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Category: theater

Tony Awards still searching for 2011 venue

October 22, 2010 |  3:50 pm

Tony-awards Although the Broadway season is kicking into high gear in the weeks ahead with a slew of shows opening, the Tonys have yet to secure a site for their annual awardsfest in June. Radio City Music Hall — their home since 1997 — is unavailable because of a summer-long stint by Cirque du Soleil.

Among the other Gotham venues that could host the kudos: the Roseland Ballroom (1,800 seats) and the Best Buy Theater (2,100 seats) in the Broadway district; the Beacon Theater (2,800 seats) on the Upper West Side; the United Palace (3,400 seats) way uptown in Washington Heights; and the Park Avenue Armory (55,000 square feet) on the East Side. By comparison, Radio City seats 5,900.

The lack of a venue has already had an impact on the awards calendar. The end of the eligibility period remains in doubt because the date for the Tonys will be determined by the eventual locale. Traditionally, there is much jockeying for position in the last days of the season, with producers hoping that opening their shows late will keep them fresh in the minds of the members of the nominating committee.

Ace AP reporter Mark Kennedy interviewed the heads of the two organizations that present these prizes. Said Howard Sherman, executive director of the philanthropic American Theater Wing, "Some of the larger venues are not theaters; they're really concert halls. So they may be lovely in terms of their appearance and their seating, but they're not theaters. They don't have fly spaces, they don't have traps under the floor, they don't have wings to move scenery on and off."

Agrees Charlotte Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, "We have to be able to present a show that resembles in style our last shows, which means we need a legitimate stage with the ability to have sets and lighting that appears great on TV. Because, after all, it is a TV show."

Over the years, the kudocast has done well with both the critics and the Emmys. At the most recent edition of TV's top honors, the 2009 Tonycast won in the special class category. Just days before the Creative Arts Emmys, our eagle-eyed forum moderator Chris "Boomer" Beachum caught the omission of Tonys host Neil Patrick Harris from the list of nominees. Gold Derby brought this to the attention of the TV academy, and Harris went on to share in the win. Gracious guy that he is, he included a shout-out to "Boomer" in his acceptance speech and backstage.

Photo: 2010 Tony Awards set at Radio City Music Hall. Credit: CBS.

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'Memphis' wins just four Tony Awards as musical prizes spread around

June 14, 2010 | 10:30 am

Memphiscover "Memphis" won best musical at Sunday's Tony Awards and three of its seven other bids -- score (Joe DiPietro, David Bryan), book (DiPietro) and orchestrations (Daryl Waters, Bryan). This tuner about the segregated south of the 1950s was the only traditional book musical in the top race this year. The other three contenders -- "American Idiot," "Fela" and "Million Dollar Quartet" -- all used existing songs to tell their stories. Each of those shows won at least one award as did several of the musical revivals in a season that failed to produce a juggernaut like last year's "Billy Elliot," which danced off with 10 Tonys.

"Fela" won choreography (Bill T. Jones), costume design (Marina Draghici) and sound design (Robert Kaplowitz), while "American Idiot" took lighting design (Kevin Adams) and scenic design (Christine Jones). Levi Kreis won the featured actor Tony Award for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet."

The second rialto remounting of the 1984 Tony-winning tuner "La Cage aux Folles" won the revival race just as the first had in 2005. "La Cage" was tied with "Fela" at a leading 11 nominations apiece but managed just two other wins besides this -- lead actor (Douglas Hodge) and director (Terry Johnson).

Hodge was widely expected to win a Tony to go along with the Olivier he has for this same performance, as rival nominee Sean Hayes ("Promises, Promises") acknowledged during his stellar turn as host of the Tonycast. However, Catherine Zeta-Jones was less of a sure thing to win lead actress, as evidenced by her shocked reaction. The Oscar champ ("Chicago") won for her work in the first rialto revival of the 1973 top tuner "A Little Night Music." On Friday, the Welsh actress was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (one step down from a Dame) by Queen Elizabeth II in her birthday honors list.

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Gold rush for 'Red' at Tony Awards

June 14, 2010 |  9:00 am

Red Playbill "Red" -- the John Logan two-hander about abstract artist Mark Rothko and his assistant -- was the big winner at Sunday's Tony Awards, prevailing in six of its seven bids: best play, featured actor (Eddie Redmayne), director (Michael Grandage), lighting design (Neil Austin), scenic design (Christopher Oram) and sound design (Adam Cork). Logan picked up an Oscar nomination for his part in penning the original script for 2000 best picture champ "Gladiator" and was a nominee again in that same category four years later for "The Aviator."

