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Tony Awards 2014: British women turn the Tonys into the Antonias

Sonia Friedman's 'Twelfth Night' leads the assault on New York awards

If all the world is a stage, there is only one that really matters to players tonight. At the Radio City Music Hall in New York, British theatre's leading ladies will spearhead an unprecedented assault on this year's Tony Awards – its 68th instalment. Leading the pack will be Sonia Friedman, whose productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III are up for a total of eight nominations across five categories.

Twelfth Night is up for Best Revival of a Play. Its other nominations include Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for Stephen Fry and Best Direction of a Play for Tim Carroll, while fellow female Briton Jenny Tiramani is battling it out for Best Costume Design. Also hoping to win is Sophie Okonedo, who is up for Best Performance by an Actress in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

Jane Greenwood has been nominated for Best Costume Design of a Play for Act One, a Dickensian story about a young immigrant in the early 20th century. But more significantly, Greenwood has won the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre this year. The Liverpool-born designer has created costumes for more than 125 Broadway productions since Ballad of the Sad Café in 1963.

Jane Greenwood

Making her debut at the Tony Awards is Es Devlin, who has been nominated for Best Scenic Design for Machinal. Devlin designed the set for the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony in London.

Irish-born Sarah Greene is also crossing the pond for her shot at American recognition at the Tonys, having been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for The Cripple of Inishmaan.

The theatre commentator and writer Terri Paddock said: "I've been writing about theatre for 17 years now and I have definitely noticed an increase in... British female producers... Of the crop of emerging producers, more than half are women. Hopefully, we will see more female directors being hired."

Sophie Okonedo

Friedman made history at the Olivier Awards earlier this year by winning the most awards for a single producer. Of her four productions, 14 awards were handed out, including Best New Musical for the highly-acclaimed Book of Mormon and Best New Play for Chimerica.

Theatre success clearly runs in the family, as Merrily We Roll Along, produced by Sonia and directed by big sister Maria, won Best Musical Revival at the Oliviers, too. Besides Friedman, many other British women are stealing the limelight in the theatre including the likes of Nica Burns of Nimax and Judy Craymer, the producer behind Mamma Mia! And tonight's strong British female force at the Tony Awards will pave the way further for many more into the once male-dominated industry on both sides of the Atlantic.