On May 8, Tony nominations for the 1999-2000 Broadway season were announced at Sardi's restaurant by Bebe Neuwith and Kelsey Grammer. Aside from peer recognition, increased esteem in the business, and the chance to win a Tony Award, a Tony nomination means...free food! Every year, the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers, who co-produce the Tony Award, throw a brunch for the nominees at Sardi's theatrical restaurant.
This year's lunchtime event -- which is as much a meet-and-greet for the stars and media as it is an occasion to dine -- takes place May 17, 11:30 AM in the restaurant's Eugenia Room. Tony nominees will receive their special certificates at the gathering.
Among notables expected at the Brunch are Boyd Gaines, Jennifer Ehle, Craig Bierko, Blair Brown, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Claudia Shear, David Suchet and Karen Ziemba, according to Tony spokespersons at the Keith Sherman press office.
The 54th annual Tony Awards ceremony will take place June 4 at newly renovated Radio City Music Hall, to be hosted by Rosie O'Donnell and to be televised live on PBS (8-9 PM) and CBS (9-11 PM).
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:
Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Stephen Dillane, The Real Thing
Philip Seymour Hoffman, True West
John C. Reilly, True West
David Suchet, Amadeus
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play :
Jayne Atkinson, Rainmaker
Jennifer Ehle, The Real Thing
Rosemary Harris, Waiting in the Wings
Cherry Jones, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Claudia Shear, Dirty Blonde
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical :
Craig Bierko, The Music Man
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kiss Me, Kate
George Hearn, Putting It Together
Mandy Patinkin, The Wild Party
Christopher Walken, James Joyce's The Dead
Best Direction Of A Musical :
Michael Blakemore, Kiss Me, Kate
Lynne Taylor Corbett, Swing!
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Susan Stroman, Contact
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play :
Kevin Chamberlin, Dirty Blonde
Daniel Davis, Wrong Mountain
Roy Dotrice, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Derek Smith, The Green Bird
Bob Stillman, Dirty Blonde
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play :
Blair Brown, Copenhagen
Frances Conroy, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
Amy Ryan, Uncle Vanya
Helen Stenborg, Waiting in the Wings
Sarah Woodward, The Real Thing
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical :
Michael Berresse, Kiss Me, Kate
Boyd Gaines, Contact
Michael Mulheren, Kiss Me, Kate
Stephen Spinella, James Joyce's The Dead
Lee Wilkof, Kiss Me, Kate
Best Scenic Design :
Bob Crowley, Aida
Thomas Lynch, The Music Man
Robin Wagner, Kiss Me, Kate
Tony Walton, Uncle Vanya
Best Costume Design :
Bob Crowley, Aida
Constance Hoffman, The Green Bird
William Ivey Long, The Music Man
Martin Pakledinaz, Kiss Me, Kate
Kathleen Marshall, Kiss Me, Kate
Susan Stroman, Contact
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Swing!
Doug Besterman, The Music Man
Don Sebesky, Kiss Me, Kate
Jonathan Tunick, Marie Christine
Harold Wheeler, Swing!
Special Regional Theatre Tony
Winner: Utah Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, UT.
Special Lifetime Achievement Tony
Winner: T. Edward Hambleton, founder of the Phoenix Theatre.
Excellence in Theatre
Winner: Actress Eileen Heckart.
Winners: Encores! at City Center & agent Sylvia Herscher.
Shows with multiple nominations:
Kiss Me, Kate: 12
The Music Man: 8
The Wild Party: 7
Dirty Blonde: 5
James Joyce's The Dead: 5
Marie Christine: 5
The Real Thing: 5
A Moon for the Misbegotten: 4
True West: 4
The Green Bird: 2
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan: 2
Uncle Vanya: 2
Waiting in the Wings: 2
As shown above, Kiss Me, Kate leads the 2000 Tony Award nominations with 12 nods, with The Music Man coming next with eight. Despite mostly negative reviews, the original musical, The Wild Party, made a surprisingly strong third-place showing with seven nods, in a tie with the widely acclaimed Contact. Wild Party's inclusion in the best musical category most likely denied Disney's Aida a nom. Also nominated for best musical were the anticipated Contact, Swing! and James Joyce's The Dead. Aida, however, did collect nominations for best score, a trio of design nods, and an expected nomination for actress Heather Headley. Not unexpectedly, the poorly reviewed audience pleaser, Saturday Night Fever, failed to register with nominators, as did the too-odd-for Broadway, Squonk. (Though featuring an original score from start to finish, Squonk was not deemed eligible for consideration as a musical, and could have received only a special award.)
Dirty Blonde garnered the most recognition for a play with five nominations, including nods for best play, director James Lapine, and the entire three-person cast. The best play category was filled out by Copenhagen, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan and True West. Voices in the Dark, Epic Proportions and Wrong Mountain, new American plays that opened earlier in the season, were all shut out (excepting a Featured Actor nod for Mountain's Daniel Davis), even though leads Judith Ivey, Kristin Chenoweth and Ron Rifkin all received a share of good notices.
Much to the chagrin of musicians, orchestrators and other industry folk, Contact has been deemed a new musical, even though all the music is pre-recorded classical and pop. Before the nominations were announced, nine Broadway orchestrators wrote a letter urging Tony officials and the head of the League of American Theatres and Producers to reconsider the decision to grant Contact Tony eligibility as a musical. Musicians Local 802 had protested the hit musical's eligibility because it contained no original music and no live performances of the music in the show. Arguing that the play may "deserve some form of Tony recognition," the orchestrators said that "to allow a dance play utilizing recorded standards to be considered denigrates the live theatrical art form of the musical." The letter was signed by William D. Brohn, Bruce Coughlin, Michael Gibson, Luther Henderson, Steve Margoshes, Michael Starobin, Danny Troob, Don Sebesky and Jonathan Tunick. (The latter two are Tony nominees this year for their orchestrations.)
