The 2002 Tony Nominating Committee distributed its honors on May 6 with a fairly even hand, leaving most Broadway folks fairly happy, few actually ecstatic and, most importantly, spurring no sizable dust-ups. The nominations did have, as always, some repercussions. Unlike recent years, the announcement of the anointed did not result in a raft of closings; last year, three shows bereft of Tony nods announced there closing dates with hours of discovering they were not among the heavily nominated. This year, only the struggling solo Simon Callow show The Mystery of Charles Dickens chose to make a quit exit.
The other effects of the Tony nominations were subtler. Thoroughly Modern Millie, with chances to win in 11 categories, has suddenly become the musical to beat. Into the Woods, perhaps encouraged by its 10 nominations, revealed plans for a national tour in 2003. Fortune's Fool, which snuck into town a couple months ago, is starting to look like the sleeper hit of the season. It won three nominations (best actor in a play, best featured actor in a play and best play) and stands three very good chances at victory.
Perhaps the only controversy to emerge from the list of nominees was the Tonys' failure to nominate The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?'s Bill Pullman in the best actor in a play category. Many thought Pullman a cinch for at least a nomination. Still, others admitted his was a tough category, with more then enough contenders vying for the five slots.
If the creative team behind The Goat were blue over Pullman's omission, they didn't mope for long. On May 7, the New York Drama Critics Circle—traditionally, one of the most respectable prize-giving bodies in the theatre—awarded the Edward Albee work its best play award. No musical was similarly distinguished.
The main producer of The Goat is Elizabeth I. McCann, who also happens to be the producer of the 2002 Tony Awards. Busy lady, but not busy enough that she can't find time to respond to her attackers. (This is the woman, you'll recall, who fought the New York Times review of her show The Smell of the Kill by taking out an ad assailing the notice in the Gray Lady's very pages.) After reading New York Post columnist Michael Riedel's May 3 column—in which he dressed down the Tony Awards, saying they are no longer being about "excellence" and that the organization was honoring a season that wasn't very good—McCann shot off a letter arguing (surprise) that the Tonys were indeed about excellence and that the season was quite good after all. Riedel used his column to reprint much of the letter. As for special Tonys, selected for honors this year are two great veterans: actress Julie Harris and producer Robert Whitehead.
While all of the above was going on, the cast of one Tony-nominated show, Mamma Mia!, found out it was not performing in the Winter Garden Theatre anymore, but rather in the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre. Following the example of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the American Airlines Theatre, The Shubert Organization sold the naming rights to the 91-year-old Winter Garden Theatre to Cadillac, a division of General Motors. The Cadillac name already emblazoned on a Chicago theatre, the Cadillac Palace. Cadillac would not specify how much it had paid for the naming rights except to say it was a "multi-million-dollar, multi-year deal."
Barely noticed above all the din of awards season, a few new plays by important dramatists were seen on some of New York's smaller stages. John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals continued in previews at the Signature Theatre Company. This Thing of Darkness, the new drama co-written by Craig Lucas and David Schuler, began performances at the Atlantic Theatre Company. Boy and Girls, the latest from Tom Donaghy, worked toward a May 28 opening at Playwrights Horizons. And the venerable old Ensemble Studio Theatre's One Act Marathon launched its 25th anniversary season. The first four featured plays (of the usual 12) are Lark by Romulus Linney, Why I Followed You by Lisa-Maria Radano, Reunions by Billy Aronson and Salvage Baas by Brian Silberman.
Across the sea—and having no difficulty whatsoever earning press—was David Auburn's Proof. The play began performances at the Donmar Warehouse, its worldwide notoriety boosted a bit more by the presence of Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead role. Paltrow, it was revealed, will play the part in the upcoming film, as well.
If you want to see stars over here, line-up for Twelfth Night in Central Park. Joining the already announced Julia Stiles as Viola, Kristen Johnston as Maria and Michael Stuhlbarg as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, will be Morning's at Seven's Christopher Lloyd as Malvolio, Zach Braff of TV's "Scrubs" as Sebastian, Oliver Platt of TV's "The West Wing" as Sir Toby Belch, Jimmy Smits of "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue" as Duke Orsino and Kathryn Meisle as Olivia.
—By Robert Simonson