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Tony Awards battle for best musical: 'American Idiot' vs. 'Fela'?

March 24, 2010 | 11:04 am

Strong Tony Awards buzz builds for "American Idiot," which began previews today at the St. James Theatre, not officially opening until April 20. Many pundits believe it's the front-runner to win best musical.

Broadway Tonys

The previous awards pedigree of "American Idiot" certainly suggests that. The production is based upon Green Day's mega-hit CD, which lost best album at the Grammys in 2005 to Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company," but one of its tracks – "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" – rallied in 2006 to bag the prize as best record of the year. The Broadway production is directed by Michael Mayer, who won the Tony for helming best musical champ of 2007, "Spring Awakening," which bears some resemblance to "American Idiot." Both are shows about restless, angst-filled youth -- just like rock classic "Rent," which won the Tony for best musical of 1996.

One of "American Idiot's" top Tony rivals for best musical of 2010 is "Fela!" – an off-Broadway transfer about the life of Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The show reaped raves when it opened last November, including this huzzah from the New York Times' Ben Brantley: "By the end of this transporting production, you feel you have been dancing with the stars. And I mean astral bodies, not dime-a-dozen celebrities."

Also: "The Addams Family," starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as Gomez and Morticia, with music by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice and Andrew Lippa. Opens April 8.

"Memphis" may be the fourth nominee. It portrays the music scene in the Southern city that was beset with racial tension during the 1950s.

Other possible nominees: "Come Fly Away" and "Million Dollar Quartet." Read more about all of these shows at NYTheatre.com. Also, check out the discussion of the Tonys derby in our forums.

Tony Award nominations will be unveiled on May 4. Awards to be presented on June 13.

"AMERICAN IDIOT"

"FELA!"

Photos: "American Idiot" (St. James Theatre), "Fela!" (Eugene O'Neill Theatre)

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