Tom Stoppard’s haunting drama “Leopoldstadt” is the rare non-musical play to become a smash hit on Broadway. After critics fell in love with the gripping historical piece, the show broke the house record at the Longacre Theatre twice, over two consecutive weeks in October. Its highest weekly gross soared to $1,158,051. If this critical and commercial success translates into a Tony Award win for Best Play next spring, playwright Tom Stoppard will best his own record in that top race.
“Leopoldstadt” begins in 1899 Vienna and traces the history of a Jewish family as they move from a period of relative happiness and prosperity into the tumultuous 20th century and its eventual horrors. Patrick Marber directs the quiet epic, which focuses on how countless personal histories have been consumed by war and time. The sprawling cast of 32 includes David Krumholtz, Brandon Uranowitz, Faye Castelow, Arty Froushan, Caissie Levy, and Seth Numrich.
Stoppard has won the Best Play category four times in his career, more than any other playwright in history. He has prevailed for “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” (1968), “Travesties” (1976), “The Real Thing” (1984), and the three-part epic “The Coast of Utopia” (2007). Playwrights are nominated in Best Play alongside producers.
A victory for “Leopoldstadt” would boost Stoppard’s total to five wins, giving him a commanding lead in the stats for this category. No other playwright has won more than two Best Play Tony Awards. The elite group who have pulled off double victories consists of Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally, Arthur Miller, Yasmina Reza, Peter Shaffer, and Neil Simon.
Broadway history buffs may remember that the Tonys have a defunct Best Author category, which was only given out nine times (1947-49 and 1962-65) before it was decided that playwrights would only compete in the Best Play category. Arthur Miller won this retired category twice for “All My Sons” (1947),and “Death of a Salesman” (1949), so one could say that Miller has won four Tonys for his writing, just like Stoppard. This would make a “Leopoldstadt” victory even more definitive.
As far as Best Play nomination totals are concerned, Tom Stoppard sits in third place. The most nominated playwright is Neil Simon with 10. Just behind him is August Wilson with nine. Then there’s Stoppard with seven, Edward Albee with six, and Arthur Miller and Martin McDonagh both with five. In addition to his four winning plays, Stoppard’s other nominations are courtesy of “Arcadia” (1995), “The Invention of Love” (2001), and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” (2008). An eighth nomination would bring the playwright even closer to catching up with Simon and Wilson.
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