Drama Desk Nominees Announced; 9 to 5 Garners Record-Breaking 15 Noms

By Andrew Gans
27 Apr 2009

Stephanie J. Block in 9 to 5: The Musical
Stephanie J. Block in 9 to 5: The Musical
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award winners Jim Dale and Faith Prince announced the nominees for the 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards April 27 at the New York Friars Club. 9 to 5, the new Dolly Parton-scored musical based on the film of the same name, earned 15 nominations, the most of any show of the 2008-2009 season.

The 15 9 to 5 nominations are a record breaker for the Drama Desk. Previously, five productions had held the record for most nominations (14): The Secret Garden (1991), Ragtime (1998), The Producers (2001), Hairspray (2003) and The Drowsy Chaperone (2006).

Others showered with multiple nominations: Shrek the Musical and Billy Elliot The Musical, also based on films, received 12 and 10 nominations, respectively. The acclaimed revival of Hair, which began life at the outdoor Delacorte Theater prior to its Broadway run at the Hirschfeld, nabbed eight nominations. Lynn Nottage's Ruined — which recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama — and the London import The Norman Conquests each received the most nominations of any play of the season, five a piece.

The Drama Desk is an organization of theatre critics, writers and editors that honors excellence in all areas of New York theatre: Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and not-for-profit.

Next to Normal was considered last season in its Off-Broadway premiere. The producers, according to the Drama Desk, "requested that [the organization] consider the Broadway transfer only as an entirely new show [and] refused to invite nominators until it was too late for any new elements to be evaluated." [title of show] was considered in a previous season in its Off-Broadway premiere and was therefore ineligible for nominations this season for its Broadway incarnation. Only one actor playing Billy in Billy Elliot was seen by all nominators, who were not invited to see the other two for consideration unless "the Drama Desk Executive Board agreed to classify all three separate performances as one unit for Outstanding Actor in a Musical." The Board rejected that request, as well as a request that as an alternative no actor playing Billy be considered.



Faith Prince and Jim Dale
photo by Aubrey Reuben
The following awards were voted by the nominating committee and will be presented by the Drama Desk at its awards ceremony:

Outstanding Ensemble Performances
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Norman Conquests

Because of the ensemble honor, individual cast members for these two shows were not eligible for acting awards in the competitive categories.

Special Awards
To Liza Minnelli, a "beloved American musical theater icon, for her enduring career of sustained excellence, and her glorious performance in Liza's at the Palace.

To Forbidden Broadway at the end of its nearly three-decade run and "the creators, casts and designers who made it an unparalleled New York institution cherished for its satire and celebration of Broadway."

To Atlantic Theater Company and artistic director Neil Pepe for "exceptional craftsmanship, dedication to excellence and productions that engage, inspire and enlighten."

To TADA! Youth Theater for "providing an invaluable contribution to the future of the theater. The company makes outstanding training and experience accessible and affordable to young people and mounts productions remarkable for their quality and professionalism."

Nominees for the 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards follow:

Outstanding Play:
Annie Baker, Body Awareness
Gina Gionfriddo, Becky Shaw
Neil LaBute, reasons to be pretty
Lynn Nottage, Ruined
Michael Weller, Fifty Words
Craig Wright, Lady

Outstanding Musical:
9 to 5
Billy Elliot The Musical
Fela!
Liza's at the Palace….
Shrek The Musical
The Story of My Life

Outstanding Revival of a Play:
Blithe Spirit
Exit the King
Mary Stuart
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot

Outstanding Revival of a Musical:
Enter Laughing The Musical
Hair
Pal Joey
West Side Story

Outstanding Actor in a Play:
Simon Russell Beale, The Winter's Tale
Reed Birney, Blasted
Raúl Esparza, Speed-The-Plow
Bill Irwin, Waiting for Godot
Daniel Radcliffe, Equus
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, reasons to be pretty

Outstanding Actress in a Play:
Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Ruined
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Elizabeth Marvel, Fifty Words
Jan Maxwell, Scenes From an Execution
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Actor in a Musical:
James Barbour, A Tale of Two Cities
Daniel Breaker, Shrek The Musical
Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Josh Grisetti, Enter Laughing The Musical
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!
Will Swenson, Hair

Outstanding Actress in a Musical:
Stephanie J. Block, 9 to 5
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Megan Hilty, 9 to 5
Allison Janney, 9 to 5
Karen Murphy, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play:
Brian d'Arcy James, Port Authority
Jeremy Davidson, Back Back Back
Peter Friedman, Body Awareness
Ethan Hawke, The Winter's Tale
Pablo Schreiber, reasons to be pretty (Off-Broadway)
Jeremy Shamos, Animals Out of Paper

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play:
Rebecca Hall, The Cherry Orchard
Zoe Kazan, The Seagull
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Andrea Martin, Exit the King
Carey Mulligan, The Seagull
Condola Rashad, Ruined

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical:
Hunter Foster, Happiness
Demond Green, The Toxic Avenger
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5
Bryce Ryness, Hair
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical:
Farah Alvin, The Marvelous Wonderettes
Christina Bianco, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Nancy Opel, The Toxic Avenger
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey

