May 4 (Bloomberg) -- “Fela!,” a Broadway musical about the Nigerian pop musician and activist Fela Kuti, and a downsized revival of “La Cage aux Folles” each earned 11 Tony Award nominations today.
“Fences,” a revival of the August Wilson drama starring Denzel Washington, received 10 nominations, the most for a play, followed closely by “Red” about the U.S. painter Mark Rothko with seven.
Although Washington, Jude Law, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Walken and Liev Schreiber were nominated, several of the season’s biggest stars were snubbed by the 27 Tony nominators. They included Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, who appeared in the fall in “A Steady Rain.”
Also overlooked were James Spader, appearing in David Mamet’s legal drama “Race,” which failed to win a nomination as best play.
A critically acclaimed revival of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” was ineligible for nominations because it didn’t run long enough to invite all of the Tony voters.
The number of stars nominated is a reminder that Broadway increasingly depends on them to sell tickets, said Emanuel Azenberg, who produced the Simon play.
“You can’t do a play anymore without an attraction that transcends the play,” he said. “That’s disturbing because it takes the ‘theater’ out of the theater. You have an audience for the wrong reason.”
“Fela!” was cited for best musical, book and nine other nominations. “Red,” by John Logan, received nods for best play, director Michael Grandage, actor Alfred Molina, featured actor Eddie Redmayne and three others.
“Fela!” will compete with “American Idiot,” “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Memphis” for the best-musical award.
For best play, “Red” will compete with “Next Fall,” “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” and “Time Stands Still.”
In a season lacking a musical embraced by both critics and large audiences, the Tonys will be unusually competitive, said Scott Mallalieu, president of Group Sales Box Office.
No ‘Billy Elliot’
Mallalieu said the most competitive categories will be best musical and best performance by a featured actress in a musical, which includes Barbara Cook (“Sondheim on Sondheim”), Lansbury (”A Little Night Music”) and Katie Finnerman (”Promises, Promises”).
“That there wasn’t a breakout hit was a disappointment,” Mallalieu said. “The ‘Billy Elliot’ show didn’t exist, that you could sell to anyone.”
“The Addams Family,” based on characters created by New Yorker magazine cartoonist Charles Addams, received two nominations, for score and featured actor Kevin Chamberlin. It didn’t make the cut for best musical, nor did either of its stars, Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth.
Nominations were announced at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts by Jeff Daniels, star of last year’s best-play Tony winner “God of Carnage” and Lea Michelle, from television’s “Glee” and the 2006 musical “Spring Awakening.”
The 64th annual Antoinette Perry Awards will be broadcast June 13 on CBS from Radio City Musical Hall.
The Broadway season ends in three weeks. As of May 2, sales totaled $953.1 million, according to the Broadway League, up about 1 percent from this time a year ago. Attendance is off by 3 percent, as the average ticket price rose about $3 to $85.86. (Last season’s statistics exclude “Young Frankenstein,” which closed in January 2009. Its producers did not disclose sales.)
Nominations are made by a committee that includes actors, playwrights and arts administrators with three-year terms. The winners are chosen by 769 voters, including producers, theater union members and journalists.
The Tonys are a joint production of the Broadway League and the nonprofit American Theatre Wing.
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