Irish dancers, Samuel Beckett and an Irish-American ogre represent the Irish theater contingent in this year’s Tony Award nominations.
“Billy Elliot, the Musical” leads the entire pack of nominees with 15 nominations, including Best Musical and a Best Leading Actor in a Musical nod to the “Billys”: David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish.
Trent Kowalik, 13, has gone from Irish dance champion to Broadway star in just two years. A native of Wantagh, New York, Trent was dancing at an early age; before he turned three he was discovered wearing his sister’s tap shoes, standing in front of a TV mimicking Michael Flatley’s dance moves. At the age of 11, he became the youngest American to win a first place at the World Irish Dance Championships in Belfast.
But Kowalik is more than just a dancer.
In “Billy Elliot,” the young performer must also act, sing and speak in Northern England's distinctive Geordie accent while bringing the story of a working-class boy in a mining town to the audience. A difficult task for most performers, especially a thirteen-year-old boy with no prior acting experience.
"At first acting was really hard to do,” he explains. “But it's another thing once you start doing it more and you feel more like Billy."
Trent is fifth-generation Irish-American. Both his parents, Mike and Lauretta have Irish roots, with Lauretta’s family coming from County Roscommon.
Though his Irish dancing days might be past for now, Trent notes that they are not forgotten. “I’ve always loved Irish step dancing,” he says, “but I think that after doing this part I want to focus more on acting. But I’ll always remember it.”
The stars of “Billy Elliot” will compete in the Best Actor category against Irish-American Broadway vet Brian d'Arcy James, who plays Shrek in “Shrek The Musical.” The two shows also face off in the Best Musical category.
Trent Kowalik’s fellow Irish dancing castmate, David Bologna, is nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical.
Another nod to the Irish comes with the nomination of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece “Waiting for Godot” for Best Revival of Play.
Tony Award winning Irish-American actor John Glover is nominated in the Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his turn as “Lucky” the Irish classic play.
The 2009 nominees were announced this morning by “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon and writer and star of Broadway musical “In the Heights” Lin-Manuel Miranda. They will be presented at on Sunday, June 7 at Radio City Music Hall and aired live on CBS.