Outstanding Director of a Play:
Sarah Benson, Blasted
Michael Blakemore, Blithe Spirit
Garry Hynes, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Terry Kinney, reasons to be pretty
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Kate Whoriskey, Ruined

Outstanding Director of a Musical:
Walter Bobbie, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot The Musical
Joe Mantello, 9 to 5
Jason Moore, Shrek The Musical
Diane Paulus, Hair
Stuart Ross, Enter Laughing The Musical

Outstanding Choreography:
Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Shonn Wiley, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Music:
Neil Bartram, The Story of My Life
Zina Goldrich, Dear Edwina
Elton John, Billy Elliot The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show
Jeanine Tesori, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Lyrics:
Neil Bartram, The Story of My Life
Jason Robert Brown, 13
Marcy Heisler, Dear Edwina
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show

Outstanding Book of a Musical:
Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis, This Beautiful City
Joe DiPietro, The Toxic Avenger
Lee Hall, Billy Elliot The Musical
Brian Hill, The Story of My Life
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5

Outstanding Orchestrations:
Larry Blank, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Bruce Coughlin, 9 to 5
Aaron Johnson and Antibalas, Fela!
Edward B. Kessel, A Tale of Two Cities
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot The Musical
Danny Troob, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Music in a Play:
Mark Bennett, The Cherry Orchard
Mark Bennett, The Winter's Tale
Dominic Kanza, Ruined
DJ Rekha, Rafta, Rafta…
Richard Woodbury, Desire Under the Elms
Gary Yershon, The Norman Conquests

Outstanding Set Design of a Play:
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
David Korins, Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Neil Patel, Fifty Words
Walt Spangler, Desire Under the Elms

Outstanding Set Design of a Musical:
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Anna Louizos, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Thomas Lynch, Happiness
Scott Pask, 9 to 5
Scott Pask, Hair
Basil Twist, Arias With a Twist

Outstanding Costume Design:
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
William Ivey Long, 9 to 5
Michael McDonald, Hair
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Carrie Robbins, Irving Berlin's White Christmas

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play:
Marcus Doshi, Hamlet (Theatre for a New Audience)
David Hersey, Equus
Ben Kato, Washing Machine
R. Lee Kennedy, Bury the Dead
Paul Pyant, The Winter's Tale
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical:
Kevin Adams, Hair
Jules Fisher and Kenneth Posner, 9 to 5
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot The Musical
Jason Lyons, Clay
Sinéad McKenna, Improbable Frequency
Richard Pilbrow, A Tale of Two Cities

Outstanding Sound Design:
Acme Sound Partners, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot The Musical
Gregory Clarke, Equus
John Gromada, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)
André J. Pluess, 33 Variations
John H. Shivers, 9 to 5

Outstanding Solo Performance:
Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me
Frank Blocker, Southern Gothic Novel
Michael Laurence, Krapp, 39
Lorenzo Pisoni, Humor Abuse
Matt Sax, Clay
Campbell Scott, The Atheist

Unique Theatrical Experience:
Absinthe (2008 Edition)
Arias With a Twist
Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words
Désir
Soul of Shaolin
Surrender

Productions with multiple nominations
9 to 5, 15
Shrek The Musical, 12
Billy Elliot The Musical, 10
Hair, 8
Irving Berlin's White Christmas, 6
Ruined, 5
The Norman Conquests, 5
Blithe Spirit, 4
Exit the King, 4
Fela!, 4
reasons to be pretty, 4
The Story of My Life, 4
The Winter's Tale, 4
33 Variations, 3
A Tale of Two Cities, 3
Enter Laughing The Musical, 3
Equus, 3
Fifty Words, 3
Mary Stuart, 3
Pal Joey, 3
The Toxic Avenger, 3
Arias With a Twist, 2
Blasted, 2
Body Awareness, 2
Clay, 2
Dear Edwina, 2
Desire Under the Elms, 2
Happiness, 2
My Vaudeville Man!, 2
Road Show, 2
The Cherry Orchard, 2
The Cripple of Inishmaan, 2
The Seagull, 2
Waiting for Godot, 2
West Side Story, 2

Nominees will receive their nomination certificate at a private ceremony May 1 at 4 PM at IL Bastardo Ristorante.

The 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards, hosted by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, will be held May 17 at the F.H. LaGuardia Concert Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The ceremony will begin at 9 PM.

The 2008-2009 Drama Desk nominating committee comprises Barbara Siegel (Chairperson) TalkinBroadway.com, TheaterMania.com; Dan Bacalzo, TheaterMania.com; Christopher Byrne, Gay City News; Patrick Christiano, TheaterLife.com, Dan's Papers; Jason Clark, Entertainment Weekly, TheaterOnline.com; Gerard Raymond, Back Stage, The Advocate; and Richard Ridge, Broadway Beat TV.

Robert R. Blume is executive producer of the 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards.

The Drama Desk, organized in 1949, presented its first awards in 1955.