[Ironically, and perhaps conversely, one of the co-producers of Squonk, wrote a letter (May 10) to the Tony Administration Committee wondering why his show -- which got blanked by the nominators -- was not considered eligible as a musical, even though it "features original music from beginning to end."]
There were several cases of multiple nominations for a single talent. Susan Stroman received four nods, for her direction and choreography of The Music Man and Contact. Composer Michael John LaChuisa also netted four, for his books and scores of Marie Christine and The Wild Party. (According to the Keith Sherman press office, the quadruple honor hasn't happened since Elizabeth Swados racked up four nominations for Runaways in 1978.) And director Michael Blakemore was recognized for his work on Copenhagen and Kiss Me, Kate. Both Stroman and LaChiusa will compete against themselves in two categories. Lighting team Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer also have two shows, LaChiusa's Marie Christine and The Wild Party, in the same category.
Both of True West's leading actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly -- who switch roles every three shows -- were nominated as best actor in a play. Producers had asked that they receive a single nomination. (The Outer Critics Circle worked around that issue by granting them a special achievement award, while the Drama Desk nominated only Hoffman.) Among seeming contenders left out of Best Actor nominations were Philip Bosco and Michael Cumpsty in Copenhagen, Michael Sheen in Amadeus and Patrick Stewart in The Ride Down Mt. Morgan. Stewart hasn't exactly made friends with the Shubert Organization, which filed a complaint against him following onstage speeches in which he charged Mt. Morgan's producers for inadequately promoting and advertising the Arthur Miller play. At the outset of his involvement with the show, Stewart took a reduced fee and chose instead to participate in the show's profits, reports indicate.
On a sweeter note, Rosemary Harris and her real-life daughter, Jennifer Ehle, are competing against each other for Leading Actress in a Play; and nominations for both Laura Benanti (Featured Actress) and Rebecca Luker (Lead Actress), since it was Benanti who came into last season's The Sound of Music after Luker left.
Several special awards will be granted this year: Dame Edna, whose The Royal Tour has proven a durable hit; Eileen Heckart, who is retiring from the stage this year following the closure of The Waverly Gallery, for excellence in theatre; the Encores! series of concert musicals; agent Sylvia Herscher; and producer T. Edward Hambleton for lifetime achievement. The Utah Shakespearean Festival won the regional Tony Award.
Last year, the Tonys took place in the Gershwin Theatre, after two consecutive years at Radio City. Radio City was being refurbished during 1999, making presentation of the awards in the hall impossible.
The years in Radio City coincided with O'Donnell's hosting of the event, as well as some of the highest television ratings the show had seen in years. O'Donnell bowed out in 1999, and, after a long search, the Tonys opted for multiple hosts for the ceremony. The ratings took a tumble with the change in venue and host.
As in recent years, PBS will broadcast the first hour of the three-hour event, with CBS carrying the 9-11 PM (EST) slot. Jac Venza, co-executive producer (with Jeff Folmsbee) of the first hour, noted in a statement that PBS would continue to follow its "unique documentary approach that allows audiences to learn more about the important artists behind the scenes who make a Broadway show a success."
Walter C. Miller and Rosie O'Donnell are executive producers of the CBS telecast, with O'Donnell stating, "I'm thrilled and delighted to be hosting the Tonys again... We intend to entertain television audiences with Broadway's best."
Although the number of members of the Tony Administration Committee stayed the same -- 30 -- for 1999-2000 as it did for the previous year, a full third of the roster changed, with new additions including actor John Cunningham (Titanic) and lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Members serve a three-year term. Nominating Committee members are expected to attend all eligible productions during the season.
According to the Tony Awards Administration Committee (which is run by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers), here are the ten new nominators, followed by the twenty continuing committee members:
Mary Schmidt Campbell (educator, NYU)
John Cunningham (actor)
Jerry Dominus (executive)
Henry Guettel (administrator)
Carol Hall (composer-lyricist)
Geraldine Sherman Hammerstein (actress-writer)
Sheldon Harnick (lyricist)
Peter Neufeld (general manager)
Arnold Weinstein (educator)
George White (artistic director)
Billie Allen (actress/director)
Maureen Anderman (actress)
Lisa Aronson (set designer)
Kate Burton (actress)
Merle Debuskey (publicist)
Jack Goldstein (administrator)
Morton Gottlieb (producer)
A.R. Gurney (playwright)
Jay Harnick (artistic director)
Allen Lee Hughes (lighting designer)
Betty Jacobs (script consultant)
Jack Lee (musical director)
Stuart W. Little (writer/editor)
Thomas Meehan (librettist)
Joanna Merlin (actress/casting director)
Jon Nakagawa (managing director, Vineyard Theatre)
Estelle Parsons (actress)
Polly Pen (author/composer, Bed & Sofa)
Shirley Rich (casting director)
Frances Sternhagen (actress, Long Day's Journey Into Night)
Outgoing Committee members included:
Price Berkley (publisher of Theatrical Index), Donald Brooks (costumer), Marge Champion (choreographer), Betty L. Corwin (theatre archivist at NY Public Library of the Performing Arts), Gretchen Cryer (composer, I'm Getting My Act Together...), Mallory Factor (entrepreneur), Robert Kamlot (general manager), David Richards (writer/critic), Franklin R. Weissberg (judge) and Lanford Wilson (playwright, Talley's Folly).
-- By David Lefkowitz
Murdoch McBride & Robert Simonson