♦ Nominations for the 2017 Tony Awards were announced this week by Jane Krakowski and Christopher Jackson at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. On the musical front, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 leads the way with 12 nominations, followed closely by the revival of Hello, Dolly starring Bette Midler with 10 nominations and high school-set musical Dear Evan Hansen with 9. Come From Away and Groundhog Day each received 7 nominations. A Doll’s House Part 2, a follow-up to Ibsen’s play, received the most nominations for a straight play at 8, while Oslo received 7. Other nominated plays include Indecent by Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize winner Sweat. For a complete list of nominees, visit the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Award site at http://www.tonyawards.com/index.html.
♦ Two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field and Emmy winner Danny DeVito will receive the Actors Fund’s Medal of Honor at the organization’s annual gala to be held May 8 at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel. “Danny DeVito and Sally Field have delighted audiences for more than four decades,” said Joe Benincasa, CEO of the Actors Fund, in a statement. “We’re proud to acknowledge their distinguished and exemplary work on stage and screen.” Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, will also receive the Medal of Honor for her continuing work with entertainment professionals throughout their careers and in their later years. And 21-time Tony Award-winning theatrical director and producer Harold Prince will be presented with The Actors Fund’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
♦ The New York premiere of Building the Wall, Tony winner Robert Schenkkan‘s new play, will begin previews on May 12 ahead of an official opening on May 21. Directed by Ari Edelstein, the cast will feature James Badge Dale and Tamara Tunie. The production notes state: “From America’s greatest political playwright comes a provocative 90-minute theatrical event set in the near future that deals with one of the most talked about topics of this past election.” The limited engagement runs through July 9 at Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
♦ Performances begin May 10 for Waterwell‘s dual-language production of Hamlet starring Arian Moayed as the melancholy prince. Directed by Waterwell a.d. Tom Ridgely and set in Persia on the eve of World War I, the Off-Broadway company will present Shakespeare’s drama in both English and Farsi and incorporate both traditional Persian and modern western elements. Moayed will be joined by Sherie René Scott as Gertrude, Micah Stock as Horatio, and a supporting cast consisting primarily of Persian, Arab and South Asian actors. Iranian musician Mohsen Namjoo will perform an original score live during performances as well. Official opening is set for May 21 at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, with a run currently scheduled through June 3.
♦ Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz will be honored at this year’s Classic Stage Company’s benefit gala to be held on May 15 in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Titled Musical Masterworks: The Music of Stephen Schwartz, the event, directed by Tony Award winner and CSC associate director John Doyle, will consist of numbers from stage musicals written by Schwartz, including Wicked, Godspell, Pippin, The Baker’s Wife and Working, as well as films like The Prince of Egypt. Among the stars performing are Raúl Esparza, Ann Harada, Judy Kuhn, Jeremy Jordan, Patina Miller, George Takei, Jason Sudeikis, Danielle Brooks and Gabriel Ebert. Over the course of his career, Schwartz was won three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards and the Isabelle Stevenson Tony honor.
♦ At this year’s Drama League Awards, Tony nominee Bette Midler, currently starring on Broadway in a revival of Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!, will receive the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award for her contributions to the musical form on both stage and screen, starting with her Broadway debut in 1967 in the original production of Fiddler on the Roof. Other recipients of the League’s Special Recognition Honors include animal trainer William Berloni, who will receive the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award, and Tony winner Michael Greif, who will receive The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. The League’s awards gala is set for May 19 at the Marriott Marquis Time Square.
♦ And finally, it would appear that federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is safe for the time being, at least through the end of the 2017 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. A bipartisan bill introduced by the U.S. Congress on May 1, and expected to pass in a vote this Friday, will allow full funding for the organizations, with the NEA and NEH both receiving increases of $2 million. While this bill will insure funding for now, it is important that supporters of the arts remain vigilant with regard to future funding for these vital organizations.
– Written by Richard Hart