Los Angeles Times

'Wicked,' 'Assassins' Lead Tony Nods

AP Drama Writer

It was a "Wicked" day, with the lavish "Wizard of Oz" musical nominated for 10 Tony Awards, Broadway's highest honor. "Assassins," the chilling Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical about presidential killers, followed with seven nominations Monday.

Two Pulitzer Prize winners squared off against each other for best play. Doug Wright's "I Am My Own Wife," which took the Pulitzer for drama this year, competes against "Anna in the Tropics," the 2003 winner. Also nominated were "The Retreat From Moscow," William Nicholson's story of a crumbling marriage, and "Frozen," Bryony Lavery's harrowing tale of a child's abduction and murder.

Besides "Wicked," the other candidates for best musical: "Caroline, or Change," a look at the relationship between a black maid and her white employer's young son; "Avenue Q," a saucy little puppet show filled with songs and sex; and "The Boy From Oz," the Peter Allen musical biography starring Hugh Jackman as the Australian entertainer.

Jackman, who will serve as host for the Tony telecast on CBS June 6, is a strong favorite in the actor-musical category where he will face Alfred Molina, "Fiddler on the Roof"; Hunter Foster, "Little Shop of Horrors"; Euan Morton, "Taboo"; and John Tartaglia, "Avenue Q."

The nominations were announced Monday from the stage of the Hudson Theatre, one of Broadway's oldest playhouses. Among the stars reading the nominations were Jane Krakowski, Edie Falco, John Leguizamo, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

"Wicked," a $14 million extravaganza about the witches of "Oz" before Dorothy arrives on the Yellow Brick Road, is the show to beat. The musical is the season's biggest success, grossing more than $1 million each week.

"I can't complain with 10 nominations," David Stone, producer of "Wicked," said. "We are pretty well sold out," with tickets on sale through the end of October.

Its leading ladies, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, were both nominated, and the musical also picked up nominations for book, score, choreography, orchestrations, sets, costumes and lighting.

Competing against the "Wicked" witches for best actress in a musical are Donna Murphy for "Wonderful Town," Tonya Pinkins for "Caroline, or Change" and Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who sings and acts the roles of several puppets in "Avenue Q."

Kevin Kline and Christopher Plummer were nominated for their roles in two Shakespeare productions, "Henry IV" and "King Lear," respectively. They face Simon Russell Beale, "Jumpers"; Frank Langella, "Match"; and Jefferson Mays, "I Am My Own Wife."

"This has been a labor of love and a joy to do," said Langella, describing the two-year journey of "Match" from its first readings to Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. In Stephen Belber's play, the actor plays a flamboyant choreographer Langella described as "a nonstop motor-mouth."

Not surprisingly, missing from that strong lineup is Sean Combs, who made a highly publicized if critically dismissive Broadway debut in a revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama.

Yet the show -- nominated for best revival-play along with "Henry IV," "King Lear" and "Jumpers" -- is doing exceptional business largely because of the superstar allure of Combs. The actor's three female co-stars, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan, received nominations in either the leading or featured categories. And Combs was gracious in his support of the women.

"It's more than a dream come true to be a part of this history-making play and I send huge congratulations to Phylicia, Sanaa and Audra on their nominations," Combs said in a statement. "I am so proud and happy to be working along side these amazing actresses."

Besides Rashad, those nominated for best performance by an actress in a play were: Eileen Atkins, "The Retreat From Moscow"; Tovah Feldshuh, "Golda's Balcony"; Anne Heche, "Twentieth Century"; and Swoosie Kurtz, "Frozen."

The seven nominations for "Assassins" were a vindication for the musical, which was much maligned by critics when it opened off-Broadway in 1991. The show will be joined in the musical-revival category by "Wonderful Town," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Big River."

"Assassins" also garnered nominations for two of its featured actors (Michael Cerveris and Denis O-Hare), sets, lighting and orchestrations.

The nominations produced the inevitable disappointments, particularly for "Bombay Dreams," the expensive Bollywood musical that was a London success. The show was shut out of the best-musical category, and thus out of a production number on the Tony telecast and had to be content with three minor nominations.

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will receive the regional theater Tony Award, and a special lifetime achievement prize will be give to James M. Nederlander, a producer and chairman of the Nederlander Organization, one of Broadway's major theater owners.

The Tony Awards in 21 categories will be voted on by some 735 members of the theater industry and journalists.

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