Exceptional omissions dot Outer Critics noms
NEW YORK -- The Outer Critics Circle nominations for the initial theater awards of the 2006-07 season, announced Monday, reaffirm several points: a) the dubious overall quality of some of the new musicals being written for Broadway, b) the weak new musical scores most of those musicals contain, c) the strong lineup of straight plays now dotting the boards, d) how many good actors are currently at work in the New York theater and e) how few spots there are to honor them within the Circle's four-nominees-per-category structure. It means that some exceptional people didn't make that list, including Michael Sheen in "Frost/Nixon," Jeff Daniels in "Blackbird," Hugh Dancy in "Journey's End," Blythe Danner in "Suddenly, Last Summer," Brian Dennehy in "Inherit the Wind" and John Mahoney in "Prelude to a Kiss." ... Because of the OCC group's cutoff date, the one new show in town that their nominating committee didn't get to evaluate is Terrence McNally's "Deuce," with Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes, which began prevuing April 11 at the Music Box and opens May 6. It will therefore be considered for next year's OCC honors. Meanwhile, however, Lansbury and Seldes will be receiving special achievement awards from the organization in recognition of their distinguished and long-distance careers in the theater. ... Speaking of good theater, Chita Rivera does Broadway proud in the national touring company of her Tony-nominated "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," which I caught last week at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. The show began on the road in December for a two-week run at the Arnoff in Cincinnati and has since played major dates from Miami to Cleveland and from Seattle to Philadelphia. After a hiatus this week, it opens May 1 for two-weeker in Boston. (Following four more East Coast dates, "Dancer's Life" is scheduled to wrap June 10 in Norfolk, Va.) The show is looking and playing even better than in its Broadway incarnation during the 2005-06 season; it's crisp, fresh, done full-throttle and, being Broadway-born, is a great advertisement for Broadway at large. And Chita's amazing, but we already knew that, didn't we?. ... Someone else who has always done Broadway proud celebrates her 90th birthday Sunday. Celeste Holm, born April 29, 1917, became a Broadway name in the original cast of the landmark 1943 legit musical "Oklahoma!" She achieved bona fide Broadway star status in 1944's "Bloomer Girl," three years later was Oscared in Hollywood for 1947's "Gentleman's Agreement" and has been a star and a relentless champion of the arts ever since, receiving additional Oscar nominations for 1949's "Come to the Stable" and 1950's "All About Eve" and adding television, nightclubs, radio and more Broadway in her resume. Two of my own favorite Holm performances were as the unseen voice of the husband-stealer in Joseph Mankiewicz's 1949 "A Letter to Three Wives" and as the no-nonsense Aunt Polly in the underrated 1973 musical version of "Tom Sawyer." King Olav of Norway knighted Holm in 1979, and she was named to the National Council of the Arts in 1982 by President Reagan. On her upcoming landmark natal day, this special lady will be toasted at a party in New York by her husband, Frank Basile, and a large contingent of close chums.