Lucille Lortel Awards nominations led by ‘Piano Lesson’ and ‘Murder Ballad’

Nominations for the 28th annual edition of the Lucille Lortel Awards were announced Wednesday.

Signature Theater’s revival of August Wilson‘s 1990 Pulitzer-winning play “The Piano Lesson” leads with six nominations while Manhattan Theater Club’s new musical “Murder Ballad” reaped five bids. 

In all, 37 productions are in contention across 14 categories. Winners will be announced on May 5 at a ceremony at the NYU Skirball Center hosted by Maura Tierney and nominee Aasif Mandvi (“Disgraced”). (See full list of nominations here.)

The Lortels are handed out in a range of categories. Some are akin to those at the Tony Awards, which salute the best of Broadway, such as Best Play and Best Musical. However, rather than separate musical and play performances as do the Tonys, the Lortels lump them together. Most of this year’s nominees appeared in plays rather than musicals. 

Among the most notable names is acting triple crown winner Vanessa Redgrave who contends here for the first time for her lead performance in Jesse Eisenberg‘s play “The Revisionist.” Among her rival nominees is Emmy champ America Ferrara (“Ugly Betty) for “Bethany.” Another first-time contender is stage newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal for his supporting turn in “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.” 

While the Tonys have dropped their catch-all award for special theatrical event, the Lortels continue to salute such efforts. The three solo shows in the running are “All the Rage,” “Jackie” and “Title and Deed.” “Old Hats” was named Best Alternative Theater Experience.

These awards are also lauding Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes for his lifetime achievement and the Theater Development Fund for service to the off-Broadway community. Nominees will be feted at a reception on April 22.

These kudos are presented by the Off-Broadway League, a collection of producers who stage shows in smaller venues than those on Broadway. A successful off-Broadway run can lead to a transfer to Broadway and a chance to contend at the Tony Awards.

The Lucille Lortel Awards — named for the renowned actress turned producer — do what the Drama Desk Awards used to — celebrate the best of off-Broadway. Of the 102 shows that were eligible, 38 received some recognition from these kudos. 

While the Tony Awards, which date to 1947, salute Broadway, the Drama Desk kudos were begun in 1955 to honor the rest of the New York theater world. And for the first 14 years they did just that with winners coming exclusively from the burgeoning off-Broadway scene. However, beginning with the 15th festivities in 1968, those appearing on Broadway became eligible for consideration and since then these awards have tilted towards those also competing at the Tonys, leaving the off-Broadway performers in the wings until the Lortels came along.

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