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Brit Backlash at Tonys - Shuttered "Parade" Leads the Pack

A pack of British dramas were left out in the cold as the nominees for the 53rd Annual Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards were announced this week.

"The Weir," "Amy's View," "The Blue Room," and "Via Dolorosa" (the last three all by David Hare), were not included in the list of Best Play nominees. The candidates for top drama include two American plays: "Not About Nightingales," Tennessee Williams' rediscovered early work, and "Side Man," Warren Leight's memory play about a jazz musician's dysfunctional family, which played Off-Broadway last season. They will spar against two foreign pieces: "Closer," Patrick Marber's sexual sizzler, and "The Lonesome West," the Irish dark comedy by Martin McDonagh, author of last season's hit "The Beauty Queen of Leenane."

This year's trend signals a reversal of that seen in recent years, when Tony lists featured imported plays over homegrown attractions.

In another unusual development, "Parade," the now-closed Lincoln Center tuner about a real-life lynching, received the most nominations (nine) including Best Musical. It will compete for the top award with "The Civil War," "Fosse," and "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues," three unconventionally structured shows. "Civil War" is essentially a song cycle with a slight book based on historic material, while "Fosse" and "Blues" are revues with no attempt at a story line.

"Footloose," the only other new Broadway musical of the season still playing, was frozen out of the top slot, but received four nominations.

The Tonys only recognize Broadway productions and do not include Off or Off-Off-Broadway fare.

Kevin Spacey was left out of the Drama Desk's nominations for its awards, but he did receive a Tony nod for his acclaimed performance as Hickey in "The Iceman Cometh." However, none of the highly praised work by Spacey's cast mates was nominated by the Tony committee. (Tim Piggott-Smith and Michael Emerson were nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Awards while Paul Giamatti has a Drama Desk nod.) Likewise, the cast of "Closer," which received a collective Outer Critics Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance and three Drama Desk nominations, was totally blanked by the Tony Committee.) Also shut out was film star Nicole Kidman's super-hyped performance in "The Blue Room" which featured a brief nude scene.

Early Call

Brian Dennehy, who received a nomination for his portrayal of Willy Loman in the revival of "Death of a Salesman," and two-time Tony winner Swoosie Kurtz, star of the Off-Broadway production of "The Mineola Twins," braved glaring TV lights and camera flashes at Sardi's restaurant early Monday morning to announce the nominees.

Dennehy and Kurtz donned their reading glasses and read from the Tony nominations list after being introduced by three influential Broadway players: Roy Somlyo, President of the American Theatre Wing; Isabelle Stevenson, Chairman of the Wing; and Jed Bernstein, President of the League of American Theatres and Producers.

Dennehy, who was briefly hospitalized in March for hypertension, hardly broke a sweat under the hot lights at Sardi's and joked with reporters about the early morning schedule. "The operative word here is "morning,'" the actor said.

New Hosts to be Announced

This year's Tony Awards program will have multiple hosts. The names of these hosts and any presenters were not available on the morning of the nomination announcements. Spokespeople for the program stated they would be made available later in the week. The past two "Tonycasts" have been hosted by Rosie O'Donnell who electrified the program and almost single-handedly rescued the awards from the ratings doldrums. A long-time theatre fan, O'Donnell relentlessly plugged the Tonys and many Broadway productions on her daily TV talk show. As a result, ratings for the Tonys rose to an all-time high. This year, the star was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts which left the producers scrambling for a replacement.

Special Awards

In addition to nominations in 21 categories, the Tony Awards Nominating Committee announced certain special awards.

The American Theatre Critics Association recommended a Special Tony Award for regional theatre, which will be given to the Crossroads Theatre Company of New Brunswick, N.J. This award recognizes Crossroads for displaying a "continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally." According to Tony spokespersons Keith Sherman and Kevin Rehac, a $25,000 grant by Clairol's Revitalique will be made to the not-for-profit Crossroads, which was founded in 1978.

