Drama Desk drafts "A Catered Affair"

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Against the backdrop of the recent resignation of one of the seven journalists on the nominating committee, (CLICK HERE) arrived the announcement of those in contention for the 53rd annual Drama Desk Awards earlier this week.

Seemingly in answer to the allegation that the Drama Desk Awards pander to Broadway at the expense of smaller shows, the nominations embraced such offbeat fare as "The Adding Machine" (nine nods) at the expense of a big-budget tuner like "Cry-Baby" (one nom).

As the Drama Desks consider both Broadway and Off Broadway performances for the six or seven nominations in each category, there may not be room to include all five Tony-worthy contenders. For productions and creative personnel, the odds are even worse with six nods at the Drama Desk and only four at the Tonys. Further complicating the use of these nominations as an early indicator of Tony nods and odds is the absence of several sure things from Broadway.

Two tuners were deemed ineligible: "In the Heights," a musical about life in the barrio, had competed last year in its off-Broadway incarnation while "Glory Days," the story of four twentysomethings, opened too late for consideration – as were the actors from the acclaimed revival of Harold Pinter's 1967 best play "The Homecoming," who are receiving a special ensemble prize.

"A Catered Affair" led with 12 nominations, including best musical. While Tony favorite Harvey Fierstein was not nominated for his turn as the confirmed bachelor uncle of the bride at the center of the story, his adaptation of the Paddy Chayefsky teleplay was recognized. The show's veteran star, Tony-winner Faith Prince, is up for best actress in a musical – the most competitive category – against a slate that includes her most likely Tony competition: another Tony-winning old-timer, Patti Lupone ("Gypsy") and three relative newcomers -- Kelli O'Hara ("South Pacific"), Jenna Russell ("Sunday in the Park with George"), Sierra Boggess ("The Little Mermaid") -- as well as off-Broadway's Alice Ripley ("Next to Normal").

Among the Broadway shows, "Young Frankenstein" came second with eight nods, including best musical, though creative force Mel Brooks, who won three Drama Desk awards for adapting "The Producers" in 2001, was snubbed. While leads Roger Bart and Sutton Foster were left off the list, three of the supporting players made the cut: Tony winners Shuler Hensley and Andrea Martin, and Christopher Fitzgerald.

"Passing Strange," a fanciful reworking of the early years of indie rocker Stew, was right behind with seven nominations, including best musical and actor (Daniel Breaker), while campy "Xanadu" got six nods. "A Little Mermaid" barely broke the surface with three nominations.

Three of the four rialto revivals of musicals did very well ("South Pacific," eight nods; "Sunday in the Park with George," seven nods; and "Gypsy," four nods) while the fourth ("Grease") was completely overlooked. Indeed, those three classic tuners accounted for eight of the 24 acting nominations for musicals. Of the two dozen nominees, 18 are from Broadway shows. (Last year it was 23/24 with Orville Mendoza for "Adrift in Macao" being the sole off-Broadway contender.)

On the play front, likely Tony winner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County," led with seven nominations, including best play and dueling best actress nods (Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton). Last year, Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" dominated both the Drama Desk and the Tony Awards; this year, he competes with "Rock 'N' Roll," which scored only three nods for best play, actor Rufus Sewell, and actress Sinead Cusack.

The other four nominated plays are from off-Broadway, leaving Tony fare like Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer" virtually ignored (one nod) if not snubbed altogether, as were David Mamet's "November" and Aaron Sorkin's "The Farnsworth Invention." And "The 39 Steps" was relegated to the unique experience category. Only 11 of the 24 acting nominees hail from Broadway; last year it was 12 of 25.

Three of the six play revivals – "Boeing-Boeing," "MacBeth" and "The Country Girl" – ran on the rialto but produced only two acting nods among them. Patrick Stewart, considered a Tony front-runner for his stellar work as the Bard's Scottish king, was surprisingly snubbed. While Mark Rylance scored a nod for "Boeing-Boeing" his co-stars, Emmy-winner Bradley Whitford and two-time Tony winner Christine Baranksi, did not, as was the case with "Country Girl" nominee Frances McDormand's co-stars Morgan Freeman and Peter Gallagher. Completely ignored were the well-received revivals of '50s classics "Come Back, Little Sheba" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," both notable for their nontraditional casting.

The awards will be handed out on May 18 with the stars of the upcoming four-person musical and curiously named "[title of show]" presiding as emcees.For the full list of nominees CLICK HERE.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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