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A competitive race for Broadway’s Tony Awards 2002

By Michael Kuchwara, The Associated Press
Friday May 10, 2002

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” leads with 11 nominations; “Urinetown” and “Into the Wo ods” receive 10 each 



NEW YORK — Big musicals, as usual, collected the most 2002 Tony nominations Monday, with “Thoroughly Modern Millie” receiving 11, followed by “Urinetown” and the revival of “Into the Woods” both with 10. 

Yet it’s a competitive, wide-open race for both best play and best musical on Broadway. And the nominations for best play couldn’t be more diverse. 

“Topdog/Underdog,” Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a murderous sibling rivalry, goes against “Metamorphoses,” Mary Zimmerman’s evocative retelling of the myths of Ovid; “Fortune’s Fool,” an adaptation by Mike Poulton of a comedy by 19th century Russian playwright Ivan Turgenev, and Edward Albee’s “The Goat,” a disturbing yet often funny look at a most unusual love affair. 

“It’s like comparing apples and oranges,” Albee said Monday, musing about best-play nominations. “And since all awards are comparative, how do you do pick one? I think they should nominate the four most interesting and leave it at that.” 

Winners will be announced June 2. 

For best musical, “Millie,” the saga of a fresh-faced Kansas girl trying to make it in 1920s New York, faces “Urinetown,” the sardonic spoof about paying to use bathroom facilities; the ABBA-inspired London hit “Mamma Mia!” and “Sweet Smell of Success,” a dark tale of a vindictive New York gossip columnist. 

Both “Millie” and “Sweet Smell” are based on well-known films, while “Mamma Mia!” found its inspiration in the pop hits of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, both of whom received Tony nominations for best orchestrations. 

Unlike “The Producers,” last year’s record winner, none of this year’s musical nominees got unanimously favorable reviews, so taking the top musical prize would boost their fortunes. Only “Mamma Mia!” — the story of a young woman’s search for her real father — has proved to be a hot ticket in New York and on the road. 

Competition will be fierce in the best-actor category, too. Alan Bates, who scored with a riotous drunk scene in “Fortune’s Fool,” was nominated along with Billy Crudup, who plays the touching title character in “The Elephant Man; Liam Neeson, an honorable Pilgrim farmer in “The Crucible”; Alan Rickman, a bored yet deeply in love sophisticate in “Private Lives” and Jeffrey Wright, one of the two brothers in “Topdog/Underdog.” 

Kate Burton received two Tony nominations — one in the actress category (for playing “Hedda Gabler” in a revival of the Ibsen classic) and a second in featured-actress slot (for portraying a sympathetic English actress in “The Elephant Man”). 

Burton also has an interest this year in another Tony — the prize given to best regional theater, which will go to the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Her husband, Michael Ritchie, runs it. 

“It was a good morning in our household,” Burton said with a laugh. 

Burton’s competition for best actress: Lindsay Duncan, “Private Lives”; Laura Linney, “The Crucible”; Helen Mirren, “Dance of Death”; and Mercedes Ruehl, “The Goat.” 

“Morning’s at Seven,” which received nine nominations, previously won the revival award in 1980. The gentle Paul Osborn comedy, first seen on Broadway in 1939, could do so again. The other revival nominees are “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s drama about the Salem witch trials; the British farce “Noises Off,” and Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.” 

The musical-revival category is sparse, with only the Trevor Nunn-directed production of “Oklahoma!” and “Into the Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical in competition. 

Vanessa Williams, who plays a glamorous witch in “Into the Woods,” received a best actress-musical nomination, her first. The others in the category: Sutton Foster, an ambitious flapper in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”; Louise Pitre, the iconoclastic mother in “Mamma Mia!”, and two stars of “Urinetown,” Nancy Opel and Jennifer Laura Thompson. 

John Cullum, who already has two Tonys, is up for a third for his role as the villain in “Urinetown.” Also nominated in the actor-musical category: Gavin Creel, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”; John Lithgow, “Sweet Smell of Success”; John McMartin, “Into the Woods”; and Patrick Wilson, “Oklahoma!” 

Among those passed over for nominations were Kathleen Turner and the rest of the cast of the much-maligned stage version of “The Graduate,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and his little musical “By Jeeves,” and such critically lauded performers as Ian McKellen and Bill Pullman. 

The Broadway season began disastrously last September after the attacks on the World Trade Center. An aggressive marketing campaign by the League of American Theatres and Producers helped revive business as Broadway got ready for a busy spring. Yet business has not rebounded as buoyantly as expected; so the New York theater looked for another hit as big as “The Producers” — and none arrived.