`Drowsy Chaperone' is sleeper hit with Tonys, getting 13 nods

Many of this year's nominees have Center Stage connections


The Drowsy Chaperone, a small-scale musical that began as a performance at a bachelor party, woke up yesterday to 13 Tony Award nominations - more than any other show.

A Canadian show-within-a-show about a theater fan whose most beloved 1920s musical comes to life in his living room, Chaperone shares the best-musical category with The Color Purple (which is adapted from Alice Walker's 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and garnered 11 nominations), The Wedding Singer (adapted from the 1998 Adam Sandler movie and produced by native Baltimorean Margo Lion) and Jersey Boys (a biographical account of the singing group, The Four Seasons, and the frontrunner for the award).

The top contender for best play, Alan Bennett's British boys' school drama History Boys, racked up seven nominations, the most for any new play, at yesterday's ceremony in New York. Its competition includes plays by two other writers from the British Isles, Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, about a cat-loving Irish terrorist, and Conor McPherson's The Shining City, about a Dublin widower haunted by the ghost of his wife. The sole American nominee is David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole, which closed last month and concerns a couple dealing with the death of a young son.

The nominations featured few surprises. Julia Roberts was overlooked, but her Broadway debut in Three Days of Rain met with unfavorable reviews. Also passed over were Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, whose notices in The Odd Couple were mostly mixed.

Disney's Tarzan, reported to have cost about $15 million but weakly received by the critics, came away with only one nomination - for lighting. Similarly, The Woman in White, Andrew Lloyd Webber's now-closed Victorian musical melodrama, was nominated solely for its score.

If there's one sure bet this year, it's the magnificently minimalist revival of Sweeney Todd, whose actors double as musicians. Three of its cast members were also nominated - Michael Cerveris, who plays the homicidal title character (and guitar); Patti LuPone, who plays Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney's partner in crime (and tuba); and Manoel Felciano, who plays Mrs. Lovett's assistant (and violin, clarinet and keyboard). The show's competitors - The Pajama Game and The Threepenny Opera - are the only two other musical revivals to open this season. Among Pajama Game's eight other nominations was one for high-profile Broadway newcomer Harry Connick Jr.

A number of nominees have Center Stage connections. Lisa Kron's autobiographical play, Well, which received nominations for lead actress Kron and supporting actress Jayne Houdyshell - as Kron's ailing, socially conscious mother - was part of Center Stage's 2002 First Look series, featuring both actresses. (The Broadway production closed Sunday.) Houdyshell has also appeared in 31 productions at Totem Pole Playhouse, the Pennsylvania summer theater run by Baltimoreans Carl Schurr and Wil Love.

Designers Christopher Akerlind, David Gallo, Susan Hilferty, Michael Krass, Brian MacDevitt, Derek McLane, Paul Tazewell and Michael Yeargan all have Center Stage credits, and 2005 Tony winner Catherine Zuber - nominated for her costumes for the revivals of both Awake and Sing! and Seascape - is a Center Stage associate artist.

Although the Tony Administration Committee added a new category this year, "Best Recreation of a Leading Role" - intended to recognize an actor who replaces the original performer in a long-running production - there were no nominations in this category.

Several other special Tonys were announced yesterday. Legendary director Harold Prince will be honored for lifetime achievement; writer/performer Sarah Jones will receive an award for her one-woman show, Bridge & Tunnel; and the regional theater award will go to Seattle's Intiman Theatre.

The 60th annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live on CBS (WJZ, Channel 13) from Radio City Music Hall from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 11.


Tony nominees

Here is a partial list of nominees for the 2006 Tony Awards:


The History Boys; The Lieutenant of Inishmore; Rabbit Hole; Shining City.


The Color Purple; The Drowsy Chaperone; Jersey Boys; The Wedding Singer.


Awake and Sing!; The Constant Wife; Edward Albee's Seascape; Faith Healer.


The Pajama Game; Sweeney Todd; The Threepenny Opera.


Ralph Fiennes, Faith Healer; Richard Griffiths, The History Boys; Zeljko Ivanek, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial; Oliver Platt, Shining City; David Wilmot, The Lieutenant of Inishmore.


Kate Burton, The Constant Wife; Judy Kaye, Souvenir; Lisa Kron, Well; Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole; Lynn Redgrave, The Constant Wife.


Michael Cerveris, Sweeney Todd; Harry Connick Jr., The Pajama Game; Stephen Lynch, The Wedding Singer; Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone; John Lloyd Young, Jersey Boys.


Sutton Foster, The Drowsy Chaperone; LaChanze, The Color Purple; Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd; Kelli O'Hara, The Pajama Game; Chita Rivera, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life.

[Associated Press]

For a complete list of nominees, go to baltimoresun.com/tony.

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