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Y2K Tony Winners Circle

The Real Thing, Contact, Kiss Me, Kate and Copenhagen score heavily. logo
Heather Headley
(Photo by Forrest Mallard)
The 2000 Tony Awards may not truly have created "more tension than Dr. Laura Schlessinger at a Fire Island clambake," as Nathan Lane joked during the proceedings. But there certainly were a number of award categories in which the outcome was a crapshoot. With very few exceptions, the nominees were so deserving that the Tony voters were able to avoid any truly egregious choices. (No Phantom of the Opera in this bunch!)

Among the big winners of the night were the old musical Kiss Me, Kate, the sort-of-new, sort-of-musical Contact, the new British play Copenhagen, and the British revival The Real Thing. Though critically reviled, Aida--one of the few musical productions this season to feature new songs performed live, on stage--garnered four awards, including one for its Elton John-Tim Rice score and one for leading actress Heather Headley.

Since most of the races were viewed as close from the moment the nominations were announced, the Tony voters were hard pressed to come up with anything resembling an upset; still, there were at least two categories in which the winner was a bit of a surprise. Jennifer Ehle had to overcome the excellence of the other nominees for Best Leading Actress in a Play (Jayne Atkinson for The Rainmaker, Rosemary Harris for Waiting in the Wings, Cherry Jones for A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Claudia Shear for Dirty Blonde) plus the possibility that she would have split the vote

Karen Ziemba kicks up her heels
in the press room at Radio City Music Hall
(Photo by Forrest Mallard)
with Harris, who happens to be her mother. Karen Ziemba, cited as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Contact, overcame another potential vote-split situation with Deborah Yates (whose turn as The Girl in the Yellow Dress in Contact has set New York on its ear) as well as the show-biz legend status of another nominee in the category, Eartha Kitt. Handing the award to Kitt would have allowed the Tonys to acknowledge the show in which she's featured, The Wild Party, but 'twas not to be; that struggling Michael John LaChiusa-George C. Wolfe musical received no awards for its seven nominations, and will almost certainly close in the very near future.

Paradoxically, although the awards were fairly well spread among a number of shows, the popular hits The Music Man and Swing! and the highly-touted Dirty Blonde and True West were also shut out.

Back stage at Radio City Music Hall, in the press room, it took a bit of research to confirm that Michael Blakemore was the first person in history to win Tonys for directing a play (Copenhagen) and a musical (Kiss Me, Kate) in the same season. Blakemore's double-win is not so surprising in hindsight, considering that his competition included great choreographers who aren't really directors (Susan Stroman for Contact and The Music Man, Lynne Taylor-Corbett for Swing!) and two directors who are just not very good: David Leveaux, who couldn't even figure out how to change the scenery properly in The Real Thing, and James Lapine, who may or may not have made any significant contribution to Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde. Come to think of it, Blakemore's only worthy competition in either of these categories was Matthew Warchus, for True West.

The telecast of the awards on PBS (8-9pm) and CBS (9-11pm) was less than thrilling, but never acutely embarrassing in the way that the CBS portion was last year. From this viewer's perspective, the only scary moments were (1) Craig Bierko camping his way through "76 Trombones" from The Music Man; and (2) the title number from Gale Edwards' heinous production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which doesn't belong on any stage, much less in the living rooms of millions of people. Oh...and let's not forget that shot of Best Featured Actress in a Play nominee Frances Conroy, with her "what was she thinking?" hairdo.

Roy Dotrice with presenter Dixie Carter
(Photo by Forrest Mallard)
Back in the press room, Blakemore admitted that he was at first hesitant to take on Kiss Me, Kate, because he had seen the original production when it played London. Said the director, "When you've seen something well done, you think, 'What's the point of doing it again?' Fortunately, I didn't remember it as well as I thought. Our production is very different." And what was it like for Blakemore to win separate Tonys for Kate and Copenhagen within about five minutes? "It's like having twins," he quipped. "You get it all over at once."

Best Featured Actor in a Play winner Roy Dotrice--who gave the most moving acceptance speech of the night--said of his role of Phil Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten, "I learned to play a drunk at my father's knee." Stephen Dillane, named Best Leading Actor in a Play for The Real Thing, said he doesn't know whether he'll be able to continue in the role if the show extends in response to its three major Tony wins, because he's not a member of American Actors' Equity. Dillane also categorically denied that his characterization of Henry in The Real Thing is based on the play's author, Tom Stoppard.

