Stoppard Finds Broadway Utopia with Seven TonysDate: 11 June 2007
Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia triumphed last night (Sunday 10 June 2007) at the 61st annual Tony Awards in New York, where it was named Best Play and, in total, converted seven of its ten nominations (See News, 15 May 2007).
Stoppard’s epic – comprising Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage and spanning 33 years of 19th-century Russian history - premiered at the National in August 2002 in a production directed by then NT artistic director Trevor Nunn. While applauded for its scale, it was largely ignored in that year’s round of UK theatre awards.
In New York, it was a very different story for the Lincoln Center’s new Broadway presentation of The Coast of Utopia. In addition to Best Play, the nine-hour drama took home top prizes for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (Briton Jennifer Ehle), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (Billy Crudup) and Best Direction of a Play (Jack O’Brien), as well as three design awards for lighting, costumes and scenery.
The last was one of two awards for Irishman Bob Crowley. He shared The Coast of Utopia Best Scenic Design of a Play trophy with Scott Pask, but took sole possession of Best Scenic Design of a Musical, the only award on the night for UK-originated Cameron Mackintosh-Disney adaptation of Mary Poppins despite seven nominations.
Another UK-originated productions, David Grindley’s staging of Journey’s End, first seen in the West End in January 2004 to mark the 75th anniversary of RC Sheriff’s First World War drama, collected the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play just hours after its last performance at New York’s Belasco Theater, where it closed early despite strong reviews.
Elsewhere, in categories where the odds were overwhelmingly in the Brits’ favour – Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play and Best Direction of a Play – there was disappointment. In the former, The Little Dog Laughed’s Julie White triumphed over Eve Best (for the Old Vic production of A Moon for the Misbegotten), Vanessa Redgrave (The Year of Magical Thinking) and London-born Angela Lansbury (Deuce); in the latter, Jack O’Brien’s Coast of Utopia success denied glory for David Grindley (Journey’s End), Melly Still (NT production of Coram Boy) and Donmar Warehouse artistic director Michael Grandage (Frost/Nixon).
Frost/Nixon did turn one of its three Tony nods into wins – American Frank Langella, who originated the role of disgraced US president Richard Nixon in the Peter Morgan play that premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in August 2006, scooped Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. His co-star, Welshman Michael Sheen, was not nominated.
Briton John Doyle, who won last year’s Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for the UK transfer of Sweeney Todd, failed to win for a second year in a row in the same category, but his Broadway-originated production of another Sondheim classic, Company, did take home Best Revival of a Musical.
The biggest winner at the 61st annual Tony Awards ceremony, held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, was Spring Awakening, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's alt-rock musical based on the Frank Wedekind play about sexual discovery amongst a group of young people. Its eight wins included Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book and Best Direction of a Musical (Michael Mayer).
Grey Gardens, another US musical whose producers have already promised a West End transfer for 2008 (See The Goss, 17 May 2007), won three awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Christine Ebersole, who is due to recreate her dual performance as mother-daughter socialites Edith and Edie Beale in London.
- by Terri Paddock