Tony nominations reflect year of musical and dramatic revivals

May 17, 1994|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun Theater Critic

Three romantic musicals -- "Passion," "Beauty and the Beast" and a revival of "She Loves Me" -- racked up the largest number of Tony Award nominations yesterday in a season characterized by a paucity of new shows.

Ten nominations went to "Passion" -- Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's adaptation of a 19th-century Italian novel about obsessive love -- which opened on Broadway eight days ago. Nine each went to "Beauty and the Beast," the live-action version of the animated Disney film, and to "She Loves Me," based on a Hungarian play about a romance between two perfume store employees.

It was hardly surprising that a revival won so many nominations since this season has seen a plethora of revivals -- 17 out of 36 openings. In recognition of this, the Tony Administration Committee split the revival category into best musical revival and best play revival for the first time in its history.

Tony history also was made by Tony Kushner's "Perestroika" -- part two of his epic AIDS play, "Angels in America" -- which, with six nominations, captured more than any other dramatic play. The history, however, stems not from the number of nominations, but from this having been the first time that two parts of the same work have been nominated in separate years.

It is also the first time the same cast members have been eligible for two years, although the only repeat nominee is Stephen Spinella, who won the 1993 Tony Award for best featured actor in "Millennium," and was nominated in the leading actor category for "Perestroika."

"Perestroika," whose producers include native Baltimoreans Margo Lion and Jon B. Platt, will compete for best play against three other nominees. They are "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," by Baltimore-born actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, who was also nominated for best actress; Arthur Miller's "Broken Glass"; and Robert Sckenkkan's "The Kentucky Cycle," which won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize, although it lasted only about a month on Broadway. Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" was overlooked in this and every other category.

"Passion" and "Beauty and the Beast" will compete against two musicals that have already closed -- a Dutch show, "Cyrano -- the Musical," and "A Grand Night for Singing," a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue coming to the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in December.

Yesterday's announcement in New York was delayed three hours -- a record, according to a spokesman for the Tonys. In a further indication of the shortage of new offerings this season, he said the delay was due in part because the nominating committee had trouble coming up with enough candidates in three musical categories -- best musical, score and book.

A request to reduce the number of nominees was granted only in the best score category, which includes "Passion's" Sondheim; "Cyrano's" Ad Van Dijk, Koen Van Dijk, Peter Reeves and Sheldon Harnick; and "Beauty and the Beast's" Alan Menken, Tim Rice and the late Baltimore lyricist Howard Ashman.

Of the abundant revivals, the newly divided categories pit "She Loves Me" against "Carousel," "Damn Yankees" and "Grease" for best musical revival; and "An Inspector Calls" against "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," "Medea" and "Timon of Athens" for best play revival.

Although none of the nominated productions has been seen in Baltimore, there were a number of local connections in addition to the Mechanic's forthcoming presentation of "A Grand Night." Center Stage is negotiating to bring Anna Deavere Smith here next season, most likely performing her previous work, "Fires in the Mirror," and the theater has also scheduled Kushner's "Slavs!", which consists partly of outtakes from "Perestroika." It is also interesting to note that Boyd Gaines, who was nominated for his leading role in "She Loves Me," played the same role in Center Stage's 1985 production.

Two special Tony Awards were also announced. A lifetime achievement award will go to husband and wife actors, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn. And the McCarter Theater of Princeton, N.J., was named outstanding regional theater.

The 48th annual Tony Awards will be telecast live on CBS (WBAL-TV, Channel 11) June 12 at 9 p.m. Anthony Hopkins and Amy Irving will emcee the ceremony.

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