Brits look set for a clean sweep at Tony theatre awards

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The Independent Culture

They may do musicals with pizzazz and they are the movie kings. But the Americans were forced to step aside for the Brits yesterday when Ralph Fiennes, Zoë Wanamaker and The History Boys team launched a serious attempt to make a clean sweep of Broadway's top dramatic honours.

Plays originally premiered in London and starring a feast of talent including Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour and Ian McDiarmid, the former Almeida theatre artistic director and Star Wars icon, dominated the straight plays categories of the Tony nominations, New York's equivalent to the prestigious British Oliviers.

The award for best play will be fought out by the theatre veteran Alan Bennett, who has just turned 72, for The History Boys, against two playwrights half his age whose works have been also nurtured by Britain's subsidised theatre.

Martin McDonagh, 36, the London-born son of Irish parents, has been nominated for a Tony for a third time for The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a bloody black satire on Republican violence and the love of a cat. Conor McPherson, who was born in Dublin, is shortlisted for Shining City, a ghost story first seen at the Royal Court in London two years ago. Only one American, David Lindsay-Abaire, gets a look-in in the category.

Elsewhere, Ralph Fiennes and Ian McDiarmid get acting nominations for their performances in a revival of the great Irish playwright Brian Friel's Faith Healer, a set of monologues which started at the Gate in Dublin before being taken to New York in an almost foolhardy gamble by the London producer Sonia Friedman.

Lynn Redgrave is nominated for best actress in a play against rivals including Kate Burton, who was her co-star in Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife.

Zoë Wanamaker, who has won acclaim in Awake and Sing!, the Depression-era story of a Jewish family in the Bronx, is up against Frances de la Tour, one of The History Boys team, for best performance by a featured actress. And Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a rare British nomination in the musicals categories for The Woman in White.

The History Boys scoops seven nominations, including best director for Nicholas Hytner, best design for Bob Crowley and best lighting design for Mark Henderson, who gets a second chance with Faith Healer.

Everyone from Samuel Barnett, who plays the gay Jewish boy, to Richard Griffiths, as the overweight and maverick teacher, is honoured in the Tony award nominations.

Alan Bennett said: "Naturally, I'm very pleased, particularly for Samuel Barnett and I hope he wins one as he is about the same age as I was when I won one for Beyond the Fringe."

The Lieutenant of Inishmore receives five nominations and Faith Healer, which was directed by McDiarmid's former co-artistic director at the Almeida Jonathan Kent, gets four.

Sonia Friedman said that it was "a great, great year" for Britain and British talent. "What it will do is it will give us confidence to keep going back with more," she said.

The nominations

Best play

The History Boys (Alan Bennett)

The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Martin McDonagh)

Rabbit Hole (David Lindsay-Abaire)

Shining City (Conor McPherson)

Best performance by a leading actor in a play

Ralph Fiennes (Faith Healer)

Richard Griffiths (The History Boys)

Zeljko Ivanek (The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial)

Oliver Platt (Shining City)

David Wlmot (The Lieutenant of Inishmore)

Best performance by a leading actress in a play

Kate Burton (The Constant Wife)

Judy Kaye (Souvenir)

Lisa Kron (Well)

Cynthia Nixon (Rabbit Hole)

Lynn Redgrave (The Constant Wife)

Best performance by a featured actor in a play

Samuel Barnett (The History Boys)

Domhnall Gleeson (The Lieutenant of Inishmore)

Ian McDiarmid (Faith Healer)

Mark Ruffalo (Awake and Sing!)

Pablo Schreiber (Awake and Sing!)

Best performance by a featured actress in a play

Tyne Daly (Rabbit Hole)

Frances de la Tour (The History Boys)

Jayne Houdyshell (Well)

Alison Pill (The Lieutenant of Inishmore)

Zoë Wanamaker (Awake and Sing!)

Best direction of a play

Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys)

Wilson Milam (The Lieutenant of Inishmore)

Bartlett Sher (Awake and Sing!)

Daniel Sullivan (Rabbit Hole)

Best direction of a musical

John Doyle (Sweeney Todd)

Kathleen Marshall (The Pajama Game)

Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys)

Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone)

Best revival of a play

Awake and Sing!

The Constant Wife

Edward Albee's Seascape

Faith Healer