So, the nominations for the 63rd annual Tony nominations are now out there, and once again they speak with a distinctly British accent – as will many of the likely recipients June 7 in what may well be, and hardly for the first time, a love affair between Broadway and the theatrical motherland.
You thought Alan Ayckbourn was all but a goner on the New York stage? That, happily, is far from the case in a race that saw all but two of the cast members of twice-nominated director Matthew Warchus’s Old Vic ensemble make the shortlist – though it must be mildly amusing for the wonderful Stephen Mangan to find himself cited for featured actor when he’s on stage for the lion’s share of seven hours per three-play cycle and does, after all, portray the title character.
On the other hand, one’s heart goes out to Ben Miles and Amelia Bullmore, whose omission from the nominated ranks speaks yet again to the need for a Tony category for Best Ensemble – which might in turn have been one way of dealing with the non-nominated Ian Rickson’s Broadway ensemble of The Seagull. Let’s hope Kristin Scott Thomas isn’t wasting too much time pondering why it is that she missed out this year on both a Tony and Oscar nods, despite considerable speculation that she would come away with both. (Her Arkadina in London, of course, win the Best Actress Olivier early in 2008.)
Elsewhere, I seem to be more or less alone, which is fine by me, in my dismay at the failure of the director Simon McBurney’s All My Sons to figure even once in the nominations, the belated set-to between John Lithgow and Patrick Wilson arguably the most exciting single moment I saw on Broadway all season. It will be interesting too see how that very production fares in Britain if and when it crosses the Atlantic, the word for now being that everyone is a game for a UK transfer except, alas, Wilson, who is about to welcome into his family a second child so quite forgivably has his hands full at home.
Looking elsewhere, I’m pleased Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer were both recognized, given that only one of Mary Stuart’s two grandes dames (Walter) walked away with an Evening Standard Theatre Award in London while both ladies lost the 2006 Olivier for best actress to Hedda Gabler’s Eve Best. That category – actress in a play – is unusual in featuring five women of very real distinction, any of whom in a lesser year could emerge triumphant.
And so much for my powers of prophecy, which would appear to be nil. There I was tipping Desire Under the Elms’s Carla Gugino to end up with the prize, and she was’t even nominated. Maybe she, Scott Thomas, and Tovah Feldshuh can go out for a consolatory drink. (Or, perhaps with an eye toward next year’s Tony race, move on posthaste to Three Sisters.)
Cheers and cheers again to Zach Grenier, whose wild-haired Beethoven in 33 Variations is managed robustly, eloquently, and without an iota of scenery-chewing camp, and to absolutely everyone connected with the glorious Hair, whose surpassingly smart director, Diane Paulus, just might manage the impossible by stealing the director of a musical prize from Stephen Daldry. Unless, of course, the Billy Elliot juggernaut proves unstoppable, as would appear to be the case from the nod given David Bologna for featured actor, a nod I didn’t see predicted anywhere.
Tony nomination day is always an odd time for this New York theater animal to be back in London, where such awards increasingly count for less and less and pass generally unremarked by both the public and the mainstream press. (I heard not a single expression of surprise, for instance, when The Norman Conquests’ Ritter was the sole member of that astonishing collective to get an Olivier nod; one feels in London that the principal surprise is being summoned to the ball to begin with.)
On the other hand, if the players seem an ocean away today, at least the plays don’t. What’s the biggest opening on the West End this week – indeed of the entire month? You guessed it: a certain Samuel Beckett benchmark text by the name of Waiting For Godot.
As for what will it be like when he arrives tomorrow night at the Haymarket, well, watch this space.