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'La Cage aux Folles,' 'Fela!' top Tony nominations

La Cage' and 'Fela!' score 11 nods while 'American Idiot,' 'The Addams Family,' come up short.

May 05, 2010|By David Ng, Los Angeles Times

"Fela!" — a dance-infused stage biography from choreographer Bill T. Jones — and a revival of the musical "La Cage aux Folles" led the Tony Award nominations announced Tuesday, receiving 11 each and handily beating out blockbuster productions such as "American Idiot" and "The Addams Family."

The 2010 nominations lacked a clear frontrunner like last year's " Billy Elliot," which received 15 nominations. There also was a noticeable dearth of new musicals featuring original scores. But the roster was rich with screen stars who had chosen to leave the safety of movie and TV sets for the unforgiving lights of Broadway.

Denzel Washington garnered his first Tony nomination for the current revival of August Wilson's "Fences," which received a total of 10 nominations, including one for costar Viola Davis.

Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber both received nominations for the critically acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge." Catherine Zeta-Jones picked up her first Tony nomination for "A Little Night Music," while costar Angela Lansbury received her seventh nod.

Other acting nominees better known for their film or television work included Jude Law ("Hamlet"), Laura Linney ("Time Stands Still"), Christopher Walken ("A Behanding in Spokane"), Sean Hayes ("Promises, Promises") and Kelsey Grammer ("La Cage aux Folles").

John Logan's "Red," starring Alfred Molina, received seven nominations — the most for any new play in the season. "I grew up in New Jersey, and I used to take the train in to New York to see shows," said Logan, who is also an Oscar-nominated screenwriter. "So to have a show on Broadway is beyond thrilling."

"Red," which ran at the Donmar Warehouse before coming to Broadway, follows the relationship between artist Mark Rothko and his young male assistant, played by nominee Eddie Redmayne.

The other nominees in the play category are Sarah Ruhl's "In the Next Room"; Geoffrey Nauffts' "Next Fall"; and Donald Margulies' "Time Stands Still," which had its premiere at the Geffen Playhouse.

"Fela!" — which opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in November following an off-Broadway run — tells the story of Afrobeat musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. The musical boasts an unusually high pedigree of celebrity producers including Will Smith, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. Jones, who is currently staging the London version of the show, received nominations for directing, choreography and book.

Also recognized in the new musical category is "Memphis," which ran at the La Jolla Playhouse before transferring to Broadway. The production scored eight nominations, including Christopher Ashley's direction and songwriters David Bryan and Joe DiPietro.

Ashley said the musical went through a number of changes since it premiered at La Jolla. (The show also ran in Seattle before moving to New York.) "It was a great luxury to have," he said. "We added a few new songs and scenes were stripped down and overhauled."

Rounding out the musical category are the jukebox rock musicals "American Idiot" (featuring the songs of Green Day) and "Million Dollar Quartet" (featuring hits from the '50s).

In an unusual decision, the Tony nominating committee decided to nominate the scores of two plays — "Enron" and "Fences" — for original score, a category usually reserved for musicals. The decision points to a shortage of new musicals that feature original scores, as opposed to jukebox productions.

In the musical revival category, "La Cage" is joined by "Finian's Rainbow," "A Little Night Music" and "Ragtime."

The dramatic revival category includes "Fences," "Lend Me a Tenor," "The Royal Family" and "A View From the Bridge."

Jan Maxwell could walk home with two prizes on Tony night. The actress received nominations for her roles in "The Royal Family" and "Lend Me a Tenor."

Stage veteran Barbara Cook received her first Tony nomination in more than 50 years for "Sondheim on Sondheim."

A number of blockbuster productions came up noticeably short on Tuesday. "American Idiot," which had its premiere at Berkeley Rep, received only three nominations and failed to garner recognition for director Michael Mayer or any of its actors.

"The Addams Family," which has been a box-office success despite mostly bad reviews, received only two nominations. Stars Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth were both snubbed.

"Enron," the highly praised London import, was shut out of the play and directing categories. The drama, which chronicles the collapse of the infamous energy trading company using unconventional stage techniques, scored a total of four nominations.

David Mamet's "Race" earned a single nomination (for actor David Alan Grier), as did Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts," the playwright's follow-up to the Tony-winning "August: Osage County."

The Tony Awards will be presented at Radio City Music Hall on June 13, and will air on CBS.

david.ng@latimes.com

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