Like the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk, the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors. However, with so many shows and performers included in Tuesday’s nominations, chances are they cover most of the contenders for the upcoming Tony Awards. (Full list of nominations here.)
Indeed, eight of the League’s new play nominees — “Clybourne Park,” “The Columnist,” “The Lyons,” “One Man Two Guvnors,” “Other Desert Cities,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Seminar,” and “Venus in Fur” — are frontrunners at the Tony Awards. Last year, “War Horse” won here before taking the top Tony.
Broadway fare that played earlier in the season such as “Stick Fly” failed to make the cut with the League nominating committee, which is comprised of both theater professionals and the public. Instead, three off-Broadway productions fill out the ballot, with the winner to be announced during the League luncheon on May 18.
On the new musical side, all of the potential Tony nominees are in the running with the exception of two short-lived shows — “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Lysistrata Jones” — as well as the critically slammed “Spiderman Turn Off the Dark.” The Broadway nominees are “Ghost the Musical,” “Leap of Faith,” “Newsies,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Once” with the off-Broadway tuners “Mission Drift” and “Queen of the Mist” rounding out the list. Last year, “The Book of Mormon” claimed this prize before sweeping the Tonys.
While the League gives prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre, it is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance. And once won, the performer cannot contend again.
Last year, Mark Rylance picked up this prize for his performances in “La Bete” and “Jerusalem” before winning the Best Actor Tony for the latter. Two years ago, Alfred Molina won over the League with his work in “Red” but went on to lose the Best Actor Tony to Denzel Washington (“Fences”). Two years ago, Geoffrey Rush took home this award several weeks before prevailing at the Tonys for his performance in “Exit the King.”
This year, 56 actors are competing for the honor first given to Katharine Cornell in 1935. They range from A (Jane Alexander, “The Lady from Dubuque”) to W (Mary Louise Wilson, “4,000 Miles”).