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Surprise Snubs in Tony Nomsto comment. "Rent," the hit rock transfer from Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, dominated the list with 10 nominations including best musical, all four acting categories, and best score and book

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The three remaining new tuners still running were given short shrift by the Tony nominators. "Victor/Victoria" received a nomination for its star, Julie Andrews, and no others. (At press time, Andrews was scheduled to hold a press conference regarding the situation.) "Big" was passed over for the big prize, that of best musical, but garnered nods for best musical actress (Crista Moore), featured actor (Brett Tabisel), score, book, and choreography. "State Fair" only got two Tony blue-ribbon nominations--for featured musical actor (Scott Wise) and four songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein score. The remaining numbers were written for the 1945 film version and are therefore ineligible for the category of Original Score Written for the Theatre. The quartet of tunes under Tony consideration were cut from other R&H shows.

"Chronicle" and "Star" Shine

Rounding out the best musical field are two closed productions: "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," a Lincoln Center Theater production which played a limited engagement last summer, and "Swinging on a Star," a short-lived, plotless revue of Johnny Burke songs.

By choosing four shows from the non-profit section ("Star" originated at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse) and slighting two large-scale productions, the Nominating Committee appeared to be making a statement that the awards should not take a show's budget into consideration.

Other noticeable omissions were the New York Shakespeare Festival's much-praised revival of "The Tempest"; Frank Langella's lead performance in the Roundabout revival of "The Father"; Daniel Jenkins as the boy in a man's body in "Big"; and Rachel York's hilarious supporting performance as the gun moll in "Victor/Victoria."

"Guitars" Top Play Pick

Among straight plays, August Wilson's "Seven Guitars" leads the pack with eight citations including outstanding play, director (Lloyd Richards), and four acting nominations. Also vying for the top play prize are "Racing Demon," David Hare's examination of the role of the church in contemporary society, which played a limited run at Lincoln Center; "Master Class," Terrence McNally's tribute to opera diva Maria Callas; and "Buried Child," Sam Shepard's 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning Gothic drama-comedy. Although Shepard's play is technically a revival, it has been placed in the new play category because its original production was Off-Broadway and the script has been extensively rewritten.

The battle for best play is said to be between "Guitars" and "Master Class." Both authors have won the award before. Wilson for "Fences" in 1987 and McNally for last year's "Love! Valour! Compassion!" If he triumphs this year, McNally will get to finish his speech from last year which was cut from the Tonycast because time ran out.

While McNally is a 50-50 bet for Best Play, his star Zoe Caldwell, who delivers a tour de force performance as Maria Callas, is considered a shoe-in to take her fourth Tony. Other sure things include Julie Andrews for actress in a musical and Nathan Lane as actor in a musical for the revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Andrews has never won the award before and Lane failed to receive an expected nomination last year for "Love! Valour! Compassion!" All the other categories have no clear favorites, making this one of the most competitive Tony races in recent years.

Based on a recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association, a special Tony Award will be presented to the Alley Theatre of Houston, Texas. The award goes with a $25,000 grant provided by RCA Victor/Bertelsmann Entertainment Group. The Tony Administration Committee did not make any other special awards this year.

CBS Telecast

The winners will be revealed on Sun., June 2 when CBS airs the awards live at 9 pm in a two-hour broadcast from the Majestic Theatre, home of "The Phantom of the Opera." Nominee Nathan Lane will host. The two-hour time limit will be strictly adhered to and the network has promised to cut the program off at 11 pm on the dot. In order to beat the clock, 13 of the awards will be presented before the broadcast and edited versions of the winners' acceptance speeches will be shown to the video audience. "All the nominees and winners will be shown on the air," Tony executive producer Gary Smith stated.

The traditional highlights of the annual ceremony are the excerpts from the nominated best musicals. "It might be difficult to show scenes from two shows which have closed," Smith told Back Stage. "The casts are now dispersed. It changes the whole scheme." Smith said he was open to the possibility of including numbers from "Victor/Victoria" and "Big" in place of the shuttered "Chronicle" and "Star." The national exposure the scenes afford could offset the lack of nominations for the two overlooked shows in terms of a box-office boost.

It's been shown that a good musical number can mean more than winning the Tony. Two years ago, "Beauty and the Beast" only took home one award (for costume design), but its montage of scenes presented during the ceremony caused a flood of ticket requests the next morning.

Also on tap for the Tonycast are highlights of the past 50 years of the Tonys as the award celebrates its golden anniversary. Those wishing to find out more about the history of theatre's top prize can visit the new Tony website at http://www.tonys.org.

