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Azaria Earns Tony Nomination

Azaria Earns Tony NominationTufts graduate Hank Azaria – who stars in the Broadway hit "Monty Python's Spamalot" – received a Tony Award nomination for best leading role in a musical.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.16.05] While actor Hank Azaria is currently busy saying "Ni!" on Broadway, the star of "Monty Python's Spamalot" may soon be saying "Thanks!" The Tufts graduate has received a Tony Award nomination for best leading role in a musical. According to Azaria, he was born for these roles.

"I told [director] Mike [Nichols] I've been off-book for this show since I was 15 years old," he told Newsday.

By all accounts, the attraction was mutual. "[Nichols] wanted Hank Azaria first and foremost," Python alumnus and "Spamalot" lyricist and composer Eric Idle told The Christian Science Monitor.

Theatre critics have hailed Azaria's multi-faceted performance in the musical, a stage adaptation of the classic comedic film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Azaria's co-star Tim Curry, who plays King Arthur, was also nominated for a best actor award.

Still, writes the Boston Herald, "Azaria nearly steals the show from his pals."

The Boston Globe said Azaria's portrayal of Lancelot was "a stitch." But besides depicting the legendary knight, Azaria uses his mimicry talent – typically displayed with prominence and frequency on "The Simpsons" – to portray other characters like Tim the Enchanter, the Knight Who Says Ni, and the French Taunter.

In bringing these characters to life, "he not only channels the original Pythons, but takes it one step further," wrote the Herald. As the French Taunter, The Hartford Courant said, Azaria "brings down the house."

"I started with as dead-on a vocal impression as I could do, and then as the rehearsals went on, things sort of transformed into something else," Azaria – who will find out if he won during the nationally televised Tony Awards ceremony on June 5th –told Newsday.

To that point, the Courant noted, "Azaria comes into his own as a comic actor. To watch his face and body shift from awkward confusion to tentative jerkiness to all-out joy is to experience the art of transformation."

For Azaria, performing in "Spamalot" after years of success as the voice of Moe, Apu, and other memorable characters on the long-running"Simpsons" is like coming full-circle.

"All of us who write and perform 'The Simpsons' will say we owe a debt to the Python guys," Azaria told Newsday. "They opened up comedy for everybody. It's so silly, but so smart at the same time."

Likewise, the Tufts graduate and his co-stars are working hard to make "Spamalot" elicit all measures of reaction from the thousands of people who have flocked to see it so far.

"One of the things that Mike Nichols has insisted on is that, being a musical comedy, the show has to tell a story and move you in some way," Azaria explained to the Chicago Sun-Times. "Mike is forcing us to retain all that subversive political satire, and to completely make fun of Broadway stereotypes, but also to deliver what's good about Broadway, so that you actually are moved by that lovely ballad. We're trying to do all of it."

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