With the elimination of the press corps from the voting pool this year, some observers noted that the remaining core of artistic idealism within the Tony organization is personified by the Nominating Committee, whose members are a.) affiliated with no shows, b.) apparently take their job seriously, and c.) keep their opinions to themselves. So the nominations are truly what they believe is the best Broadway had to offer this season. And, so, the productions that were once thought on track to the the Big New Musical and Big New Play of the season — The Addams Family and Enron — received a combined total of seven nominations. And none of those was for Best Musical or Best Play. Enron reacted to the news by announcing it would close on May 9, making it arguably the most notable flop of the season.
American Idiot, another highly touted venture, did get a Best Musical nod, but only two nominations. Neither the actors nor the director, Michael Mayer, were recognized. The Mayer slight was a jaw-dropper; after all, he was considered the architect of re-imagining the Green Day rock album as a stage show. Another shoulda-been-a-contender production, the revival of Promises, Promise, walked away with only four noms, but not one for star Kristin Chenoweth.
Instead, the new musical Fela!, which began life Off-Broadway, and the revival of La Cage aux Folles, launched in London, were the big honorees Tuesday, earning 11 nominations a piece, the most of any production of the season. And Memphis, the new musical by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, which has set no critical hearts afire, earned eight nominations, including Best Musical. Not bad.
The Best Play nominees were Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall, John Logan's Red and Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still — which took this moment in the sun as the time to announce its return to Broadway this coming fall.
The happiest actor on Tuesday was probably Jan Maxwell, who was nominated twice, once as a Leading Actress for The Royal Family — which, though it played way back last fall, the committee had not forgotten about — and once as Featured Actress in Lend Me a Tenor, making her the only performer in that revival to be recognized. Hollywood stars were generally honored for devoting time to the Broadway stage. Kelsey Grammer, Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alfred Molina, Jude Law and Christopher Walken all won nominations for their work. Of course, it probably helped that that all gave excellent performances almost universally admired by critics.
Of course, there was news from other awards this week. This is the New York theatre, after all. The Drama Desk Awards found much to like in the short-lived Broadway revival of Ragtime and the recent Off-Broadway musical The Scottsboro Boys, which each received nine nominations, the most of any productions of the season.
Over at the Lucille Lortel Awards, which honor only Off-Broadway, The Scottsboro Boys was named Outstanding Musical, and The Orphans' Home Cycle, the nine-chapter series of Texas-set plays by Horton Foote, was named Outstanding Play. And David Cromer won for Best Diretor for When the Rain Stops Falling, because that's what David Cromer does when he shows up at the Lortels. He wins.
New York Drama Critics' Circle announced April 30 that the winner of the 75th annual New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the 2009-2010 season is Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle. No awards were given for Best Musical or Best Foreign Play. So there.
The very existence of the Redgrave clan has been a source of pride and comfort to the theatre community for a long time. Family dynasties used to be fairly common in the stage world, but, as the theatre has shrunk in importance in the greater cultural cosmos, Barrymore-like houses have become less and less usual or, indeed, viable. But there was always the Redgraves, so active, so talented, and so many of them. Thus, to see several members of the family fall over such a short span of time has been particularly punishing. Last spring, Vanessa Redgrave's daughter Natasha Richardson died in a freak skiing accident. Her uncle and Vanessa's brother, Corin Redgrave, succumbed in early April. And this week, Corin and Vanessa's younger sister, Lynn Redgrave, passed away. As many obituaries pointed out, Lynn, while vastly talented, was never the family's shining star. That status was always granted to Vanessa. But she ended up being the family's only playwright, and as such she was also the Redgraves' memoirist, writing dramas about her father, Michael Redgrave, and her mother, Rachel Kempson. The family's legacy now largely rests on the broad shoulders of Vanessa, who is 73, and survives her two younger siblings and her daughter.