The awards will be voted on by 720 members of the theatre profession and journalists. Ballots will be mailed by May 10.

This year's Tony Award Nominating Committee consisted of playwright Jon Robin Baitz; costume designer Donald Brooks; choreographer Marge Champion; theatre archivist Betty L. Corwin; composer Gretchen Cryer; administrator Thomas Dillon; historian/writer Brendan Gill; artistic director Jay Harnick; producer Charles Hollerith; actor Barnard Hughes (1978 Tony winner for "Da"); set designer Ming Cho Lee (1983 Tony winner for "K2"); union administrator Robert McDonald; critic Douglas Watt; and administrator George White.

A complete list of the Tony nominees follows:

Play: "Buried Child" (Sam Shepard), "Master Class" (Terrence McNally), "Racing Demon" (David Hare), "Seven Guitars" (August Wilson).

Musical: "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk," "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," "Rent," "Swinging on a Star."

Actor (Play): Philip Bosco ("Moon Over Buffalo"); George Grizzard ("A Delicate Balance"); George C. Scott ("Inherit the Wind"); Martin Shaw ("An Ideal Husband").

Actress (Play): Carol Burnett ("Moon Over Buffalo"); Zoe Caldwell ("Master Class"); Rosemary Harris ("A Delicate Balance"); Elaine Stritch ("A Delicate Balance").

Actor (Musical): Savion Glover ("Noise/Funk"); Nathan Lane ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"); Adam Pascal ("Rent"); Lou Diamond Phillips ("The King and I").

Actress (Musical): Julie Andrews ("Victor/Victoria"); Crista Moore ("Big"); Donna Murphy ("The King and I"); Daphne Rubin-Vega ("Rent").

Featured Actor (Play): James Gammon ("Buried Child"); Roger Robinson ("Seven Guitars"); Reg Rogers ("Holiday"); Ruben Santiago-Hudson ("Seven Guitars").

Featured Actress (Play): Viola Davis ("Seven Guitars"); Audra McDonald ("Master Class"); Michele Shay ("Seven Guitars"); Lois Smith ("Buried Child").

Featured Actor (Musical): Wilson Jermaine Heredia ("Rent"); Lewis J. Stadlen ("Forum"); Brett Tabisel ("Big"); Scott Wise ("State Fair").

Featured Actress (Musical): Joohee Choi ("The King and I"); Veanne Cox ("Company"); Ann Duquesnay ("Noise/Funk"); Idina Menzel ("Rent").

Director (Play): Gerald Gutierrez ("A Delicate Balance"); Peter Hall ("An Ideal Husand"); Lloyd Richards ("Seven Guitars"); Gary Sinise ("Buried Child").

Director (Musical): Michael Greif ("Rent"); Christopher Renshaw ("The King and I"); George C. Wolfe ("Noise/Funk"); Jerry Zaks ("Forum").

Score: David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics) ("Big"); Daryl Waters, Zane Mark, Ann Duquesnay (music), Reg E. Gaines, George C. Wolfe, Ann Duquesnay (lyrics) ("Noise/Funk"); Jonathan Larson ("Rent"); Richard Rodgers (music), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics) ("State Fair").

Book of a Musical: John Weidman ("Big"); Reg E. Gaines ("Noise/Funk"); Graciela Daniele, Jim Lewis, Michael John LaChiusa ("Chronicle of a Death Foretold"); Jonathan Larson ("Rent").

Choreography: Graciela Daniele ("Chronicle of a Death Foretold"); Savion Glover ("Noise/Funk"); Susan Stroman ("Big"); Marlies Yearby ("Rent").

Set Design: John Lee Beatty ("A Delicate Balance"); Scott Bradley ("Seven Guitars"); Brian Thomson ("The King and I"); Anthony Ward ("A Midsummer Night's Dream").

Costume Design: Jane Greenwood ("A Delicate Balance"); Roger Kirk ("The King and I"); Allison Reeds ("Buried Child"); Paul Tazewell ("Noise/Funk").

Lighting Design: Christopher Akerlind ("Seven Guitars"); Blake Burba ("Rent"); Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer ("Noise/Funk"); Nigel Levings ("The King and I").

Revival (Musical): "Company," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Hello, Dolly!," "The King and I."

Revival (Play): "A Delicate Balance" (Lincoln Center Theater); "An Ideal Husband" (Bill Kenwright Productions); "Inherit the Wind" (National Actors Theater); "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Special Award: Alley Theatre, Houston, Tx. (Outstanding Regional Theatre).

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