The only race "Red" lost was best actor as Alfred Molina was edged out by two-time Oscar champ Denzel Washington ("Glory," "Training Day") who won his first Tony Award for the first rialto revival of "Fences." Washington prevailed in the part of Troy, a onetime baseball star turned sanitation worker who struggles to reconcile his past and present. When James Earl Jones originated this role in the 1987 production, he took home the second of his two Tonys.

The 1987 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner by August Wilson also won best revival of a play and a second Tony for Oscar nominee Viola Davis ("Doubt") as Troy's long-suffering wife, Rose. That part won Mary Alice the featured actress Tony for the original production but producers petitioned to boost Davis to the lead race. Davis won the featured actress Tony in 2001 for another Wilson work, "King Hedley II."

While Redmayne repeated his Olivier Award-winning performance when making his Broadway debut in "Red," Scarlett Johansson was new to the stage when she appeared in "A View From the Bridge." The four-time Golden Globe nominee won her first major awards hardware for her featured performance as a lovesick teenager in this third rialto remounting of the Arthur Miller classic. Among those she edged out was stage vet Jessica Hecht as her aunt.

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Playbill's Harry Haun foresees 'Fences' sweep at the Tony Awards

June 3, 2010 |  1:45 pm

Another veteran Tony Awards watcher is Harry Haun of Playbill. While Haun is in accord with David Sheward (Back Stage) about what will win the top races, he differs on who will claim some of the acting prizes as well as those tough-to-call technical categories. Words below are Harry's.

Best Play will be "Red" because it will tour well: Two characters and a canvas. "Art" -- three characters and a canvas -- beat out the more deserving "Beauty Queen of Leenane." Press might have tipped the balance to "Next Fall."

Best Musical will be "Memphis," the one musical in the running with an original score.

Best Book of a Musical: "Memphis."

Best Original Score: "Memphis" (boy, the Tony nominators hated to give "The Addams Family" that nomination but had to, and filled out the category with incidental music, for gosh sakes).

Fences Denzel Washington Viola Davis

Best Revival of a Play: "Fences" (a tremendous hit) over the quieter, more subtle "View From the Bridge."

Best Revival of a Musical: "La Cage aux Folles."

Best Actor in a Play: Denzel Washington, who's coasting through this whole thing like a hot-shot movie star (the press might have gotten in Liev Schreiber).

Best Actress in a Play: Viola Davis, the powerhouse in the year's strongest category.

Best Actor in a Musical: Douglas Hodge, the main reason for importing this "La Cage" (he has his detractors, by the way). Don't rule out Sahr Ngaujah or Chad.

Best Actress in a Musical: Catherine Zeta-Jones, for her glamorous presence (otherwise, she's still playing Velma Kelly, not Desiree).

Best Featured Actor in a Play: Stephen McKinley Henderson, thanks to a "Fences" sweep.

Best Featured Actress in a Play: Jan Maxwell for her 10 minutes of play-stealing (unless voters are star-dazzled by Scarlett Johansson and want her to come back).

Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Levi Kreis' Jerry Lee Lewis has a slight edge over Robin De Jesus (the best performance is long gone: Christopher Fitzgerald).

Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Katie Finneran for her 10 minutes of play-stealing (of course, voters could make some Tony history with Angela's sixth).

Best Direction of a Play: Michael Grandage (who also did Jude Law's "Hamlet" this season) will edge out Kenny Leon. (Gregory Mosher was the best, for the record.)

Best Director of a Musical: I suspect it will be Terry Johnson over Christopher Ashley, although Bill T. Jones could be a sleeper win. The crucial omission of Michael Mayer's name here diminishes his show's chances of winning in other categories.

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Gold Derby nuggets: Bret Michaels to 'American Idol'? | Charlie Sheen to jail? | Green Day to Tony Awards

June 2, 2010 |  8:53 am

Bret Michaels American IdolBret Michaels appeared on the finale of "American Idol" last week and says he is in the running to replace Simon Cowell as a judge next season. The curmudgeonly Cowell even endorsed the idea that Michaels, who has battled back from a series of health crises, made mention of during a recent concert. Fox won't comment, but the Poison vocalist certainly has the music cred needed. That star-studded season closer is to be the Emmy submission for "Idol" this year. The songfest has lost the best reality-competition series race to "The Amazing Race" for the last seven years in a row. Among the other possible nominees in that category this year is "The Celebrity Apprentice," which Michaels won last month. Donald Trump is determined to avenge his Emmy losses for "The Apprentice" (2004, 2005) with a win this year for the third edition of the celebrity version of the show.

