Theaters, Jeffrey Ash, Berinstein/Selig, Golden/Skipper, Gene Korf, Robert Cole, Roundabout Theater Co.
“Morning’s at Seven,” produced by Lincoln Center Theater, Andre Bishop, Bernard Gersten
“Noises Off,” produced by Ambassador Theater Group and Act Prods., Waxman Williams Entertainment, D. Harris/M. Swinsky, USA Ostar Theatricals and Nederlander Presentations, he Royal National Theater
“Private Lives,” produced by Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, Scott Nederlander, Frederick Zollo, Nicholas Paleologos, Broccoli/Sine, James Nederlander, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Duncan C. Weldon and Paul Elliott for Triumph Entertainment Partners
Revival of a Musical
“Into the Woods,” produced by Dodger Theatricals, Stage Holding/Joop van den Ende and TheatreDreams
“Oklahoma!” produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the Royal National Theater
Special Theatrical Event
“Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends,” produced by Daryl Roth, M. Beverly Bartner, USA Ostar Theatricals
“Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” produced by John Schreiber, Creative Battery, Margo Lion, Robert Cole, Dede Harris/Mort Swinsky, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival
“Mostly Sondheim,” produced by Lincoln Center Theater, Andre Bishop, Bernard Gersten
“Sexaholix … a Love Story,” produced by Tate Entertainment Group
Leading actor in a play
Alan Bates, “Fortune’s Fool”
Billy Crudup, “The Elephant Man”
Liam Neeson, “The Crucible”
Alan Rickman, “Private Lives”
Jeffrey Wright, “Topdog/Underdog”
Leading actress in a play
Kate Burton, “Hedda Gabler”
Lindsay Duncan, “Private Lives”
Laura Linney, “The Crucible”
Helen Mirren, “Dance of Death”
Mercedes Ruehl, “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?”
Leading actor in a musical
Gavin Creel, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
John Cullum, “Urinetown”
John Lithgow, “Sweet Smell of Success”
John McMartin, “Into the Woods”
Patrick Wilson, “Oklahoma!”
Leading actress in a musical
Sutton Foster, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Nancy Opel, “Urinetown”
Louise Pitre, “Mamma Mia!”
Jennifer Laura Thompson, “Urinetown”
Vanessa Williams, “Into the Woods”
Featured actor in a play
Frank Langella, “Fortune’s Fool”
William Biff McGuire, “Morning’s at Seven”
Brian Murray, “The Crucible”
Sam Robards, “The Man Who Had All the Luck”
Stephen Tobolowsky, “Morning’s at Seven”
Featured actress in a play
Kate Burton, “The Elephant Man”
Katie Finneran, “Noises Off”
Elizabeth Franz, “Morning’s at Seven”
Estelle Parsons, “Morning’s at Seven”
Frances Sternhagen, “Morning’s at Seven”
Featured actor in a musical
Norbert Leo Butz, “Thou Shalt Not”
Gregg Edelman, “Into the Woods”
Shuler Hensley, “Oklahoma!”
Brian d’Arcy James, “Sweet Smell of Success”
Marc Kudisch, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Featured actress in a musical
Laura Benanti, “Into the Woods”
Harriet Harris, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Spencer Kayden, “Urinetown”
Judy Kaye, “Mamma Mia!”
Andrea Martin, “Oklahoma!”
John Lee Beatty, “Morning’s at Seven”
Tim Hatley, “Private Lives”
Daniel Ostling, “Metamorphoses”
Douglas W. Schmidt, “Into the Woods”
Jenny Beavan, “Private Lives”
Jane Greenwood, “Morning’s at Seven”
Susan Hilferty, “Into the Woods”
Martin Pakledinaz, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Paul Gallo, “The Crucible”
David Hersey, “Oklahoma!”
Natasha Katz, “Sweet Smell of Success”
Brian MacDevitt, “Into the Woods”
Rob Ashford, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
John Carrafa, “Into the Woods”
John Carrafa, “Urinetown”
Susan Stroman, “Oklahoma!”
Direction of a play
Howard Davies, “Private Lives”
Richard Eyre, “The Crucible”
Daniel Sullivan, “Morning’s at Seven”
Mary Zimmerman, “Metamorphoses”
Direction of a musical
James Lapine, “Into the Woods”
Michael Mayer, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Trevor Nunn, “Oklahoma!”
John Rando, “Urinetown”
Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Martin Koch,“Mamma Mia!”
Doug Besterman and Ralph Burns, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
William David Brohn, “Sweet Smell of Success”
Bruce Douglin, “Urinetown”