With contenders as diverse as Avenue Q, Wicked, A Raisin in the Sun, and I Am My Own Wife, Broadway looks toward Monday's 2004 Tony Awards nominations with anxious hope. The Tonys are the awards most prized by the New York theater community because they generate significant box office. Win a Tony in the best play or best musical categories and your ticket sales will probably bloom. For established hits such as Wicked and A Raisin in the Sun, the latter starring rap mogul Sean Combs, Tony nods would reaffirm their box-office success. Others, such as the struggling Wonderful Town, which grossed about $394,000 last week and played to less than 50% capacity, or Frozen, which opened recently with no advance sales and meager walk-in business, really need those nominations.
"They are a great ego boost for the nominees, and the creative people think of them as an endorsement from the [theater] community, but they don't have a measurable impact on the box office," said David Richenthal, producer of I Am My Own Wife, a likely nominee for best play. "For that, we will have to wait until June 6." That's the date of the awards show, which will be telecast live by CBS from Radio City Music Hall. To get there, though, a show must first be nominated. And the 26 members of the Tony nominating committee, including actors, journalists, and other theater professionals, meet Sunday evening to vote. The nominations will be announced Monday morning.
Wicked, based on Gregory Maguire's cult novel about the witches in The Wizard of Oz, has been the season's most lavish and popular new show, grossing over $1 million each week. Big, successful shows usually garner a lot of Tony nominations. Wicked, which has a score by Stephen Schwartz, will probably pick up nominations for its creators, directors, and performers (particularly Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel) as well as for its sets, costumes, and lighting. Raisin, the highest-grossing play on Broadway last week with more than $440,000, could be a strong contender in the play revival category and in acting slots for its leading ladies, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Though it's mainly Combs who is driving customers to Raisin, many of them first-time visitors to Broadway, the rapper is unlikely to get a Tony nomination. His performance has received widely varying reviews, and the category is already stacked with a lot of strong potential nominees, including Kevin Kline, Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella, Simon Russell Beale, and Jefferson Mays, the solo actor in I Am My Own Wife.
Four shows will be nominated in the best musical category. Along with shoo-in nominee Wicked, contenders include Avenue Q, the naughty little gay-inclusive puppet musical; Caroline, or Change, the Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori tale of a black maid and the young son of her white employer; The Boy From Oz, Peter Allen's life story starring Hugh Jackman; and Bombay Dreams, a Bollywood extravaganza. The controversial Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins--which the Tony committee has deemed a "revival" even though the show has never played on Broadway before--will probably compete against Wonderful Town, Fiddler on the Roof, and Little Shop of Horrors in that category. Out author Doug Wright's I Am My Own Wife, already the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for drama, seems to have a lock on a best play nomination. The tale of a German transvestite who survived both the Nazis and the Communists appears to be the early favorite to take the ultimate prize. Frozen, the chilling tale of a young girl's disappearance; Match, Stephen Belber's mystery reunion play; and out playwright Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics, last year's Pulitzer winner, are other likely nominees. (AP)