Broadway's two new blockbuster musicals, "Ragtime" and "The Lion King," racked up the largest number of Tony Award nominations in New York yesterday. The lion's share, however, went to "Ragtime," which garnered 13 nominations, compared with 11 for "The Lion King."
In most categories, "The Lion King," the stage adaptation of Disney's 1994 animated feature, will go head-to-head with "Ragtime," based on E.L. Doctorow's novel about three turn-of-the-century families (a touring production opened at Washington's National Theatre last week). The chief exceptions are the categories of lead actor and actress, in which "The Lion King" was shut out.
The two shows should face little threat from the other musical nominees, "Side Show," a musical about Siamese twins that closed in January, and "The Scarlet Pimpernel," which was poorly received by critics.
The race for best play will also boil down to two hot competitors, both imports. "Art," a British hit by French playwright Yasmina Reza, is about three men whose friendship is imperiled when one spends a small fortune on a white-on-white painting. "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," by highly touted British newcomer Martin McDonagh, is about the contentious relationship between a mother and daughter in rural Ireland.
Filling out the category are David Henry Hwang's "Golden Child," which is based on his grandmother's life in early 20th-century China and played a pre-Broadway engagement at Washington's Kennedy Center last season, and John Leguizamo's autobiographical one-man show, "Freak."
The inclusion of "Freak" was somewhat freakish, coming in a season that boasted a rare influx of full-scale dramas. Leguizamo's performance piece got the nod over such plays as David Hare's "The Judas Kiss" and David Mamet's "The Old Neighborhood."
Also indicative of the season's strong dramas is the race for best play revival, whose contenders are "A View from the Bridge," "The Chairs," "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Ah, Wilderness!"
The musical revival category, however, includes the only three eligible nominees: "Cabaret," a British production that garnered 10 nominations; "1776," which transferred to Broadway from Central Park; and "The Sound of Music."
Although there were few major surprises yesterday, among the overlooked was Liam Neeson, who portrays Oscar Wilde in "The Judas Kiss." Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson, received a nomination for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret."
Richardson's competition includes Marin Mazzie, who plays Mother in "Ragtime"; Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, competing as a single nominee for their depiction of the Siamese twins in "Side Show"; and Betty Buckley, nominated for her role as a repressed philosopher in "Triumph of Love." Buckley's nomination was the only one received by the now-closed musical, which made its world premiere at Baltimore's Center Stage last season.
Several other nominees also have Center Stage connections. Michael Mayer, who directed "Triumph of Love," was nominated for his direction of "A View from the Bridge."
Donald Holder, nominated for his lighting design for "The Lion King," is the lighting designer of Center Stage's production of "How I Learned to Drive," which begins performances Friday. And Julie Taymor, the avant garde director nominated for staging, costumes and co-authorship of the score of "The Lion King," directed "Savages" at Center Stage in 1982.
Yesterday's nominees included one other notable local connection -- Baltimore native Nan Knighton was nominated as the author of the book of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," which marked her Broadway debut.
"The Capeman," Paul Simon's much-publicized introduction to Broadway, which closed in March, received three nominations -- for score, set and orchestrations.
Four special Tony Awards were announced. The Denver Center Theatre Company was honored with the regional theater award. Lifetime achievement awards will go to Edward E. Colton, a theatrical attorney, and veteran set designer Ben Edwards. In addition, an award for excellence in theater will be given to the International Theatre Institute of the United States.
The 52nd annual Tony Awards will be presented June 7 at Radio City Music Hall. Rosie O'Donnell will emcee the event, as she did last year. Also in a repeat of last year's practice, the first hour of the ceremony will be broadcast on PBS (MPT, Channels 22 and 67) beginning at 8 p.m. and the remaining two hours on CBS (WJZ-TV, Channel 13) beginning at 9 p.m.
The 1998 Tony Award nominations announced yesterday include: Play: "Art" by Yasmina Reza, "Freak" by John Leguizamo, "Golden Child" by David Henry Hwang, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" by Martin McDonagh
Musical: "Ragtime," "Side Show," "The Lion King," "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
Actor, play: Richard Briers, "The Chairs"; Anthony LaPaglia, "A View from the Bridge"; John Leguizamo, "Freak"; Alfred Molina, "Art"
Actress, play: Jane Alexander, "Honour"; Allison Janney, "A View from the Bridge"; Geraldine McEwan, "The Chairs"; Marie Mullen, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"
Actor, musical: Alan Cumming, "Cabaret"; Peter Friedman, "Ragtime"; Brian Stokes Mitchell, "Ragtime"; Douglas Sills, "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
Actress, musical: Betty Buckley, "Triumph of Love"; Marin Mazzie, "Ragtime"; Natasha Richardson, "Cabaret"; Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, "Side Show"
Pub Date: 5/05/98