James Cameron has offered up his private fleet of submersible craft to help BP stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The Oscar champ was part of a group of deep-water experts who met with government officials in the nation's capital Tuesday. Cameron has been interested in oceanography since helming "The Abyss" in 1989. The creator of "Avatar" is also keen on space exploration. In January, he met with Charles Bolden, the head honcho of NASA, to persuade him to include a 3-D camera on Curiosity, a rover headed to Mars next year. PEOPLE

Patrick Stewart has been dubbed a knight of the British empire by Queen Elizabeth II. The respected British stage veteran, best known stateside for his work on TV ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") and film ("X-Men"), received the honor at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. Said Stewart, "My heroes were Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, and Sir Alec Guinness. Being in that company is the grandest thing that has professionally happened to me." AP

Charlie Sheen • "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen could well be behind bars when he finds out if he is an Emmy nominee on July 8. He has reaped a lead actor bid for each of the last four seasons of the CBS Monday night staple, but has yet to win. The actor is reportedly set to plead no contest next week to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a domestic dispute in Aspen, Colo., last Christmas. Reports are that Sheen is set to serve his 30-day sentence during this summer's hiatus for the show, which just wrapped Season 7. After initially vowing to bow out of the hit laffer, he just inked a deal for two more seasons for a reported seven-figure-per-episode payday. BBC

• To celebrate the silver anniversary of "Les Miserables" in the West End, producer Cameron Mackintosh is staging a massive concert version in the O2 Arena on Oct. 3. As Alistair Smith reports, this one-time event will boast "a company of more than 300 actors and musicians, including Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, Nick Jonas (from the Jonas Brothers) as Marius, Norm Lewis as Javert, 'Little Britain' star Matt Lucas as Thenardier, Lea Salonga as Fantine, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thenardier, Camilla Kerslake as Cosette and the casts of the original production at the Queen’s Theatre, the new 25th anniversary production at the Barbican and members of the original 1985 London cast." THE STAGE

• Three-time Grammy champ Keith Urban will headline a July 23 benefit concert in Los Angeles for the charitable wing of the music academy. The evening, dubbed Starry Night, will fund the work of the foundation, which includes music programs for students as well as preservation efforts. Held in conjunction with the Farmers Classic tennis tourney, the event will also support tennis programs in Southern California. Said Urban in a statement, "I was so fortunate to have been exposed to music at such a young age. It touched my heart and opened up a world of adventure and possibilities beyond anything I’d ever known. Being a part of this concert, supporting the efforts of the Grammy Foundation and the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation, is something that I feel very strongly about, because I know firsthand what art, music and sport can do for our youth." GRAMMY AWARDS

Tony Awards logo • More details are emerging about the June 13 Tony Awards telecast on CBS. As is the custom, the four nominees for best musical -- "American Idiot," "Fela!," "Memphis" and "Million Dollar Quartet" -- will be showcased, as will the two nominees for best musical revival -- "La Cage aux Folles" and "A Little Night Music" -- that are still running. The Tonycast will also feature excerpts from all of the best play and play revival nominees. Previous attempts to present scenes from plays have fallen flat but the star wattage this year is high, including Tony nominees Denzel Washington and Viola Davis ("Fences") and Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson ("A View From the Bridge"). The Tonycast is slated to open with a musical medley of popular songs featured in Broadway tuners and will include appearances by "Glee" stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele as well as "American Idiot" composers Green DayTONY AWARDS

• Veteran columnist Liz Smith is set to host the seventh annual Theater Hall of Fame luncheon on Thursday that is saluting nine-time Tony Award champ Tommy Tune. Celebrating Tune's golden anniversary in show biz at the Friars Club in Gotham will be fellow hall of famers Angela Lansbury, Frances Sternhagen, Estelle Parsons, Dana Ivey, Roger Berlind, Lois Smith and Charles Strouse. PLAYBILL

Upper photo: Bret Michaels on "American Idol." Credit: Fox

Middle photo: Charlie Sheen on "Two and a Half Men." Credit: CBS

Lower photo: Tony Awards logo. Credit: American Theater Wing

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Gold Derby nuggets: Mike Ausiello's Emmys wish list | 'Lost' epilogue on DVD | Tonys looking for new talent