Susan Stroman with John Weidman,
who wrote the book of Contact
(Photo by Forrest Mallard)
The gorgeous Heather Headley, named Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Aida, declared herself "overwhelmed to a point that I can't even explain" and dedicated her Tony to the entire company. Karen Ziemba said that Contact definitely deserved to be honored, and she was thrilled that it had been, but she recognized concerns over the categorization of a show with no singing, no new score, and no live music as a "musical." Such concerns were pooh-poohed by Bernard Gersten, one of Contact's producers, who stated with obvious annoyance: "It looks like a musical, it dances like a musical, it sounds like a's a musical. Relax!"

Elizabeth McCann, a producer of Copenhagen, described winning the Best Play award as "the cherry on the banana split." Following is a complete list of winners and nominees; winners are bolded and asterisked.

*Copenhagen - Sam Shepard
Dirty Blonde - Claudia Shear
The Ride Down Mt. Morgan - Arthur Miller

The Wild Party

James Joyce's The Dead

A Moon for the Misbegotten
The Price
*The Real Thing

*Kiss Me, Kate
Tango Argentino
Jesus Christ Superstar

Gabriel Byrne - A Moon for the Misbegotten
Philip Seymour Hoffman - True West
John C. Reilly - True West
*Stephen Dillane - The Real Thing
David Suchet - Amadeus

Rosemary Harris - Waiting in the Wings
Claudia Shear - Dirty Blonde
*Jennifer Ehle - The Real Thing
Jayne Atkinson - The Rainmaker
Cherry Jones - A Moon for the Misbegotten

Mandy Patinkin - The Wild Party
*Brian Stokes Mitchell - Kiss Me, Kate
Craig Bierko - The Music Man
George Hearn - Putting it Together
Christopher Walken - James Joyce's The Dead

*Heather Headley - Aida
Toni Collette - The Wild Party
Rebecca Luker - The Music Man
Marin Mazzie - Kiss Me, Kate
Audra McDonald - Marie Christine

Derek Smith - The Green Bird
Kevin Chamberlin - Dirty Blonde
Daniel Davis - Wrong Mountain
*Roy Dotrice - A Moon for the Misbegotten
Bob Stillman - Dirty Blonde

Amy Ryan - Uncle Vanya
Frances Conroy - The Ride Down Mt. Morgan
*Blair Brown - Copenhagen
Helen Stenborg - Waiting in the Wings
Sarah Woodward - The Real Thing

Michael Berresse - Kiss Me, Kate
Michael Mulheren - Kiss Me, Kate
Lee Wilkof - Kiss Me, Kate
*Boyd Gaines - Contact
Stephen Spinella - James Joyce's The Dead

*Karen Ziemba - Contact
Deborah Yates - Contact
Ann Hampton Callaway - Swing!
Laura Benanti - Swing!
Eartha Kitt - The Wild Party

*Michael Blakemore - Copenhagen
Matthew Warchus - True West
James Lapine - Dirty Blonde
David Leveaux - The Real Thing

Susan Stroman - The Music Man
Susan Stroman - Contact
Lynne Taylor-Corbett - Swing!
*Michael Blakemore - Kiss Me, Kate

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

John Weidman - Contact
*Richard Nelson - James Joyce's The Dead
Michael John LaChiusa & George C. Wolfe - The Wild Party
Michael John LaChiusa - Marie Christine

*Tim Rice (lyrics), Elton John (music) - Aida
Michael John LaChiusa (music & lyrics) - The Wild Party

Michael John LaChiusa (music & lyrics) - Marie Christine
Shaun Davey (music), Shaun Davey & Richard Nelson (lyrics) - James Joyce's The Dead

Tony Walton - Uncle Vanya
*Bob Crowley - Aida
Robin Wagner - Kiss Me, Kate
Thomas Lynch - The Music Man

Bob Crowley - Aida
Constance Hoffman - The Green Bird
William Ivey Long - The Music Man
*Martin Pakledinaz - Kiss Me, Kate

*Natasha Katz - Aida
Peter Kaczorowski - Kiss Me, Kate
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer - The Wild Party
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer - Marie Christine

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

*Dame Edna: The Royal Tour, for live theatrical event
*Producer T. Edward Hambleton, founder of the Phoenix Theatre, for lifetime achievement in the theater
*Actress Eileen Heckart, for excellence in theater
*Agent and manager Sylvia Herscher, for excellence in theater
*Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, for excellence in theater


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