Tonys looks favorably on `Awakening' with 11 nods

May 16, 2007|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun Theater Critic

Nineteenth-century German teenagers and Russian intellectuals topped the charts when the 2007 Tony Award nominations were announced in New York yesterday morning. Heading the list with 11 nominations, including best musical, was Spring Awakening, a steamy adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 play about teenage sexuality.

It was closely followed by Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia, about a contingent of Russian intelligentsia. The eight-hour trilogy's 10 nominations are the largest number for a nonmusical in Tony history.

Both Spring Awakening, which has a rock score by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, and The Coast of Utopia have received the Outer Critics Circle and the New York Drama Critics awards and are widely considered to be the frontrunners in their categories. Among Spring's bounty was former Marylander Michael Mayer's nomination for direction.

Grey Gardens -- a musical based on the Maysles brothers' 1975 documentary about a pair of eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- also scored 10 nominations. The other two best musical nominees are Disney's Mary Poppins and Curtains, a backstage murder mystery completed by lyricist John Kander and book writer Rupert Holmes after the death of its composer, Fred Ebb, and its original scriptwriter, Peter Stone.

Winnowed from one of the most prolific crops of new musicals in recent Broadway seasons, the list of best musical nominees was bound to slight some strong contenders. Among those that did not make the cut was the popular adaptation of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie Legally Blonde. The show did, however, rack up a highly respectable seven nominations, including those for best score and best book.

Also absent from the best musical list was LoveMusik, playwright Alfred Uhry's account of the relationship between German-born composer Kurt Weill and actress Lotte Lenya. The show, whose score of pre-existing songs was not eligible, garnered only four nominations -- three for cast members and one for orchestrations; both Uhry and legendary director Harold Prince were shut out.

Curtains isn't the only nominee with posthumous credits. Radio Golf, the last work by the late August Wilson, will compete for best play against The Coast of Utopia; Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan's play about David Frost's 1977 interviews with Richard Nixon; and The Little Dog Laughed, a Hollywood satire by Douglas Carter Beane.

The final installment in Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of 20th-century African-American life, Radio Golf wended its way to Broadway after productions at a number of regional theaters, including Center Stage in March 2006. Two cast members seen here, Anthony Chisholm and John Earl Jelks, will compete against each other for best featured actor.

Boyd Gaines, another nominee with Center Stage credits, was chosen for his portrayal of a British lieutenant in World War I in the revival of R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End. Gaines, who has starred in four Center Stage productions, including Hamlet and She Loves Me, will compete in one of the most hotly contested races. His fellow nominees are: Frank Langella, who plays the late president in Frost/Nixon; Brian F. O'Byrne, who plays a philosophical revolutionary in The Coast of Utopia; Christopher Plummer, who plays attorney Henry Drummond in the revival of Inherit the Wind; and Liev Schreiber, who plays a shock jock, a role created by the play's author, Eric Bogosian, in Talk Radio.

Inherit the Wind, Journey's End and Talk Radio all were nominated for best play revival; Brian Friel's Translations fills out the category. The four contenders for musical revival are The Apple Tree, A Chorus Line, Company and 110 in the Shade. Les Miserables, the only other musical revival of the season, was passed over in all categories. (Pirate Queen, the $16 million new musical by the Les Mis team of Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg, also came up empty.)

The Tony for best regional theater went to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. It was this year's only special Tony Award.

The 61st annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on CBS (WJZ, Channel 13) from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 10.

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

Select Tony Awards nominees

Best play:

The Coast of Utopia, Tom Stoppard; Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan; The Little Dog Laughed, Douglas Carter Beane; Radio Golf, August Wilson.

Best musical:

Curtains, Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins, Spring Awakening.

Best actor in a musical:

Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik; Raul Esparza, Company; Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening; Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins; David Hyde Pierce, Curtains.

Best actress in a musical:

Laura Bell Bundy, Legally Blonde The Musical; Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens; Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade; Debra Monk, Curtains; Donna Murphy, LoveMusik.

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

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