Like the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk, the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors. However, with so many shows and performers included in Tuesday's nominations, chances are they cover most of the contenders for the upcoming Tony Awards.
Indeed, four of the League's play nominees -- "A Behanding on Spokane," "Enron," "Next Fall," and "Red" -- are frontrunners for the top Tony. Edgier Broadway fare such as "In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)" and "Race" failed to make the cut with the League nominating committee, which is comprised of both theater professionals and the public. Instead, five off-Broadway productions fill out the ballot, with the winner to be announced during the League luncheon on May 15.
On the new musical side, all of the potential Tony nominees are in the running with the exception of "Fela" and "Everyday Rapture." The former contended for its off-Broadway run last year and the latter is a last-minute entry in the Tony race that does not open till next week.
While the League gives prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre, it is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance. Last year, Geoffrey Rush won this award several weeks before taking the Tony for his performance in "Exit the King."
This year, 57 actors are competing for the honor first given to Katharine Cornell in 1935. They range from A (Nina Arianda, "Venus in Fur") to Z (Catherine Zeta-Jones, "A Little Night Music"). For the full roster, visit the Drama League website.
Among those in contention is Kelsey Grammer for the second rialto revival of "La Cage aux Folles." He and his one-time "Cheers" leading lady Bebe Neuwirth announced the nominations at the famed Broadway bistro Sardi's. Neuwirth, currently appearing in the new tuner "The Addams Family," was ineligible for consideration as she has already won the League's performance award. Her current co-star Nathan Lane is a nominee and already is assured a moment in the spotlight as he is to be honored with the distinguished achievement in musical theater award. Two other nominees -- "Ugly Betty" co-stars Michael Urie ("The Temperamentals") and Vanessa Williams ("Sondheim on Sondheim") -- are hosting the awards.
Photo: Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth at the Drama League nominations announcement. Credit: Drama League