In the richest Broadway season in recent years, the two biggest new musical hits predictably roared off with the lion's share of Tony Award nominations -- 11 for "Jelly's Last Jam" and nine for "Crazy for You."
But the nominations, announced yesterday in New York, also snubbed several new plays, bypassing such established playwrights as Herb Gardner, Alan Ayckbourn and Neil Simon in favor of two short-lived shows -- Richard Nelson's "Two Shakespearean Actors," a historical account of a rivalry between 19th century actors, and John Guare's "Four Baboons Adoring the Sun," a family drama set at an archaeological dig.
Of course, since these two are no longer available for viewing, their chances would appear to be slim. Instead, the real race will be between "Two Trains Running," the 1960s installment of August Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of 20th century black American life, and Irish playwright Brian Friel's evocative memory play, "Dancing at Lughnasa," which captured eight nominations -- more than any other dramatic entry.
An equal number of nominations went to "Guy and Dolls," the odds-on favorite for best revival.
An interesting -- but coincidental -- side note to the best musical competition is that three of the four nominees are jazz shows. Besides "Jelly's Last Jam," a musical biography of Jelly Roll Morton, and "Crazy for You," a reworking of the 1930 Gershwin hit, "Girl Crazy," the list also includes "Five Guys Named Moe," a salute to 1940s band leader Louis Jordan.
The final musical nominee is "Falsettos," a combined bill of two one-act William Finn musicals about families, homosexuality and AIDS. Because it is the only entirely original musical entry, "Falsettos" was also the most obvious nominee for best score. Its competition will be two shows that also closed prematurely -- the Polish import "Metro" and "Nick & Nora," which canceled pre-Broadway runs at the Mechanic Theatre two years in a row, then folded eight days after its official New York opening.
Filling out the best score category is "Jelly's Last Jam," which qualified due to the inclusion of some new music and lyrics.
Area audiences were able to get advance looks at several nominees this season. Both "Two Trains Running" and "Crazy for You" had Washington tryouts. The latter has a further area connection since Ken Ludwig -- nominated as author of the musical's script -- is a Washington attorney.
In addition, though it was passed over for best play, Israel Horovitz's "Park Your Car in Harvard Yard" -- the sole pre-Broadway show to play the Mechanic this season -- is represented by the nomination of actress Judith Ivey. Opera singer and Baltimore native Spiro Malas, who made a well-regarded Broadway debut in the revival of "The Most Happy Fella," was overlooked in the nominations.
The 46th annual Tony Awards will be telecast live on CBS (WBAL-TV, Channel 11) on May 31 at 9 p.m. Glenn Close, winner of a 1984 Tony Award and a nominee this year for her starring role in Ariel Dorfman's "Death and the Maiden," will be host for the ceremony.