Jack O'Brien, The Full Monty
The artistic director of San Diego's Tony-winning Globe Theatres has had a busy year. He took the raunchy, raucous Full Monty from a sold-out run at the Globe directly to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill and then he turned around and staged Tom Stoppard's difficult and extremely quiet The Invention of Love at the Lyceum. With that production up and running, he now has The Full Monty tour, beginning May 22 in Toronto, up next. Still, the two-time Tony nominee has always kept busy, staging world premieres (Pride's Crossing, Getting Away With Murder, The Cocktail Hour ), Shakespeare's canon (Hamlet, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice) and musical chestnuts (Broadway's Damn Yankees, Porgy and Bess) throughout his long career, the last 20 years of which have been at the head of the Globe.
Susan Stroman, The Producers
In 2000, Tony smiled all over Stroman's last project Contact, but forgot to give her one award - Best Director of a Musical. That was only her first directing nomination (or double nomination - she received the nod for The Music Man as well) and already she's back with her third for the runaway hit The Producers. A three-time Tony winner for her choreography (Contact, Crazy for You and Show Boat, which she pays hilarious homage to in Producers), Stroman is just discovering her directorial wings, although her choreographic presence has been felt for years with Big, Steel Pier, Picnic, And the World Goes 'Round and Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol.
Mark Bramble, 42nd Street
42nd Street carries with its revival quite a bit of musical theatre history and Bramble was there for most of it. The frequent bookwriter (the Tony-nominated Barnum is his best known work) has helmed productions of the "bawdy, gaudy" peon to Depression Era musicals all over the world, from London and Sydney to Tokyo and Amsterdam. Bramble shared in 42nd Street's first Best Musical Tony win twenty years ago as a co-author of the book.
Christopher Ashley, The Rocky Horror Show
He has a way with camp and comedy. Ashley not only brought Rocky Horror back to the stage (in a revival more successful than the original flop staging), but also put Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Jeffrey and Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach on Off-Broadway. With hindsight, one could even argue that Voices in the Dark with its panties and killer jacuzzi had elements of good ol' fashioned campy comedy. But camp and comedy is not all he does - Ashley has staged a vast range of plays and musicals (many of them for Off-Broadway's highly respected Drama Dept.): As Thousands Cheer, Communicating Doors, The Country Club, Bunny Bunny, the Obie- and Lortel-winning Fires in the Mirror and Claudia Shear's breakthrough one-woman show, Blown Sideways Through Life.
Analysis: 2001 is 2000 all over again - a director nominated for play and musical, the direction of two revivals up for awards and Susan Stroman, Susan Stroman, Susan Stroman (alright, this year she's only nominated once). Unlike last year's Michael Blakemore who garnered Tonys for directing Kiss Me, Kate and Copenhagen, O'Brien should net the director of a play nod for The Invention of Love, but not the musical award for The Full Monty. 42nd Street got good reviews, but a major reimagining of a musical is often rewarded in this category (think Cabaret). 42nd Street is a pleasant, enjoyable revival of a pleasant, enjoyable musical, but that doesn't take home Tony. Ashley's staging of Rocky Horror, with its nod to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" phenomenon, is fun and fabulous, but "Rose Tint My World" is no "Springtime for Hitler." Look for Stroman to win - she's riding the wave of hot Producers buzz with a healthy dose of the accolades due to her work on the show. — By Christine Ehren