May 27, 2010 |  4:36 pm

Kyle Chandler Connie BrittonMike Ausiello is doling out his dream Emmy Awards ballot in bite-size pieces this year. Among the tasty morsels is this one about the never-nominated stars of "Friday Night Lights" -- Kyle Chandler: "His coach turned the misfits of East Dillon into champions. Surely that warrants an Emmy"; and Connie Britton: "Carried the ball, never fumbling, even with a tricky abortion plot." Mike also touts the awards potential of a pair of onetime "Six Feet Under" co-stars -- Michael C. Hall ("Dexter"): "He killed as Dex tried (and failed) to have it all"; and Peter Krause ("Parenthood"): "His character is flawed. His performance? Not so much."  ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Andy Richter is close to inking a deal to host the latest revamp of the classic game show "Pyramid." The original incarnation hosted by Dick Clark was an Emmy powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s. However, this gamer is not guaranteed to get to air. As Josef Adalian reports, it "is still competing with other projects for the 'As the World Turns' slot. Another potential project is a 'View'-like talk show co-hosted by Sara Gilbert and Julie Chen, and we hear rumblings that Sharon Osbourne has been talked about to join them for a pilot." NEW YORK

• Coincidentally came news that Dick Clark will be feted at the 37th annual daytime Emmy Awards in Las Vegas on June 27. "It was time for us to talk about Dick Clark and his influence on daytime," said the awards show's exec producer, David McKenzie. "He had a huge influence on television and was a tremendous cornerstone of the music business as well. We couldn't pass up the opportunity." Paying tribute will be Ann-Margret, Frankie Avalon, Garth Brooks, Cher, Simon Cowell, Jay Leno, Barry Manilow, Marie Osmond and the Spinners. The kudocast, to air on CBS, will be hosted by Regis Philbin.

Lost_Logo • Reigning Emmy champ Michael Emerson says the upcoming DVD edition of the complete series of "Lost" will include an extra that might satisfy some fans left mystified by Sunday's finale. Explains Emerson, "there is a bonus feature ... a lost scene. It’s a lot. It’s 12 or 14 minutes that opens a window onto that gap of unknown time between Hurley becoming number one and the end of the series. It’s self-contained, although it’s a rich period in the show’s mythology that‘s never been explored, so who knows what will come of it." G4

• The "Twilight" franchise dominated the third National Movie Awards in London Wednesday with winners, determined by a public vote, including Robert Pattinson for best performance, while "New Moon" nailed best fantasy and "Eclipse" earned the award for most anticipated movie. The sixth film in the "Harry Potter" series -- "Half Blood Prince" -- took best family film while the entire run won a special recognition prize. Also honored were "Sherlock Holmes" (best action/thriller), "The Time Traveler's Wife" (breakthrough film) and Tom Cruise as a screen icon.

Kathy Griffin dropped by "The Tonight Show" Wednesday to promote the upcoming season of "My Life on the D-List." She regaled Jay Leno with stories of her road trip to Alaska with Levi Johnson in the hopes of landing a dinner invite from his onetime potential mother-in-law Sarah Palin. The sixth season of this two-time Emmy winner for best reality series begins on Bravo June 15. TV SQUAD

Tony Awards logo • The Tony Awards in conjunction with longtime host broadcaster CBS and Macy’s are conducting an online contest to find two would-be Broadway belters to walk the red carpet at the 64th annual theater kudos June 13. Winners will be chosen in a two-part process. Contestants have uploaded videos of their renditions of selected show tunes and an online vote that goes till June 1 will determine five finalists who will be flown to Gotham to take part in a sing-off at the flagship Macy's in Herald Square on June 11, where an expert panel will pick the two winners. CBS

• Theater critic David Sheward has come up with his own kudos that canvas the entire Gotham legit scene. As he explains, "These are strictly my own personal choices for what I thought was the best of 2009-10 and not to be confused with my predictions for any other awards -- that will come later. If a designer or actor did outstanding work in more than one production in the same category, such as Jessica Hecht in 'A View from the Bridge' and 'Brighton Beach Memoirs,' I include them both. Sometimes the choices are similar to those for other awards like the DDs, Lortels, Outer Critics, and Obies, sometimes I include totally overlooked work, such as the stunning Australian production of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at BAM which no award group recognized." BACKSTAGE

• Recent Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") will be on hand to present at the Student Academy Awards on June 12. A lucky 13 students will be celebrated with a week of events at the academy culminating in the awards ceremony. The academy began these awards in 1972 "to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level." Previous student winners have gone on to receive 40 Oscar nominations and have won or shared seven awards. AMPAS

Top photo: Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in "Friday Night Lights." Credit: NBC.

