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'Memphis' and 'Red' win with Outer Critics Circle, as do 'La Cage' and 'Fences'

May 17, 2010 |  9:28 am

The 60th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards handed out Monday are of some help in predicting what will win at the Tony Awards next month. Although these kudos consider new Broadway and off-Broadway plays and musicals separately, all other categories, such as acting and directing, combine the two. As such, there is not always room for all of the Tony nominees.

Memphiscover "Memphis" -- a tuner about interracial love set against the backdrop of the burgeoning 1950s music scene -- won best musical. "Red" -- a two-hander about artist Mark Rothko and his assistant -- from Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator," "The Aviator") prevailed as best play. Both of these are in contention for the top prizes at the Tonys too.

"Fences" -- the 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner by August Wilson -- won best play revival, and stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis took the lead acting in a play awards. These wins establish them as strong contenders at the Tonys.

"Memphis" -- which led with seven nominations -- also won best score, Montego Glover tied with Catherine Zeta-Jones ("A Little Night Music") for lead actress in a musical, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo tied with Bill T. Jones ("Fela!").

"La Cage aux Folles" won best musical revival, lead actor in a musical for Douglas Hodge, director (Terry Johnson) and costumes (Matthew Wright). Hodge -- who already won the Olivier Award for his performance as the cross-dressing Albin -- could be unstoppable at the Tonys.

Although the revival of the play "The Royal Family" went zero for seven, star Jan Maxwell did win for her other nominated performance in a play, a featured role in "Lend Me a Tenor." Maxwell is also up for the same two awards at the Tonys. Jon Michael Hill won the featured actor award for the new play "Superior Donuts."

Five-time Tony champ Angela Lansbury lost her featured bid for "A Little Night Music" to Katie Finneran in another musical revival, "Promises, "Promises." Levi Kreis won the featured actor prize for his work as Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet."

The Outer Critics Circle Awards often provide hints as to the popularity of potential Tony winners. Last year, the two awards agreed, for example, on "God of Carnage" (best play), "Billy Elliot" (best musical), Geoffrey Rush in "Exit the King" (best actor, play) and Marcia Gay Harden in "God of Carnage" (best actress, play).

Two years ago, they concurred on "August: Osage County" (best play), Paulo Szot in "South Pacific" (best actor, musical), Patti LuPone in "Gypsy" (best actress, musical), and Deanna Dunagan in "August: Osage County" (best actress, play), among others.

However, the two awards have had sharp disagreements. Two years ago, "Young Frankenstein" tied "Xanadu" for the Circle's trophy as best musical, but "Frankenstein" wasn't even nominated in the top Tony race. (Eventual Tony champ "In the Heights" wasn't eligible at that year's OCC Awards.)

Winners will be feted at a dinner at Sardi's on May 27. For the full list of winners, visit the Outer Critics Circle website.

Photo: Memphis playbill. Credit: Shubert Theatre

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