Other special Tonys include Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre awards for actress and two-time Tony winner Uta Hagen (she won for "The Country Girl" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"); playwright and three-time Tony winner Arthur Miller (who won a special award in 1947, the first year of the Tonys(thorn)and subsequent accolades for "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible"); and ATW Chairman Isabelle Stevenson.

Finally, a special Tony Award for a live theatrical event will be given to the production of the revival of "Fool Moon." The same production of this unclassifiable clown show starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner, played Broadway in 1994 and was deemed ineligible in any Tony categories at the time.

The 1999 Tony Awards are presented by the League of American Theatres and Producers and the American Theatre Wing, which founded the Tonys in 1947.

PBS and CBS Split Broadcast

The 53rd Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live from New York City's Gershwin Theatre Sun., June 6. The show will be aired on two separate networks, with the broadcasts running back-to-back: a PBS portion will air at 8 pm and a CBS portion will air at 9 pm.

According to the League and the Wing, PBS will broadcast the first program, "Broadway '99: Launching the Tony Awards" (produced for PBS by Thirteen/WNET in New York) from 8-9 pm (ET/PT). This program will include the presentation of 10 live awards, including the Special Tony Award for regional theatre. The second program runs directly afterward: The 1999 Tony Awards will be seen on the CBS Television Network from 9-11 pm (ET/PT) and will feature excerpts from nominated productions and the presentation of 12 Tonys.

The issue of who will host the Tonys remains a topic of interest and speculation on Broadway. Without a central figure of Rosie O'Donnell's household-name status to headline the ceremony, the awards are in danger of losing ground in national audience viewership. However, on Feb. 4, the League and the Wing, through their joint venture, Tony Award Productions, renewed the contract with CBS to broadcast the awards show through June 2004, and with PBS through 2000.

Walter C. Miller is executive producer, and Paul Miller is director for the CBS broadcast, while Jac Venza is executive producer, Jeff Folmsbee is producer, and Mark Mannucci is documentary segment producer for the PBS portion. Edgar Dobie is the managing producer for both the Wing and the League.

A champagne reception and Tony supper ball will follow the telecast at the New York Marriott Marquis, and the League and the Wing will host the official 1999 Tony Nominees brunch beginning at 11:30 am on Wed., May 12 at New York City's Marriott Marquis.

Nominations in the 21 competitive Tony categories were selected by an independent committee of theatre professionals, 28 in all, who are appointed by the Tony Awards Administration Committee.

The 1999 Tony Awards Nominating Committee is comprised of actress-director Billie Allen, actress Maureen Anderman, scenic designer Lisa Aronson, publisher Price Berkley, costume designer Donald Brooks, actress Kate Burton, choreographer Marge Champion, theatre archivist Betty L. Corwin, composer Gretchen Cryer, publicist Merle Debuskey, entrepreneur Mallory Factor, administrator Jack Goldstein, playwright A.R. Gurney, artistic director Jay Harnick, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes, script consultant Betty Jacobs, general manager Robert Kamlot, musical director Jack Lee, writer-editor Stuart Little, librettist Thomas Meehan, actress-casting director Joanna Merlin, administrator Jon Nakagawa, actress Estelle Parsons, author-composer Polly Pen, casting director Shirley Rich, writer David Richards, actress Frances Sternhagen (two-time Tony winner), and judge Franklin R. Weissberg.

Legitimate theatrical productions that open in any of 37 eligible Broadway theatres during the current season are considered for Tony nominations. The 1998/99 Tony [eligibility] season began April 30, 1998 and ended April 28, 1999.

The 53rd Tony Awards will be voted in 21 categories by 812 members of the theatrical profession and journalists. Ballots will be mailed at the end of this week.

A complete list of this year's Tony Award nominees follows:

Play: "Closer" (Patrick Marber); "The Lonesome West" (Martin McDonagh);

"Not About Nightingales" (Tennessee Williams); "Side Man" (Warren Leight).