Middle photo: "Lost" logo. Credit: ABC.

Bottom photo: Tony Awards logo. Credit: American Theater Wing.

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Tony Awards nominee Valerie Harper talks Tallulah Bankhead, Emmys and her love for Lucy

May 27, 2010 |  7:15 am

Looped Valerie Harper Tony Awards Four-time Emmy champ Valerie Harper is contending for her first Tony Award this year for her lead performance in the play "Looped."  Though Harper garnered rave reviews for her portrayal of theatrical diva Talullah Bankhead, the New York critics were less kind to this new work by Matthew Lombardo ("Tea at Five"), and the Broadway run ended in April.

Harper's rivals are Viola Davis ("Fences"), Linda Lavin ("Collected Stories"), Laura Linney ("Time Stands Still") and Jan Maxwell ("The Royal Family"). Davis is competing in a role that won Mary Alice the featured-actress Tony for the original production of "Fences" in 1987, when Lavin -- who shares many theatrical connections with Harper -- prevailed in the lead race for "Broadway Bound." Three-time Emmy winner Linney has two previous unsuccessful Tony bids, as does Maxwell, who this year became only the fourth actress to land dual nominations; the other is for her featured performance in "Lend Me a Tenor."

In this conversation with Envelope contributor Paul Sheehan, Harper discusses her extensive research into Bankhead, including repeated viewings of the grande dame's appearance on "I Love Lucy," as well as her own connections with Lucille Ball and her experiences at the Emmy Awards. 

Video: Tom O'Neil

Photo: "Looped" Playbill cover. Credit: Lyceum Theatre

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Sean Hayes rallies from controversy to host Tony Awards

May 24, 2010 | 10:58 am

Promises Promises The Tony Awards have tapped current nominee Sean Hayes to host the 64th edition of the annual theater kudos. By choosing this Broadway newcomer, the producers are sending a clear message of support for Hayes. The recently out actor found himself at the center of a controversy when Newsweek columnist Ramin Setoodeh slammed him for playing straight in the rialto revival of the 1968 tuner "Promises, Promises."

Hayes had impressed theater critics as the hapless Chuck Baxter, who longs for a co-worker -- the unlucky-in-love Fran Kubelik (Kristin Chenoweth). Although Setoodeh dismissed his efforts, the theater community rewarded him with a Tony nomination for lead actor in a musical. Hayes' costar --the Emmy-winning Chenoweth ("Pushing Daisies") -- leapt to his defense with an impassioned plea to Setoodeh for tolerance. Although this past Tony champ ("You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown") was snubbed by the nominating committee, expect Chenoweth to be in the audience at Radio City Music Hall on June 13 to cheer on Hayes.

Another Tony winner, Katie Finneran ("Noises Off") -- who stole that show from theatrical royalty Patti LuPone -- did the same in "Promises, Promises" as a barfly on the prowl who sets her sights on Chuck. Marian Mercer took home the featured actress award for creating this role, and Finneran could well do the same this year, thereby besting two Broadway veterans -- five-time champ Angela Lansbury, nominated for the revival of "A Little Night Music," and one-time winner Barbara Cook, up for the new revue "Sondheim on Sondheim."

"Promises, Promises" -- the musical version of 1960 best picture Oscar champ "The Apartment" -- has quite the pedigree. Neil Simon adapted the Oscar-winning screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, and Hal David and Burt Bacharach provided the words and music. For the original production, Jerry Orbach landed a lead actor Tony for bringing to the stage the part first played on film by Jack Lemmon and now reprised by Hayes.

Hayes is not the first Tony Awards host to have the added pressure of being a nominee. In 2004, Hugh Jackman won the same award Hayes is vying for -- lead actor in a musical -- for "The Boy From Oz" while emceeing his second Tony telecast. The following year, he won an Emmy Award in the now defunct individual performance in a variety special category for his work as Tonys host.

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Drama Desk Awards outrage: Off-Broadway shows snubbed again [Updated]

May 24, 2010 | 10:46 am

Why do the Drama Desk Awards even bother to nominate non-Broadway shows? Just so they can earn thousands of dollars from friends and family of nominees, who spend $190 to $850 per ticket to attend the ceremony and watch their loved ones suffer almost inevitable defeat? The suspicion that the Drama Desk Awards are essentially unfair was bolstered again Sunday night when winners were announced -- and non-Broadway nominees got skunked as usual.

