Unlike the 2001 Tony race, in which The Producers was a shoo-in in many categories, the 2002 Tony Award nominations have set up several potentially heated competitions—not the least of which are the best play and best musical contests.
Though Thorough Modern Millie—which received the most nominations with 11—is considered a favorite, a win for the box office hit Mamma Mia! or the artistically innovative Urinetown! is not out of the question. And the best play prize could arguably go to any of the four candidates: Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog; Edward Albees' The Goat; Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses; and the 19th century Turgenev play Fortune's Fool, which, as a work never before seen on Broadway, was permitted admittance into this category.
The tightest field by general consensus is best actor in a play. The season was one replete with strong male performances and the five nominees— Alan Bates (Fortune's Fool), Billy Crudup (The Elephant Man), Liam Neeson (The Crucible), Alan Rickman (Private Lives) and Jeffrey Wright (Topdog/Underdog)—all arguably stand a chance of going home a winner on June 2.
Best actress in a play, too, is peopled by strong entries. Kate Burton of Hedda Gabler, Lindsay Duncan of Private Lives, Laura Linney of The Crucible, Helen Mirren of Dance of Death and Mercedes Ruehl of The Goat were all widely praised. Only Ruehl has previously won a Tony Award.
Other competitive races will include those for best director of a play and best director of a musical. Few of the nominations were completely unexpected. Perhaps the most surprising omission was The Goat's Bill Pullman in the best actor in a play category. Many expected him to vie with Wright, Rickman, Neeson and Bates for the prize. Instead, Billy Crudup was honored for his performance in The Elephant Man. Also coming away empty handed was George C. Wolfe, who had a big comeback on Broadway this season, directing both Elaine Stritch at Liberty and Topdog/Underdog. He was ineligible to be nominated for the former (which was relegated to the special theatrical event category) and did not win a nomination for his hailed work on the latter.
First time nominees include the actor Laura Linney, Billy Crudup, Kate Burton, Gavin Creel, Sutton Foster, Nancy Opel, Louise Pitre, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Vanessa Williams, Sam Robards, Stephen Tobolowsky, Katie Finneran, Norbert Leo Butz, Shuler Hensley, Brian D'Arcy James, Marc Kudisch, Harriet Harris, Spencer Kayden; director Mary Zimmerman and John Rando; and choreographers Rob Ashford and John Carrafa.
The awards will be doled out at a ceremony on June 2 at Radio City Music Hall.