David Byrne's 'Here Lies Love' Leads Lortel Nominations

"Here Lies Love"
Joan Marcus

The ex-Talking Heads frontman's Imelda Marcos musical dominates this year's off-Broadway honors alongside "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," with 11 nods apiece.

NEW YORK – Two unconventional immersive musicals, David Byrne's Here Lies Love and Dave Malloy's Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, lead the field with 11 nominations each for the 29th annual Lucille Lortel Awards, the top honors for off-Broadway theater.

Those twin tallies represent a record high, with no show in the Lortels' history having previously garnered more than eight nominations.

A smash hit that extended multiple times during its premiere engagement last year at the Public Theater and is back for a return season beginning April 14, Here Lies Love is in the running for outstanding musical, for Alex Timbers' direction and Annie-B Parson's choreography. It also nabbed two lead actor slots, for Jose Llana and Conrad Ricamora, one for lead actress Ruthie Ann Miles and another for featured actress Melody Butiu.

Conceived by Byrne, who collaborated on the score with Fatboy Slim, the show recounts the life of the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, as a disco odyssey staged in a dance-club setting.

Malloy's show doesn't have the cachet of major music-industry names behind it, but the freewheeling retelling of a chapter from War and Peace, styled as electropop Russian dinner theater, has plenty of awards-season momentum. The musical had an extended run in a purpose-built tent space downtown before moving to Manhattan's theater district for a longer stint.

In addition to outstanding musical, its nominations include mentions for Rachel Chavkin's direction, lead actress Phillipa Soo, featured actors Blake DeLong and Lucas Steele, and featured actresses Brittain Ashford and Shaina Taub.

Also vying for the top musical prize, with nine nominations, is Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel about the parallel coming-out journeys of a father and daughter in a funeral-parlor family. The show also scored an impressive five acting nods, for leads Michael Cerveris, Sydney Lucas and Alexandra Socha, and for featured actors Noah Hinsdale and Judy Kuhn.

The final slot went to What's It All About, a non-narrative romantic mood musical reinterpreting the classic songbook of Burt Bacharach and Hal David for a new generation. Starring Kyle Riabko, who also conceived the show with David Lane Seltzer, that production landed four nominations, including one for Riabko's lead performance.

All four best musical nominees drew strong critical receptions, pointing to a relatively fertile environment off-Broadway for new musicals that contrasts sharply with this season's Broadway crop. Tony Award prognosticators are looking glumly across the field of new Broadway musicals, the majority of which have been greeted with tepid reviews at best.

Competing in the Lortels for outstanding new play are Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews, Bruce Norris' Domesticated, Conor McPherson's The Night Alive and Will Eno's The Open House.

Nominees for outstanding revival are the Public Theater and Foundry Theatre's Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht; MCC Theater's Hand to God, by Robert Askins; Mint Theater Company's London Wall, by John van Druten; Primary Stages' The Model Apartment, by Donald Margulies; and the Irish Repertory Theatre's The Weir, by McPherson, who has the rare distinction of having both a new play and a revival nominated in the same year. Kron also is a double nominee, getting a nod for her musical Fun Home and a featured actress mention for Good Person of Szechwan.

Up for outstanding solo show: the downtown smash Buyer & Cellar by Jonathan Tolins, performed by Michael Urie; How I Learned What I Learned by August Wilson, starring Ruben Santiago-Hudson; and Satchmo at the Waldorf, the Louis Armstrong bio-play by Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout, performed by John Douglas Thompson.

It was announced earlier that this year's Lifetime Achievement Award will go to veteran producer Robyn Goodman, currently represented on Broadway with Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, and off-Broadway with the long-running Tony winner Avenue Q. Goodman also curates Roundabout Theatre Company's Underground series devoted to emerging artists, which yielded this year's four-time nominee Bad Jews.

The Lucille Lortel Awards ceremony will take place at NYU Skirball Center on Sunday, May 4, hosted by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, who will be appearing together off-Broadway starting April 13 in Sharr White's two-hander Annapurna for the New Group.

The complete list of 2014 Lucille Lortel Award nominations follows on the next page:

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