NEW YORK – Two stories born in Britain are vying for America’s biggest theater prize.
“Kinky Boots” and “Matilda” are each a virtual lock to get a Tony Award nomination today for best musical, and each show will be eager to capture as many nods as possible in the other 25 categories.
The nominations will be announced from The New York Public Library for Performing Arts in a televised event co-hosted by Tony winner Sutton Foster and “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
“Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 British movie about a real-life shoe factory that struggles until it finds new life in fetish footwear. Songs by pop icon Cyndi Lauper and a story by Harvey Fierstein have made it a crowd-pleaser, albeit in open-minded New York. Touring potential is key for Tony voters.
“Matilda,” the import from London, is a witty musical adaptation of the beloved novel by Roald Dahl and is true to his bleak vision of childhood as a savage battleground. It has proven it can find audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
The other contenders for the best musical prize – the biggest reward on Tony night– include the peppy “Bring It On: The Musical” the hit-stuffed “Motown: The Musical,” the quick-to-close “Hands on a Hardbody” and the sweet “A Christmas Story, The Musical.”
“Kinky Boots” and “Matilda” also have a good chance of nabbing nominations in the best musical actor category, with some interesting drag involved for both shows’ leading men, who both wear skirts onstage. British actor Bertie Carvel plays a brutal headmistress in “Matilda” and Billy Porter plays a drag queen in “Kinky Boots.”
Others who may get a nod include Rob McClure as the lead in “Chaplin,” Matthew James Thomas in “Pippin,” Brandon Victor Dixon in “Motown: The Musical” and Jim Norton in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Porter’s co-star Stark Sands might also get a nomination.
The best play category is stuffed, but only four can make it. The leading lights include Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties,” Sharr White’s “The Other Place” and Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”
Others with a real possibility include Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary,” Nora Ephron’s “Lucky Guy,” Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Nance,” Craig Wright’s “Grace,” Holland Taylor’s “Ann” and John Logan’s “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers.”
Leading the best musical revival group is “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and “Pippin.” Others hoping to fill out the four slots will be a solid “Annie,” the brash “Jekyll & Hyde” and the rollicking “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
The best play revival is as competitive as the new play category, with Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful,” Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy,” Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and a one-man “Macbeth” in hot contention. Others include David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and William Inge’s “Picnic.”
Leading actress in a play nominees may likely include Bette Midler from “I’ll Eat You Last,” Jessica Hecht in “The Assembled Parties,” Cicely Tyson in “The Trip to Bountiful,” Kristine Nielsen from “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” Laurie Metcalf in “The Other Place” and Fiona Shaw from “The Testament of Mary.” Other possibilities are Sigourney Weaver, Scarlett Johansson, Holland Taylor and Amy Morton.
On the male side, best actor in a play contenders include Nathan Lane for “The Nance,” Tracy Letts of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy,” Alan Cumming in “Macbeth” and David Hyde Pierce from “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” Others with a shot include Douglas Hodge, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, and Alec Baldwin.
Top actresses in a musical likely will include Patina Miller from “Pippin,” Laura Osnes of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and Valisia LeKae in “Motown: The Musical,” Lilla Crawford from “Annie” and Stephanie J. Block of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
All four girls who rotate as the lead in “Matilda” – Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro – were deemed ineligible, although in London the four actresses there each took home the Oliver Award.
Some 870 Tony voters will decide the final awards after the nominees are revealed. The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, joint producers of the show, will host the glittery ceremony from Radio City Music Hall on June 9. It will be broadcast live by CBS. Only Broadway shows that opened since April 26, 2012 are eligible.