Three shows that opened on Broadway within the past three weeks captured the bulk of the Tony Award nominations, announced in New York yesterday. Eleven nominations each went to the musicals "The Who's Tommy" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and nine to the epic drama "Angels in America."
There were no surprises among these front-runners -- the smash hits of a season fairly slow before their arrival.
Although they have little else in common, both of the musicals, coincidentally, had previous incarnations as motion pictures.
"Tommy," the stage version of the Who's 1969 rock opera about a severely traumatized boy who becomes a pinball wizard, was made into a film in 1975. "Spider Woman," based on Manuel Puig's novel about a political guerrilla who shares a Latin American prison cell with a homosexual window dresser, was adapted for the screen 10 years later.
A third contender for best musical, "The Goodbye Girl," started out as a movie -- Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a single mother who finds herself unwillingly rooming with a boorish actor.
The only musical nominee of the four without a screen antecedent is "Blood Brothers," a long-running, relatively small-scale British show about twins separated at birth.
Among the dramatic nominees, Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, is the top contender, despite scale and subject matter that are especially daring for Broadway. Subtitled, "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," this two-part, seven-hour, unconventional work intermingles homosexuality, politics, AIDS and Mormonism with characters ranging from Roy Cohn to an angel. The nomination is for only the first part, "Millennium Approaches," which opened in New York last week. Part two arrives on Broadway this fall.
"Angels' " only significant competition will come from Wendy Wasserstein's "The Sisters Rosensweig." The story of the reunion of three middle-aged Jewish American sisters in London, it is scheduled to play the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre next spring.
The remaining best play nominees are Frank McGuinness' "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," about three hostages in Beirut, and Tug Yourgrau's "The Song of Jacob Zulu," an anti-apartheid drama that closed Sunday after a little more than a month, making it an extremely long shot for the top Tony.
However, "Jacob Zulu" also captured one of the more unusual nominations. Though it is a dramatic contender, it will compete for best original score category, thanks to the contribution of the a capella group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Another surprise in this category was the omission of Marvin Hamlisch and David Zippel's score for "The Goodbye Girl."
In the acting categories, two of the more hotly contested rivalries promise to be those between lead actresses Chita Rivera, in "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and Bernadette Peters in "The Goodbye Girl," and between lead actors Brent Carver in "Spider Woman" and Martin Short in "The Goodbye Girl."
Of the four shows nominated for best revival -- "Anna Christie," "Saint Joan," "The Price" and "Wilder, Wilder, Wilder" -- only "Wilder" is still running. However,the top award will probably go to "Anna Christie," which received more nominations (five) than any other revival.
Several special Tonys were also announced. La Jolla Playhouse of San Diego, Calif., will be honored as an outstanding regional theater. Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" will receive a Tony in recognition of its 50th anniversary. And Tonys will be presented to the charitable organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada, a labor union representing 75,000 craftspeople.
The 47th annual Tony Awards will be telecast live on CBS (WBAL-TV, Channel 11) June 6 at 9 p.m. Liza Minnelli, a three-time Tony winner, will emcee the ceremony.