Emerging as the leader was In the Heights, the energetic little Off-Broadway-musical-that-could about life in hardscrabble, hope-buoyed Washington Heights. It raked in 13 nominations, including ones for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. Two of those nods were for the show's likable young wunderkind composer-actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. By week's end, Broadway pundits were calling In the Heights the show to beat for the Best Musical prize.
Its fellow nominees were: another Off-Broadway transfer, Passing Strange; Xanadu, the improbable goof of a musical that's had the last laugh by running and running and running; and the John Waters musical Cry-Baby. After In the Heights, Passing Strange was the new musical to received the most nominations, with seven. If it weren't for its primary creator, Stew, it would have gotten only three. The multi-talented, self-described "rock 'n' roll club rat" emerged as this year's Orson Welles, earning nods for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.
|photo by Ernio Hernandez|
Among the musical revivals, no one was surprised by South Pacific's collection of 11 nominations, or Sunday in the Park With George's nine or Gypsy's seven. All three were roundly praised by the critics. Nor did anyone raise an eyebrow at August: Osage County's garnering seven noms, the most of any new play. As with everything else that has come the way of this Tracy Letts play this season, everyone assumed the accolades were the title's just desserts. Struggling vainly against the Letts juggernaut will be Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer and The 39 Steps. Filling out the Best Revival of a Play category were the French farce Boeing-Boeing, which had a surprisingly strong showing with six nominations, The Homecoming, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Macbeth. The latter marks the first time that famous tragedy by Shakespeare has ever been nominated for a Tony, so ill-fated have its many Broadway productions been. The staging's Macbeth, Patrick Stewart, also received what is — amazingly for such an accomplished performer — his first Tony nomination.
Among those largely left out of the fun (if you can call the circus that is the Tony race fun) was the intimate chamber musical, A Catered Affair, which only won a couple acting nods (for Faith Prince and Tom Wopat) and a nom for orchestrations. The all-black, profit-turning revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was shut out completely. Kevin Kline's praised performance in Cyrano de Bergerac was forgotten. The Manhattan Theatre Club revival of Caryl Churchill's masterwork Top Girls, which was the final show to open during the season, and was lavishly applauded by the critical corps, took in a single nomination, for actress Martha Plimpton. Many thought this show was the most "egregiously overlooked" — to use Julie Andrews' undying phrase — of all those considered by the Tony Nominating Committee. Other big-deal shows that didn't do well included Young Frankenstein (three noms), The Little Mermaid (two) and The Country Girl (none), but those chips fell pretty much as expected.
As for special awards, Stephen Sondheim will get a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre; the Chicago Shakespeare Theater will get the Regional Theatre Tony Award; and a Special Tony Award will honor Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), "in recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations, as represented on Broadway this season by Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific."
There are other theatre awards, of course. (Boy, are there other theatre awards!) August: Osage County by Tracy Letts and Passing Strange, with book and lyrics by Stew and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, were named winners of the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award (NYDCC) for Best Play and Best Musical, respectively, of the 2007-2008 season.
No award was given for Best Foreign Play.
Additionally, the 64th Annual Theatre World Awards were announced May 15. These longstanding laurels, among the oldest theatre honors around, recognize performers making their New York stage debuts. They can be young and unknown, or old and well-established, but as long as this is the first time they've been on the New York boards, they are eligible. And thus, such storied performers as Mark Rylance (a legend in London) and Deanna Dunagan (a legend in Chicago) are among the honorees.