Drama desk awards

[Updated at 2:38 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name Public Theater as Public Theatre. It also said that "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" had ended its run. It will be at the Public Theater through June 27.]

Although 71 of the 155 (46%) nominations for plays and musicals went to off-Broadway productions, just three winners out of 26 came from beyond Broadway. One of these wins was for the lyrics by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb to "The Scottsboro Boys." This last tuner from the celebrated Tony-winning team ("Cabaret," "Kiss of the Spider Woman") is coming to Broadway next season.

The award for book of a musical went to "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," which will finish a run at the well-funded Public Theater on June 27, while the Lincoln Center Theater production of "When the Rain Stops Falling" won sound design of a play. In short, the Drama Desk's three non-Broadway winners were the equivalent of Broadway fare: high profile, glitzy. None of the real off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway nominees triumphed. Rarely do they ever break through.

Of the 23 awards that went to Broadway shows, "Memphis" won four, including best musical and lead actress in a musical (Montego Glover tied with Catherine Zeta-Jones from "A Little Night Music") as well as music (David Bryan) and orchestrations while "Red" took three awards, including best play, director (Michael Grandage) and lighting design. "Fences" -- which tied "A View From the Bridge" for best play revival -- also won for featured actress (Viola Davis) and music in a play (Branford Marsalis) while "Bridge" star Liev Schreiber won lead actor in a play. "La Cage aux Folles" won best musical revival and lead actor in a musical (Douglas Hodge) as well as best costume design. 

Unlike the Lucille Lortel Awards, which are devoted exclusively to off-Broadway productions, the Drama Desk kudos consider all theater productions in New York. Though the Lortel nominees and winners are decided  by a panel of 19 experts drawn from both the theatrical community and academia, the Drama Desk nominations are determined by just seven scribes: Barbara Siegel (Talkin' Broadway, Theater Mania), Christopher Byrne (Gay City News), Patrick Christiano (Dan's Papers, Theater Life), David Kaufman (freelance and author), Gerard Raymond (Back Stage, the Advocate), Richard Ridge (Broadway Beat TV) and Paulanne Simmons (Curtain Up and New York Theatre Wire). The entire membership of the Drama Desk decides the winners. Just who these folks are remains a mystery as the Drama Desk is the only media award that refuses to list its members.

Over Siegel's seven years at the helm of the nominating committee, Broadway contenders represented between 47% and 63% of the contenders; this year, it was 54%. They went on to win all but 12 of the 179 awards bestowed on plays and musicals. When non-Broadway nominees do manage to prevail, they tend to have prestigious reputations, as was the case with last year's winner of best play: "Ruined" had already won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Among the other non-Broadway champs last year was "Road Show," which won best lyrics for seven-time Tony champ Stephen Sondheim. At last year's Drama Desk Awards, Broadway shows won 21 of the 26 prizes and accounted for a staggering 102 of the 161 nominations (63%).

Two years ago, only 84 of the 158 nominations (53%) went to Broadway productions, but 25 of the 26 eventual winners for plays and musicals came from the Great White Way. The sole exception was the award for best featured actress in a play, which went to Tony winner Linda Lavin ("Broadway Bound") for "The New Century."

This consistent, longstanding bias against off-Broadway shows is concrete evidence that the Drama Desk voting process is unfair. Why not reform it? Suspicion that greed over ticket revenue is behind the current system is bolstered by the group's shocking policy of charging its own members to attend, albeit at a partially discounted price. As a result, most journalists who vote on the awards can't be present to see them bestowed because they can't afford the ticket.

It's clear what needs to be done to reform the process. The Drama Desk needs to do one of two things:

1.) Its awards should be broken up into Broadway and non-Broadway (off and off-off) categories. Only journalists who have seen all nominees in a category may be permitted to vote. Or

2.) Keep the awards as they are, but only permit members to vote if they've seen all nominees. Currently, voters are asked to abstain if they haven't seen everything in a given category, but they're not policed as they are at some other award shows. (The Oscars, for example, only permit voting in races like best foreign film and documentary if voters prove they attended special screenings. The Emmys only permit voters to cast ballots in a few races and are strict with voters about proving they viewed sample video of each nominee.) Drama Desk leaders must employ random monitoring. They must ask publicists of various non-Broadway shows to give them a list of Drama Desk members who attended productions of certain nominees, then confront members who aren't on the list, but voted in that category anyway. If it's established that members broke Drama Desk rules, those members' voting rights should be pulled. This problem is so drastic at the Drama Desk Awards that a drastic remedy is needed.

