Tony nods to `Wicked'

May 11, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Tony Award nominations, announced in New York yesterday, look wicked good - at least for the musical Wicked, which led the pack with 10 nominations.

Based on Gregory Maguire's novel - a "prequel" to The Wizard of Oz - the show has several Baltimore connections, beginning at the top with lead producer Marc Platt. An independent film producer who once was president of production at Universal, TriStar and Orion studios, the Baltimore native learned the news in Toronto, where he is filming The Perfect Man, starring Hilary Duff.

"I was on the set in the middle of shooting when I got the phone call. My wife called. [She] was in Los Angeles, and she was watching it on video stream on the computer and feeding it to me. The director would call `cut,' I'd pick up the phone and get the next information," Platt said during another break in filming.

"It was a thrill and, yes, a bit of a surprise to garner so many nominations - very exciting and very gratifying on behalf of the people who put this [show] together." Those people include two other former Baltimoreans, co-producer Jon B. Platt (no relation) and lawyer Nancy Rose, who brought Marc Platt and composer Schwartz together.

The frontrunner for best musical, Wicked also earned nominations for its composer Stephen Schwartz; librettist Winnie Holzman; lead actresses, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel (who play rival witches); choreographer; orchestrator; and all of its designers.

Wicked will compete against two shows with six nominations each: Caroline, or Change, Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's account of the relationship between a young white boy and his family's black maid in 1960s Louisiana, and Avenue Q, Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's musical about a group of 20-something New Yorkers, told partly through puppetry. Completing the category is The Boy from Oz, a musical biography of the late Peter Allen.

After Wicked, the show that racked up the most nominations - seven - was the revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's 1991 Assassins, a musical about presidential killers and would-be killers. The current production is Assassins' Broadway debut, and there was some feeling that the show might be nominated as a new musical. The Tony administration committee, however, cited productions subsequent to the off-Broadway original as proof of the show's status as a revival.

The best-play category pits two Pulitzer Prize winners against each other for the first time since 1956, when Cat on a Hot Tin Roof competed against The Diary of Anne Frank (which won). This time the competitors are Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz's 2003 play about the workers in a 1929 Florida cigar factory, and this year's Pulitzer winner, Doug Wright's one-man show I Am My Own Wife, about a real-life German transvestite who survived the Nazis and the Communists.

Anna in the Tropics is one of two best-play nominees that have already closed; the other is The Retreat from Moscow, William Nicholson's play about the dissolution of a marriage. Besides I Am My Own Wife, the only competitor still running is Bryony Lavery's Frozen, a drama about the impact of a child's murder.

One of the closest contests will be lead actor in a play. Jefferson Mays - familiar to Center Stage audiences from his roles in more than a half-dozen productions, most recently, last season's Peter Pan - portrays more than three dozen characters in I Am My Own Wife. He will face tough competition from Broadway veterans Kevin Kline, Frank Langella and Christopher Plummer, as well as acclaimed British actor Simon Russell Beale. Shut out of this race was rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who is making his Broadway debut in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun, a production that chalked up four nominations.

Other nominees with Center Stage credits are actor Denis O'Hare (nominated for his portrayal of James Garfield's killer, Charles Guiteau, in Assassins); costume designer Jess Goldstein (Henry IV); and lighting designers Kenneth Posner (Wicked) and double nominee Brian MacDevitt (Fiddler on the Roof and Henry IV).

Two special Tony Awards were also announced. Ohio's Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park was named best regional theater, and producer James M. Nederlander will be honored for lifetime achievement.

The 58th annual Tony Awards ceremony will be televised live from Radio City Music Hall from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 6 on CBS (WJZ-Channel 13). For the second year in a row, the event will be emceed by Hugh Jack- man, also a 2004 leading-actor nominee (and likely winner) for his portrayal of Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz.

Tony nominations

Nominations for the 2003 Tony Awards (first plays, then musicals).

Play: Anna in the Tropics, Frozen, I Am My Own Wife, The Retreat From Moscow

Revival: Henry IV, Jumpers, King Lear, A Raisin in the Sun

Leading actor: Simon Russell Beale, Jumpers; Kevin Kline, Henry IV; Frank Lan- gella, Match; Jefferson Mays, I Am My Own Wife; Christopher Plummer, King Lear

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