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Published: Tuesday, 5/1/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

'Once' leads Tony Award nominations with 11 nods

2 other musicals each got 10 nominations

BY MARK KENNEDY
AP DRAMA WRITER
Steve Kazee, left, and Cristin Milioti appear in a scene from "Once," in New York. The production was nominated for a Tony Award for best musical. Steve Kazee, left, and Cristin Milioti appear in a scene from "Once," in New York. The production was nominated for a Tony Award for best musical.
BONEAU/BRYAN-BROWN Enlarge

NEW YORK — There was something for virtually everyone to smile about on Broadway on Tuesday after 30 of 37 shows this season got at least one Tony Award nomination. The folks at “Once” had the most reason to celebrate later at their working bar on stage.

The musical based on the low-budget 2006 film about an unlikely romance between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin earned a leading 11 nominations, including nods for best musical, for both its lead actors, its book, lighting, sound, choreography and set, which offers the audience real drinks before the show in a replica pub.

Its director, John Tiffany, was watching a play in Glasgow, Scotland, when his phone began buzzing “like crazy” with word of the show’s success. He sat through the play but learned about the Tony haul after glancing at texts.

“’Once’ constantly surprises me. I think it’s the power of the music and the storytelling that people connect with,” said John Tiffany, who also was nominated for best director of a musical.

Two other musicals — “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” — each got 10 nominations. Unlike last year’s “The Book of Mormon,” no monster single hit dominated the nominations.

Disney had a good day. “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a play about the origins of Peter Pan co-produced by Disney Theatrical Productions earned nine nominations, while its “Newsies” got eight nods. The fall revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” got eight nominations, setting up a face-off in the best revival category with “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” which Sondheim had criticized.

Later this summer, “Once,” ‘’Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Newsies” will compete for the title of best new musical with a surprise entry — “Leap of Faith,” which was ravaged by critics. “Ghost the Musical,” an import from London with songs by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, failed to get nominated in the best musical category.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS from the Beacon Theatre on June 10. Neil Patrick Harris, the star of “How I Met Your Mother,” will be the host.

Broadway’s most expensive show, the $75 million “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” got only two nominations, for best scenic design and costume. The former punch-line is now a top-earning hit and a spokesman shrugged off the snub.

“Even without a nomination for best musical, we can assure you that the audiences this week will love the show just as much as they did last week,” Rick Miramontez said.

The best new play category includes “Clybourne Park” by Bruce Norris, “Other Desert Cities” by Jon Robin Baitz, “Peter and the Starcatcher” by Rick Elice, and David Ives’ “Venus in Fur.” Plays that didn’t make the cut included Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” Nicky Silver’s “The Lyons,” David Auburn’s “The Columnist” and Theresa Rebeck’s “Seminar.” With no nominations for “Seminar,” producers said they would end performances after Sunday.

In the musical revival category, “Follies” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” will compete against two Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice works: “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita.”

“Once,” with songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, was originally a low-budget movie made for about $150,000. The film earned $20 million, thanks in part to an original score that included the sublime, 2007 Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly.” The musical is a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage.

“Once” earned its stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, best actor nominations. It also earned nods for best scenic design, best book of a musical and Elizabeth A. Davis got a nomination for an actress in a featured role.

The best leading actor in a play Tony will pit James Corden from the British import “One Man, Two Guvnors,” Philip Seymour Hoffman from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” James Earl Jones from “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” Frank Langella from “Man and Boy” and John Lithgow of “The Columnist.”

“I expect to go out with the gang tonight, which I don’t do very often because this play is so damned exhausting,” Lithgow said, laughing. “And I intend to buy all the drinks. That’s pretty unusual, too. I am a Scotsman, after all.”

Joe DiPietro earned a Tony nomination for writing the book to “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” which stars Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara, who also got a nomination as a leading actress in a musical. The frothy musical smartly integrates classic Gershwin songs such as “Sweet and Lowdown,” ‘’Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” ‘’S’Wonderful,” ‘’Someone to Watch Over Me,” ‘’They All Laughed” and “Fascinating Rhythm.”

The musical is the first since DiPietro won two Tonys for writing the still-running “Memphis,” but he’s not jaded.

“The Tonys are always a big deal,” he said. “I wrote for a long time and no one seemed to care and then I suddenly started getting produced. When I won my Tonys, it was childhood dream time coming true.”

“Other Desert Cities,” a play by Baitz that moved to Broadway after critical acclaim at Lincoln Center Theater, earned five nominations, including best play.

“My psychology is such that I can’t jump up and down. I suppose that makes me Jewish and of the theater,” Baitz joked after the announcement.

Baitz’s play, about a dysfunctional, politically divided family wrestling with a deep secret in their past, also earned Stockard Channing and Judith Light acting nominations.

“It feels extraordinary. I feel thrilled, I feel blessed, I feel honored,” said Light, the former “Who’s the Boss?” star who last year was nominated for her performance in “Lombardi.” ‘’I was away from the theater for a long time. When I came back, I came back slowly and I had to really work my way back in and not expect anything.”

Light will compete in the featured role category against Linda Emond, who won raves for her role in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” Emond, who managed to keep her yoga class appointment despite the fuss, was gracious, pleased that her show produced nominations for co-stars Andrew Garfield and Hoffman, as well as director Mike Nichols.

“I am only more aware on a day like this that this is not something I do alone. This is not something that feels like I, in particular, am being noted for,” she said. “I go out on that stage and there are many people backstage and during the show who help me through the play.”

The battle in the female leading actress play category will be fierce, with competitors including Nina Arianda of “Venus in Fur,” Tracie Bennett of “End of the Rainbow,” Linda Lavin of “The Lyons,” Cynthia Nixon in “Wit” and Channing.

Lavin, the Golden Globe- and Tony Award-winning actress who starred in the long-running TV sit-com “Alice,” was literally in the air when she learned of her nomination. She was flying back from her home in Wilmington, N.C., after seeing a play at her 50-seat Red Barn Studio Theatre.

“I don’t think I’ve hit the ground yet,” she said. “I’m sitting in my apartment, having a bowl of soup. It’s been quite a whirlwind morning. I just hope I don’t die from it. I’m feeling very, very heightened right now.”

In “The Lyons,” Lavin plays mother of a family grappling with the impending death of its patriarch. The actress said she wished the playwright had been nominated for writing about a woman who is “funny and furious and deeply sad — all at the same moment. I’ve always liked to play those notes all at once.”

One of the more intriguing moves by the Tony nominating committee was in the category of best original score. Committee members awarded Alan Menken and Jack Feldman a nod for “Newsies” but also Frank Wildhorn and Don Black for “Bonnie & Clyde,” a show that closed after only 69 performances. They also nominated the songwriters for “One Man, Two Guvnors” and “Peter and the Starcatcher,” although both are really plays with incidental music. Overlooked were “Spider-Man” and “Ghost the Musical.”

In addition to O’Hara and Milioti, the nominations for best leading actress in musical include Jan Maxwell of “Follies,” Audra McDonald for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” and Laura Osnes of the now-closed “Bonnie & Clyde.” One name missing from many critics’ list in this category was Bernadette Peters, who co-starred with Maxwell in “Follies.”

Peters will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award, which honors someone from the theater community who has helped a charity. Peters founded Broadway Barks! along with Mary Tyler Moore to promote the adoption of shelter animals. The Tony Awards also will honor Hugh Jackman, citing “his contributions to the Broadway community” and “personal generosity of spirit.”

The Shakespeare Theatre Company won the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, and Actors’ Equity Association, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in June, will get a Special Tony, too.

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Online: TonyAwards.com



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