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'Red' and star Alfred Molina win gold from Drama League

May 21, 2010 |  4:58 pm

Alfred Molina Red Drama League The Drama League has bestowed its prestigious performance prize on Tony nominee Alfred Molina for his portrayal of the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko in "Red." This transfer from London's Donmar Warehouse also won the best play award for John Logan. "Red" is in contention at the Tony Awards as is one of the other eight plays which vied for the league honor -- "Next Fall."

As with the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk, the league does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors. However, while many of the nominated plays, musicals revivals and performers hailed from beyond the bright lights of Broadway, all the winners were from the rialto.

The musical revue "Sondheim on Sondheim" won with the league but was snubbed by the Tonys. Of the other eight league nominees, three of them are in the running for the top Tony -- "American Idiot," "Memphis" and "Million Dollar Quartet." The fourth Tony nominee -- "Fela!" -- was eligible for the league prize last year when it ran off-Broadway.

The league rewarded revivals of the play "A View From the Bridge" and the tuner "La Cage aux Folles" as well. Both of these productions are front-runners in the same races at the Tony Awards. These categories at the league included all of the Tony nominees with the exception of "The Royal Family."

The league is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance and an individual can be so recognized only once in their career. Last year, Geoffrey Rush won this honor several weeks before taking the Tony for his performance in "Exit the King."

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Gold Derby nuggets: Betty White + "SNL" = Emmy? | Tom Selleck reprises 'Jesse Stone' | Another amazing 'Race' finale

May 7, 2010 |  3:59 pm

Betty White SNL • The power of a Facebook petition helped land four-time prime-time Emmy champ Betty White the hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. Last year, the Emmy Awards eliminated the individual performance in a variety series category. "SNL" hosts were eligible instead in the guest acting races, and Tina Fey and Justin Timberlake both won for their stellar turns at the helm of this late-night staple. White won the guest actress in a comedy series race back in 1996 for playing an exaggerated version of herself on "The John Larroquette Show." The last four of her 16 Emmy nominations have been for guesting on both comedy and drama series. With White's career red-hot, she is also guesting on the May 19 finale of freshman hit "The Middle" as the less-than-kindly librarian who stands between Brick (Atticus Shaffer) and promotion to third grade.

• Even though this year's nominees for the Tony Awards were just announced Tuesday and we are still more than five weeks away from the kudos being awarded, there is already a front-runner for next year's best actor in a play prize. Oscar winner Al Pacino is playing Shylock in a production of "The Merchant of Venice" this summer in the renowned Shakespeare in the Park series put on by the Public Theatre. And, as Andrew Gans reports, two Broadway powerhouse producers -- Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel -- have invested in this non-profit production with an eye to transferring it to the rialto in the fall. Pacino is a two-time Tony champ, winning the featured actor in a play award for "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie" in 1969 and the lead actor race in 1977 for "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel." PLAYBILL

Quentin Tarantino is to head the jury at the 67th Venice Film Festival which runs for 11 days beginning Sept. 1. This is the Oscar champ's first time working with this fest in an mainstream capacity. He did preside over the 2004 Cannes jury that awarded Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" the Golden Palm. The top prize at Venice is the Golden Lion which went last year to "Lebanon." While that film did not figure in the Oscars, Colin Firth ("A Single Man") did parlay his Venice win into a best actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Two years ago, the top pic at Venice was "The Wrestler," which earned Oscar nods for Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. The only Golden Lion winner to compete as a best picture nominee at the Oscars in the past decade was "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. LA BIENNALE

Tom Selleck No RemorseTom Selleck nabbed an Emmy nomination for best actor in a TV movie for "Jesse Stone: Sea Change" back in 2007; he lost to Robert Duvall for "Broken Trail." That was the fourth time he portrayed Robert B. Parker's creation -- a  former big-city cop living in a small Massachusetts town. On Sunday, Selleck returns with the sixth entry in the franchise. In a wide-ranging interview with Megan Walsh-Boyle, Selleck says, "I couldn’t be prouder of the Jesse Stone series and, in this case, 'No Remorse.' Each one gets better. The seventh is already filmed and in the can — it’s called 'Innocents Lost.' The thing I’m so proud of is they look like feature films and they play like feature films." Selleck remains the only Emmy champ to win while hosting the kudocast. He pulled this double duty back in 1984 when he won on his third of five consecutive nominations for "Magnum, P.I." TV GUIDE

