Michael Blakemore, Copenhagen
Michael Blakemore has the distinction of directing both a play, Copenhagen, and a musical, Kiss Me, Kate, this season on Broadway -- and he's won Drama Desk Awards for staging both. He's received five Best Director Tony nominations, for Joe Egg, Noises Off, City of Angels, Lettice and Lovage and The Life, but has yet to win. He's also mounted more then 20 productions in London's West End.
James Lapine, Dirty Blonde
A playwright and librettist, Lapine is best known for his work with Stephen Sondheim, including Passion, Into the Woods, and the Pulitzer-winning Sunday in the Park with George, all of which he directed and co-wrote. He's also collaborated with William Finn on both Falsettos and A New Brain. Lapine's dramas include the darkly satirical Luck, Pluck and Virtue and the lyrical Twelve Dreams. This season saw his The Moment When open at Playwrights Horizons. A multi-character drama with only three actors, Dirty Blonde has won acclaim for its clear, brisk but not rushed staging.
David Leveaux, The Real Thing
David Leveaux was recently appointed an associate director of the UK's Donmar Warehouse. Tom Stoppard's comedy was his third production for the theatre, following the musical Nine in 1996 and the 1997 Olivier Award-winning production of Electra, starring Zoe Wanamaker, which also transferred to Broadway. He’s on tap to direct Desire Under the Elms for the Roundabout Theatre Company next season.
Matthew Warchus, True West
This is Warchus' second go-round with Sam Shepard's dark comedy; he staged True West in London in 1994. The biggest hit the Circle in the Square space has had in more than a decade, True West gained publicity from Warchus' gambit of having stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly switch characters every few performances, but to the director's credit, the role reversals have been seen as artistic risktaking rather than a mere gimmick. Warchus, who staged the Tony-winning Art two seasons back, begged the Tony Administration Committee not to consider Hoffman and Reilly as separate performers, but they didn't listen -- and nominated both for individual Best Actor Tonys.
Analysis: A tough call in this category. Dirty Blonde is well liked but will probably lose best play honors to Copenhagen, which might make Tony voters cast a sympathy nod to Lapine. Directorially, however, Michael Blakemore took a dense and science-packed script and, without sacrificing visual metaphors, made it clear and dramatic. On the other hand, Copenhagen has only three actors and no set changes, which may work against it in the voting. David Leveaux has won much acclaim for The Real Thing, but the original production may still be too fresh in voters' minds (it was less than 20 years ago) to reward anything but a radical re-think, which this production is not. The aforementioned switch-casting of True West has certainly won Matthew Warchus attention -- and his actors, plaudits - but that show, too, has many who remember its second, legendary Off Broadway incarnation. Final summation: Blakemore has an edge over Leveaux and Warchus, with Lapine just a wee bit on the outside. Even so, flip four coins.