‘Lion’ helps itself to Helpmann noms

Queen tuner 'Rock' scores nine nods

SYDNEY — Disney’s “The Lion King” has nabbed 11 nominations and topped the list for the 2004 Helpmann Awards, Australia’s Tony’s.

Nominations were announced in Sydney July 13 and the fourth inaugural event will be held for the first time at Star City Casino’s Lyric Theatre on Aug. 9.

Neither “Saturday Night Fever” nor “The Producers” were entered in this year’s competition. “Saturday Night Fever” has been on stage for only two weeks, but “The Producers” preemed back in April, which gave its producers the option of entering or holding it for 2005 when it won’t have to compete with Julie Taymor’s “Lion King.”

The Melbourne Theater Company collected 14 nominations in the straight drama categories, most of them for its world-premiere production of Hannie Rayson’s generational drama “Inheritance” and for Bryony Lavery’s “Frozen.”

Queen musical “We Will Rock” also scored a hefty nine noms.

The number of awards has been increased this year to include mentions for the best presentation of contemporary music concerts in stadiums and in arenas, with the effect of bringing music promoters into the fold.

Organizing body the Australian Entertainment Industry Assn. represents all forms of the performing arts in all Australian states. This year’s 38 statuettes will be handed out across seven genres.

Arts feevee Ovation will telecast the event live for the first time after enjoying success with last year’s inaugural pre-recorded broadcast.

Simon Burke returns as host, and Hugh Jackman will present the best musical award via satellite from New York.

Telecast will include numbers from “The Producers,” “The Lion King,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “We Will Rock You” plus perfs by the Sydney Philharmonia Choir and Australian Dance Theater.

Organizing committee prexy Jon Nicholls says sponsorship is up 120% but he’s still seeking a naming rights sponsor.

AEIA prexy Andrew Kay shrugs about the fact that previous ceremonies have been marred by absenteeism among nominees and winners: “This is a global industry, it’s great they’re not all sitting in Sydney on the night — they’re all out working.”

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