"He went to Juilliard," Bebe Neuwirth cracked after Kelsey Grammer had stumbled for the third or fourth time in pronouncing the names of the 2000 Tony Award nominees. "They threw me out," Grammer countered. The former Cheers co-stars were reunited at Sardi's early Monday morning, May 8, to announce the contenders in this year's Tony race.

The biggest winner of the morning was Kiss Me, Kate, with a whopping 12 nominations. The Music Man marched closely behind, with nine. That sound you heard during the reading of the nominations was a huge, collective sigh from everyone associated with The Wild Party; the Michael John LaChiusa/George C. Wolfe show was thrown a lifeline in the form of seven nominations, including Best Musical. (It was widely rumored that the show--which has been floundering at the box office--would have immediately posted a closing notice had it not been among the Best Musical nominees.)

Even given the paucity of possible choices for Best Musical, the Tony nominating committee declined to place either Saturday Night Fever or Aida in competition for that coveted award. Fever, in fact, was shut out in the nominations. Driving several more nails into the coffin of the American musical in its traditional form, the nominators gave seven nods to Contact--previously labeled "a dance play," but re-labeled "a musical" just in time for Tony consideration--which not only has no singing, but no live music. (Susan Stroman's brilliant dances for the show are performed to old recordings).

Roy Somlyo, president of the American Theatre Wing, told TheaterMania that the multiple nominations for Contact "show that the Tony Awards are keeping abreast of the times and are recognizing that every musical is not the same. The introduction of new elements doesn't mean that a show shouldn't qualify in the Best Musical category. I think it would have been a grievous omission if Contact had not been included." At the same time, Somlyo said, "We've seriously thought about inventing a new category called Special Entertainment; that could include shows like Dame Edna and Jackie Mason, Contact or, maybe, Squonk. The problem is that, if you have such a category, what do you do with the participants in those shows? You either have to nominate them as musical or non-musical performers, or exclude them. We're reluctant to create eight new categories for performers and creators of special entertainments. But there ought to be a way, other than special Tonys, to recognize projects that don't fit into the traditional categories."

There were a number of surprises among the nominees. Perhaps the most notable omission is Patrick Stewart, excluded from the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play category. A week prior to the Tonys, Stewart had publicly excoriated the producers of Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, in which Stewart stars, for not sufficiently publicizing the show. Word on the street is that Stewart's reckless speech following the curtain calls of two performances of Mt. Morgan was in direct response to his having been passed over for a Drama Desk nomination. Whether his failure to be recognized by the Tony nominators had anything to do with his remarks or was simply an honest assessment of his performance is a matter of conjecture.

As predicted, Rosemary Harris and her daughter, Jennifer Ehle, will be competing opposite each other for the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play award for their work in Waiting in the Wings and The Real Thing, respectively. Harris' co-star Lauren Bacall did not receive a nomination; nor was Olympia Dukakis recognized for her performance in the one-woman play Rose.

Carol Burnett's work in the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting It Together did not earn her a place among the contenders for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. But Mandy Patinkin was nominated for his role of Burrs in The Wild Party even though he missed several critics performances--and despite widespread reports of Patinkin's highly erratic, thoroughly unprofessional behavior during rehearsals for the show.

In addition to the nominees in 21 competitive categories, several special award winners were announced. A Tony for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater will be given to veteran producer T. Edward Hambleton, founder of the Phoenix Theatre. The unique laugh-fest Dame Edna: The Royal Tour will receive a special Tony for "live theatrical event"; its star, Barry Humphries, had previously been ruled ineligible for nomination as Best Actor. Tonys for excellence in theater will be given to the great actress Eileen Heckart, currently starring Off-Broadway in The Waverly Gallery; to the highly respected theatrical agent and manager Sylvia Herscher; and to the City Center series Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert. A Tony for outstanding regional theater will be go to the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

The Tony Award ceremony will be held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 4. A limited number of tickets are available to the public at $100 and $200 each; they can be purchased through the Ticketmaster Tony Hotline by calling 212-307-4544. Visa is the only credit card accepted for this purpose.

For a complete list of the nominees, click on page 2 below.


