Musical revivals dominate Olivier nominees

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The Independent Culture

Revivals of Kiss Me, Kate and My Fair Lady, two classic Broadway musicals, dominated nominations for the 2002 Laurence Olivier Awards, announced today.

Kiss Me, Kate had nine nominations, My Fair Lady had eight and a remounting of the Noel Coward comedy Private Lives led the straight play field with seven nominations.

Winners will be named Feb. 15 in a lunchtime ceremony at the Victoria Palace Theatre, where Kiss Me, Kate opened in October to rave reviews.

Lindsay Duncan, the shimmering Amanda of Private Lives, will compete against herself for best actress in a play, since she has also been nominated for Mouth To Mouth, a bitter comedy by Kevin Elyot that played briefly last spring. Rounding out her category are Zoe Wanamaker as the loquacious Sapphist of David Mamet's Boston Marriage and Victoria Hamilton as the resilient mother of a spastic child in Peter Nichols' A Day In the Death of Joe Egg.

Alan Rickman, Duncan's sparring partner in Private Lives, goes up for best actor in a play against Roger Allam for Privates On Parade, Simon Russell Beale for Humble Boy, and the jointly nominated Sean Foley and Hamish McColl for The Play What I Wrote, the hit tribute to celebrated TV funnymen Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe.

But it's the musical categories that promise to generate the most suspense, pitting a production spawned on Broadway – Michael Blakemore's revival of Kiss Me, Kate, which closed in New York on 30 December – with a fresh London restaging of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, which may reach Broadway late in 2003.

Among the nine nominations for Kiss Me, Kate are all four of its visiting American stars – Marin Mazzie, Brent Barrett, Nancy Anderson, and Michael Berresse.

Nominations for My Fair Lady include its distinguished Higgins, Jonathan Pryce, as well as its Pickering, Nicholas le Prevost.

A somewhat surprising nomination for the Eliza Doolittle of English soap star Martine McCutcheon, who left the show in November after repeatedly missing performances due to ill health.

Barbara Cook, the legendary 74­year­old American singer who is much­loved in London, received two nominations for her tribute show to composer Stephen Sondheim. The 90­minute evening – which opened in New York on Monday after playing the West End last summer – was nominated for best entertainment, as well as Cook's best actress in a musical mention.

Another veteran American performer, Ned Beatty, received a supporting actor nomination for his titanic Big Daddy in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

Reflecting the poor quality of the season's new musicals is the absence of any category honoring original musicals. Instead, there is a catchall prize for outstanding musical production, whose nominees are Kiss Me, Kate and My Fair Lady, as well as a Royal National Theatre revival of another musical warhorse, South Pacific.

Competing for best new play are American dramatist August Wilson's Jitney, which visited the Royal National during the fall; Boy Gets Girl from another American dramatist, Rebecca Gilman; Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy; Gregory Burke's Gagarin Way; and Mouth To Mouth.