Musical: "The Civil War"; "Fosse"; "It Ain't Nothin But the Blues"; "Parade."

Revival (Play): "Death of a Salesman"; "Electra"; "The Iceman Cometh"; "Twelfth Night."

Revival (Musical): "Annie Get Your Gun"; "Little Me"; "Peter Pan"; "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Actor (Play): Brian Dennehy ("Death of a Salesman"); Brian F. O'Byrne ("The Lonesome West"); Corin Redgrave ("Not About Nightingales"); Kevin Spacey ("The Iceman Cometh").

Actress (Play): Stockard Channing ("The Lion in Winter"); Judi Dench ("Amy's View"); Marian Seldes ("Ring Round the Moon"); Zoe Wanamaker ("Electra").

Actor (Musical): Brent Carver ("Parade"); Adam Cooper ("Swan Lake"); Martin Short ("Little Me"); Tom Wopat ("Annie Get Your Gun").

Actress (Musical): Carolee Carmello ("Parade"); Dee Hoty ("Footloose"); Bernadette Peters ("Annie Get Your Gun"); Siân Phillips ("Marlene").

Featured Actor (Play): Kevin Anderson ("Death of a Salesman"); Finbar Lynch ("Not About Nightingales"); Howard Witt ("Death of a Salesman"); Frank Wood ("Side Man").

Featured Actress (Play): Claire Bloom ("Electra"); Samantha Bond ("Amy's View"); Dawn Bradfield ("The Lonesome West"); Elizabeth Franz ("Death of a Salesman").

Featured Actor (Musical): Rogert Bart ("You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"); Desmond Richardson ("Fosse"); Ron Taylor ("It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues"); Scott Wise ("Fosse").

Featured Actress (Musical): Gretha Boston ("It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues"); Kristin Chenoweth ("You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"); Valarie Pettiford ("Fosse"); Mary Testa ("On the Town").

Director (Play): Howard Davies ("The Iceman Cometh"); Robert Falls ("Death of a Salesman"); Garry Hynes ("The Lonesome West"); Trevor Nunn ("Not About Nightingales").

Director (Musical): Matthew Bourne ("Swan Lake"); Richard Maltby, Jr., Ann Reinking ("Fosse"); Michael Mayer ("You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"); Harold Prince ("Parade").

Choreography: Patricia Birch ("Parade"); Matthew Bourne ("Swan Lake"); A.C. Ciulla ("Footloose"); Rob Marshall ("Little Me").

Score: Jason Robert Brown ("Parade"); Tom Snow, Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, and Jim Steinman ("Footloose"); Jeanine Tesori ("Twelfth Night"); Frank Wildhorn, Jack Murphy ("The Civil War");

Book of a Musical: Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor, and Dan Wheetman ("It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues"); Pam Gems ("Marlene"); Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie ("Footloose"); Alfred Uhry ("Parade").

Orchestrations: Ralph Burns and Douglas Besterman ("Fosse"); David Cullen ("Swan Lake"); Don Sebesky ("Parade"); Harold Wheeler ("Little Me").

Set Design: Bob Crowley ("The Iceman Cometh"); Bob Crowley ("Twelfth Night"); Riccardo Hernandez ("Parade"); Richard Hoover ("Not About Nightingales").

Costume Design: Lez Brotherston ("Swan Lake"); Santo Loquasto ("Fosse"); John David Ridge ("Ring Round the Moon"); Catherine Zuber ("Twelfth Night").

Lighting Design: Andrew Bridge ("Fosse"); Mark Henderson ("The Iceman Cometh"); Natasha Katz ("Twelfth Night"); Chris Parry ("Not About Nightingales").

Special Awards: Uta Hagen, Arthur Miller, Isabelle Stevenson (Lifetime Achievement); Crossroads Theatre Company (Regional Theatre); "Fool Moon."

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