2000 TONY AWARD NOMINEES

Best Play
Copenhagen
Author: Michael Frayn
Producer: Michael Codron, Lee Dean, The Royal National Theatre, James M. Nederlander, Roger Berlind, Scott Rudin, Elizabeth I. McCann, Ray Larsen, Jon B. Platt, Byron Goldman, Scott Nederlander

Dirty Blonde
Author: Claudia Shear
Producer: The Shubert Organization, Chase Mishkin, Ostar Enterprises, ABC, Inc., New York Theatre Workshop

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
Author: Arthur Miller
Producer: The Shubert Organization, Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Spring Sirkin, ABC, Inc., The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival/George C. Wolfe

True West
Author: Sam Shepard
Producer: Ron Kastner

Best Musical
Contact
Producer: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten

James Joyce's The Dead
Producer: Gregory Mosher, Arielle Tepper, Playwrights Horizons, Tim Sanford

Swing!
Producer: Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Steven Baruch, Tom Viertel, Lorie Cowen Levy/Stanley Shopkorn, Jujamcyn Theaters, BB Promotion, Dede Harris/Jeslo Productions, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick, Douglas L. Meyer/James D. Stern, PACE Theatrical Group/SFX

The Wild Party
Producer: The Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, George C. Wolfe, Scott Rudin/Paramount Pictures, Roger Berlind, Williams/Waxman

Best Book of a Musical
John Weidman, Contact
Richard Nelson, James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChiusa, Marie Christine
Michael John LaChiusa & George C. Wolfe, The Wild Party

Best Original Score (Music & Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Elton John (Music), Tim Rice (Lyrics), Aida
Shaun Davey (Music), Richard Nelson & Shaun Davey (Lyrics), James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChiusa (Music & Lyrics), Marie Christine
Michael John LaChiusa (Music & Lyrics), The Wild Party

Best Revival of a Play
Amadeus
Producer: Kim Poster, PW Productions, Adam Epstein, SFX Theatrical Group, Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre, Back Row Productions, Old Ivy Productions

A Moon for the Misbegotten
Producer: Elliot Martin, Chase Mishkin, Max Cooper, Jujamcyn Theaters, Anita Waxman, Elizabeth Williams, The Goodman Theatre

The Price
Producer: David Richenthal

The Real Thing
Producer: Anita Waxman, Elizabeth Williams, Ron Kastner, Miramax Films, The Donmar Warehouse

Best Revival of a Musical
Jesus Christ Superstar
Producer: The Really Useful Superstar Company Inc., The Nederlander Producing Company of America Inc., Terry Allen Kramer

Kiss Me, Kate
Producer: Roger Berlind, Roger Horchow

The Music Man
Producer: Dodger Theatricals, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Elizabeth Williams/Anita Waxman, Kardana-Swinsky Productions, Lorie Cowen Levy/Dede Harris

Tango Argentino
Producer: DG Producciones

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Stephen Dillane, The Real Thing
Philip Seymour Hoffman, True West
John C. Reilly, True West
David Suchet, Amadeus

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jayne Atkinson, The Rainmaker
Jennifer Ehle, The Real Thing
Rosemary Harris, Waiting in the Wings
Cherry Jones, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Claudia Shear, Dirty Blonde

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Craig Bierko, The Music Man
George Hearn, Putting It Together
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kiss Me, Kate
Mandy Patinkin, The Wild Party
Christopher Walken, James Joyce's The Dead

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Toni Collette, The Wild Party
Heather Headley, Aida
Rebecca Luker, The Music Man
Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me, Kate
Audra McDonald, Marie Christine

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Kevin Chamberlin, Dirty Blonde
Daniel Davis, Wrong Mountain
Roy Dotrice, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Derek Smith, The Green Bird
Bob Stillman, Dirty Blonde

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Blair Brown, Copenhagen
Frances Conroy, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
Amy Ryan, Uncle Vanya
Helen Stenborg, Waiting in the Wings
Sarah Woodward, The Real Thing

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Michael Berresse, Kiss Me, Kate
Boyd Gaines, Contact
Michael Mulheren, Kiss Me, Kate
Stephen Spinella, James Joyce's The Dead
Lee Wilkof, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Swing!
Ann Hampton Callaway, Swing!
Eartha Kitt, The Wild Party
Deborah Yates, Contact
Karen Ziemba, Contact

Best Scenic Design
Bob Crowley, Aida
Thomas Lynch, The Music Man
Robin Wagner, Kiss Me, Kate
Tony Walton, Uncle Vanya

Best Costume Design
Bob Crowley, Aida
Constance Hoffman, The Green Bird
William Ivey Long, The Music Man
Martin Pakledinaz, Kiss Me, Kate

Best Lighting Design
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, The Wild Party
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Marie Christine
Peter Kaczorowski, Kiss Me, Kate
Natasha Katz, Aida

Best Choreography
Kathleen Marshall, Kiss Me, Kate
Susan Stroman, Contact
Susan Stroman, The Music Man
Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Swing!

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Blakemore, Copenhagen
James Lapine, Dirty Blonde
David Leveaux, The Real Thing
Matthew Warchus, True West

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Blakemore, Kiss Me, Kate
Susan Stroman, Contact
Susan Stroman,The Music Man
Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Swing!

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, The Music Man
Don Sebesky, Kiss Me, Kate
Jonathan Tunick, Marie Christine
Harold Wheeler, Swing!