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Billy Elliot leads Olivier nominations

Billy Elliot leads Olivier nominations

Billy Elliot, the musical tale of a miner's son who wants to dance, led the field Wednesday with nine nominations for Britain's prestigious Olivier stage awards. The show, whose gritty story line and energetic Elton John tunes have made it a critical and popular hit, is up for Best New Musical, while Stephen Daldry is nominated as Best Director.

James Lomas, George Maguire, and Liam Mower, the three young actors who alternate in the title role, were all nominated for Best Actor in a Musical. They are up against Star Wars star Ewan McGregor, nominated for his turn as New York gambler Sky Masterson in an acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls. The production received eight nominations, including Best Actress for former Ally McBeal star Jane Krakowski. Krakowski, who won a Featured Actress Tony for her work in the Broadway revival of the musical Nine, is up against Haydn Gwynne, Billy's acerbic dance teacher in Billy Elliot, and Julie Walters--who played the dance teacher in the original Billy Elliot movie--for the spoof soap opera Acorn Antiques--The Musical.

The Laurence Olivier Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Tonys, honor achievements in theater, musicals, dance, and opera. Howard Brenton's Paul, a provocative take on the life of the apostle, is nominated for Best New Play, alongside Helen Edmundson's Coram Boy, Richard Bean's Harvest, and Simon Stephens's On the Shore of the Wide World. Billy Elliot, Acorn Antiques, and The Big Life--billed as the first West End musical with an all-black cast--are up for Best New Musical.

There's drama in the Best Actor in a Play category, with Tony winner Brian Dennehy, a highly praised Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, up against Richard Griffiths for Heroes, Derek Jacobi for Don Carlos, Con O'Neill for Telstar, and David Threlfall for Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. The Best Actress in a Play category pits Eve Best for Hedda Gabler against Clare Higgins for Death of a Salesman, Helen McCrory for As You Like It, and Janet McTeer for Mary Stuart.

The English National Opera, which has endured a tumultuous year that saw it lose both its artistic director and chairman, took all four nominations in the Opera Production category--for Billy Budd, La Clemenza Di Tito, Madam Butterfly, and On the Town. It also scooped all the nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Opera--for performers Sarah Connolly and Simon Keenlyside, directors David McVicar and Anthony Minghella, and choreographer Carolyn Choa. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on London on February 26. (Jill Lawless, AP)

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