A wide-open race expected after the 2002 Tony Award nominations

Sunday, May 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Is there life for the Tony Awards after ``The Producers''?

More than you might think. In fact, when nominations for best of the Broadway season are announced Monday there could be something that was missing from last year's contest _ real competition.

In 2001, the smash Mel Brooks musical dominated the nominations and then the ceremony itself. The show received 15 nominations and took home 12 awards last June, unseating ``Hello, Dolly!'' as the winner of the most awards ever.

This year, things aren't nearly as clear cut and several spirited races are expected.

Likely contenders for best-play nominations include ``Topdog/Underdog'' by Suzan-Lori Parks (winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for drama), ``The Goat'' by Edward Albee, ``Metamorphoses,'' Mary Zimmerman's take on the myths of Ovid, and even ``Fortune's Fool,'' adapted by Mike Poulton from a work by Russian playwright Ivan Turgenev.

This season, no new musical received the unanimous raves ``The Producers'' did _ which means best-musical nominations mostly likely will go to the four that are still running: ``Urinetown,'' the ABBA-inspired ``Mamma Mia!'' and two musicals based on movies, ``Thoroughly Modern Millie'' and ``Sweet Smell of Success.''

There was an embarrassment of riches in the revival-play category. Eleven opened this season. Among the likely prospects vying for the four spots are ``Private Lives,'' ``Noises Off,'' ``The Crucible,'' ``Morning's at Seven,'' ``The Elephant Man,'' ``Dance of Death'' and ``The Man Who Had All the Luck,'' Arthur Miller's first Broadway play which closed after only four performances in 1944.

No such overcrowding exists in the musical-revival category. Only three opened on Broadway this season _ if you count the short-lived ``One Mo' Time,'' which previously had been done only off-Broadway. The real competition will be between ``Oklahoma!'' and the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine fairy tale musical, ``Into the Woods.''

In the performance categories, the fiercest battle is shaping up for best actor with Alan Bates, Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Ian McKellen, Liam Neeson, Simon Callow, Billy Crudup and Alan Alda among the contenders.

Among those considered contenders for best-actress nominations: Kathleen Turner, Lindsay Duncan, Mercedes Ruehl, Helen Mirren and Kate Burton.

Winners will be announced June 2 in a nationally televised broadcast from Radio City Music Hall.