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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Irreverent ‘Book of Mormon,’ ‘Scottsboro Boys’ lead Tony votes

BY MARK KENNEDY
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Andrew Rannells, center, and Josh Gad, right, play missionaries to Africa
in ‘The Book of Mormon.’ Andrew Rannells, center, and Josh Gad, right, play missionaries to Africa in ‘The Book of Mormon.’
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

NEW YORK -- The Book of Mormon nabbed a leading 14 Tony Award nominations yesterday, earning the profane musical one nod short of the record for most nominations and putting it in the driver's seat when the awards are handed out next month.

An unlikely hit about two Mormon missionaries who find more than they bargained for in Africa, the musical was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of Comedy Central's irreverent South Park, and Robert Lopez, co-creator of the equally irreverent Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q. All got nominations.

The Book of Mormon has been a critical and box-office darling even without big-name stars and has tapped into a decidedly un-Broadway vein with songs about AIDS and one man's loud lament about having maggots in his scrotum.

"This is a brand of humor that very much existed in our culture -- on television and films," said Andrew Rannells, who won a best leading actor in a musical nomination. "It was just not reflected on Broadway. Obviously, there's a huge audience for this so why shouldn't it be a musical?"

The second-highest number of nominations for shows that opened in the 2010-11 season went to The Scottsboro Boys, a searing tale of 1930s injustice framed as a minstrel show. Though it closed abruptly after playing just 49 performances and 29 previews, it received 12 nominations, including best musical, best book of a musical, best original score, leading actor, and two featured actor nods. It marked the final collaboration of songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Mormon and Scottsboro face competition from Catch Me If You Can and Sister Act. The plays that were nominated include the heartwarming human-puppet hybrid War Horse, David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, and Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherf---- With the Hat.

Among individual actors who earned nominations were Al Pacino, who played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy, Edie Falco in The House of Blue Leaves, and Ellen Barkin in The Normal Heart.

"I am deeply honored to have been acknowledged in this way -- for theater in New York City -- this is a very big thrill for me," said Falco, who found out she had been nominated while waiting for a book fair to begin at her son's school.

"I was hoping and praying for this, but you never know for sure," said Judith Light, who earned a best featured actress nomination for playing the wife of football coach Vince Lombardi in the play Lombardi.

She faces competition from Barkin, Falco, Joanna Lumley in La Bete, and Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherf---- with the Hat.

Some notable snubs included James Earl Jones in Driving Miss Daisy, Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Aaron Tveit from Catch Me If You Can.

The Cole Porter comedy Anything Goes was nominated for nine awards, including best revival, best leading actress for Sutton Foster, a best featured role nomination for Adam Godley, best scenic and costume design.

"I'm very happy. I'm thrilled for our show," said Kathleen Marshall, who picked up her career sixth and seventh nominations for directing Anything Goes and its high-kicking choreography. "Anything Goes is one of those shows that is there to delight and entertain and transport the audience."

The Book of Mormon won nominations for best direction, and Casey Nicholaw won a best choreography nomination and shared honors with Parker for best direction of a musical. Mormon also earned its two missionaries -- Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells -- acting nominations, as well as Nikki M. James for featured actress, best book of a musical, and best original score.

"The show continues to surprise even me with how well received it is," said Gad. "This is dangerous in the best sense. People are excited when they sit down in those seats because they don't know what's going to happen," said Gad.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert earned two nominations -- one for the lavish fantasy costumes by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, and one for Tony Sheldon, who won a nod for best leading actor in a musical. "I'm very proud to be an ambassador for Priscilla," said the Australian actor. "Just to be playing it on Broadway is reward enough without this sort of icing on the cake."

Of the 42 new productions this season, there were 14 musicals -- 12 new ones and two revivals -- and 25 plays, a whopping 16 of them brand new. The last time there were 16 new plays produced in a single season was 1986-87.

It is also shaping up to be a lucrative time for Broadway, with total box-office grosses already at more than $987,057,484, or 3.6 percent more than the same time last year. Attendance this season has topped 11.4 million, up 3 percent from this time last year.

The awards will be handed out June 12 in the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The ceremony will be broadcast live by CBS.



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