Critics say Julia Roberts should stay onscreen -- Her play ''Three Days of Rain'' was ignored by the Tony awards

By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

First she was soaked by the critics. Then it really poured on Julia Roberts’ parade. On May 16, nominations were announced for the 60th annual Tony Awards — and the Three Days of Rain star was shockingly shut out.

Why ”shockingly”? In the weeks leading up to the nods, the actress looked like a bona fide contender. Roberts had launched a full-scale charm offensive — making a cameo at April’s Easter Bonnet competition, chatting up fellow nominees at this month’s Drama League awards, and signing autographs for throngs of fans nightly. Even the odds were in her favor: There were just eight women eligible for five lead-actress slots, and Roberts was the only one in a show that will still be running come Tony time (which often gives would-be nominees an edge). Even admitted theater snobs were looking forward to seeing Roberts traipse down the Radio City Music Hall red carpet, injecting some star power into the ratings-challenged Tonys (airing June 11 on CBS).

The blistering reviews are the likely culprit. ”Hated her,” barked the New York Post. ”You can still see the smoke wafting upward from the crash site,” sniped The Wall Street Journal. Even The New York Times‘ Ben Brantley, a self-professed Juliaholic, likened her to a lamppost.

Ah well. At least she’s in good company. Her Pelican Brief costar Denzel Washington was overlooked for last season’s Julius Caesar. Even Nicole Kidman — widely praised for her body-baring turn in 1998’s Blue Room — failed to earn a nod. Fortunately, all three have Oscars to keep them warm.