Howard Gordon, an executive producer of "24," warns fans not to expect a happy ending for the character Jack Bauer played by Emmy champ Kiefer Sutherland. As per this report from Maria Elena Fernandez, Gordon said, "One thing we tried and didn't work was a happily-ever-after for Jack. What he's done -- forget about the last eight seasons -- but in these last six episodes ... leaves him, once again, in a very morally compromised place, morally, ethically and emotionally. This show is a tragedy, and to give Jack a happy ending just didn't feel authentic." SHOW TRACKER

• Newly-tapped Emmys host Jimmy Fallon told Alicia Rancillo he wants to keep the kudocast classy. The late-night talk show host recalled, "watching the Emmys while growing up with his mother, who would dress up in a gown and give fake acceptance speeches. He wants to make watching the telecast an event for which people will host watch parties in their own homes." AP

The Amazing Race logo • "The Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan promises "a very tense finish" as the sixteenth edition of the show wraps up Sunday on CBS. "The Amazing Race" has won all seven Emmy Awards handed out for best reality competition series. Chatting to Derrik J. Lang, Keoghan revealed, "The thing about the last leg is we really want to make it as fair as possible for all the teams." While the Emmy-nominated host won't say who won, "he does believe that the show's fans are rooting for the beloved professional bull riders to win and that the ending isn't necessarily happy for everyone. Keoghan foreshadowed that Upton and Horne are confronted by another team at the mat." AP

Nina Arianda and Bill Heck have won the Clarence Derwent award for most promising female and male performers on the New York theater scene. Arianda starred in the acclaimed two-hander "Venus in Fur" while Heck is finishing up a run in the nine-hour Horton Foote trilogy "The Orphans' Home Cycle."  Established by Derwent, the president of Actors Equity, in 1945, these kudos have gone to such notables as Annette Bening, Kristin Chenoweth, Morgan Freeman, Allison Janney, and Christopher Walken. And past Tony contender Helen Stenborg and current Tony nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson have won the Richard Seff prizes awarded to stage vets for their performances in "Vigil" and "Fences" respectively. This year's judges were Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News); Adam Feldman (Time Out NY); Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk); Harry Haun (Playbill); Michael Kuchwara (AP); and David Rosenberg (Back Stage). PLAYBILL

Top photo: Kristen Wiig and Betty White on the set of "SNL." Credit: NBC

Middle photo: Tom Selleck in "No Remorse." Credit: CBS

Bottom photo: "The Amazing Race" logo. Credit: CBS

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Jan Maxwell only fourth actress to get double nominations for Tony Awards

May 4, 2010 | 11:05 am

Jan Maxwell Tony Awards Jan Maxwell earned two Tony Award nominations Tuesday for her leading performance in "The Royal Family" and her featured turn in "Lend Me a Tenor." Both of these comedies are contenders for the best play revival award.

One of Maxwell's rivals in the featured actress race is Rosemary Harris, who played her mother in "The Royal Family," the 1927 George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber chestnut about an acting dynasty modeled on the Barrymores. Harris played Maxwell's part in the 1976 revival, losing the Tony to Irene Worth for "Sweet Bird of Youth."

In "Lend Me a Tenor," Maxwell is playing the part of the put-upon wife of an opera star, which earned Tovah Feldshuh a nomination for the original 1989 production of Ken Ludwig's farce; she lost to Christine Baranski for "Rumors."

Maxwell has two previous Tony nominations. She lost her 2005 bid for featured actress in a musical for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to Sara Ramirez from the top tuner "Spamalot," and the 2007 race for featured actress in a play for "Coram Boy" to Rosemary Harris' daughter Jennifer Ehle from the best play champ, "The Coast of Utopia."

Three other actresses have been nominated in two categories in the same year. The first of these -- Amanda Plummer -- was the only one to prevail in either, with her 1982 featured actress in a play win for "Agnes of God." She lost her best actress bid for "A Taste of Honey" to Zoe Caldwell ("Medea"). Plummer is the only Tony champ with parents who are both Tony winners as well. Her father, Christopher Plummer, won best actor in a musical for "Cyrano" in 1974 and best actor in a play for "Barrymore" in 1997. And her mother, Tammy Grimes, won featured actress in a musical for "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" in 1961 and best actress in a play for "Private Lives' in 1970.

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