'Book of Mormon' Nabs the Most Tony Awards Nominations
NEW YORK – Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon dominates the race for best musical in this year’s Tony Award nominations, which also include acting nods for Ellen Barkin, Bobby Cannavale, Edie Falco, Frances McDormand, Al Pacino and Vanessa Redgrave.
Announced Tuesday morning at Lincoln Center by past winners Anika Noni Rose and Matthew Broderick, the nominations for the 65th annual Tonys yielded a bounty for Mormon, including mentions for best musical, score, book, lead actors Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, featured actor Rory O’Malley and featured actress Nikki M. James. Co-directors Parker and Casey Nicholaw were nominated, with Nicholaw also a contender for choreography.
Landing a total of 14 nominations, Mormon came in right behind record holders The Producers (2001) and Billy Elliot (2009), which each scored 15.
That haul makes the gleefully profane buddy comedy about two mismatched missionaries assigned to Uganda the show to beat for Broadway’s top honor this year. Traditionally, best musical is the only prize to have a significant impact at the box office, though all the nominated musicals stand to gain from nationwide exposure during the awards telecast.
Co-written by South Park creators Parker and Stone with Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), Mormon has been playing to capacity houses since it opened March 24 to rapturous reviews. Scott Rudin and South Park veteran Anne Garefino are lead producers.
The field for new plays is split among Nick Stafford’s adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo children’s novel, War Horse; Stephen Adly Guirgis’ black comedy about love and addiction, The Motherf**ker With the Hat, Jez Butterworth’s reflection on real and mythic England, Jerusalem, and David Lindsay-Abaire’s look at class conflict, Good People.
A National Theatre of Great Britain import, War Horse, scored 5 nominations for U.S. presenter Lincoln Center Theater, including direction of a play for Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris. The story about a 16-year-old boy’s brave quest to find his horse in World War I France is also the source material for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film. Following its long-running success in London, the stage production has quickly become a hot ticket in New York due to its breathtaking use of life-size horse puppets. A special Tony will be presented to South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company for its innovative work on the play.
Among the six nominations for The Motherf**ker With the Hat, Cannavale scored for lead actor, alongside featured actor nods for fellow cast members Elizabeth Rodriguez and Yul Vazquez and one for Anna D. Shapiro’s direction. Jerusalem also landed six nominations, among them lead actor for Mark Rylance, and featured for Mackenzie Crook. Good People’s two nominations included a lead actress in a play spot for McDormand.
Up against Mormon for best musical are two screen-to-stage adaptations, Catch Me If You Can (four nominations), Sister Act (five nominations), along with The Scottsboro Boys, which was the major surprise of the announcement, emerging as the second most nominated show with 12 mentions.
One of the final shows from the legendary composing team of Kander & Ebb, completed before Fred Ebb’s death, Scottsboro tells a true story of Jim Crow-era racial injustice using the provocative format of a minstrel show. It closed last fall after a disappointing commercial run. The show’s nominations included direction of a musical and choreography for Susan Stroman, as well as lead actor Joshua Henry, featured actors Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon, score, book and orchestrations. Back when it closed, producers had discussed bringing the show back in the run-up to Tony Awards. While that remains a financially challenging prospect, 12 nominations could provide an incentive.
The Whoopi Goldberg-produced Sister Act landed mentions for its score, book and lead actress Patina Miller, while Catch Me grabbed a lead actor slot for Norbert Leo Butz (in the Tom Hanks role) but Aaron Tveit (stepping into Leonardo DiCaprio’s shoes) failed to make the cut.
The main shut-out among new musicals was Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which landed a lead actor mention for Tony Sheldon, who has been with the show since its premiere in Australia, playing the role of transgender drag star Bernadette in Sydney, London and on Broadway.
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Larry Kramer’s landmark drama about the AIDS crisis, The Normal Heart, dominate in the play revival category and show a strong presence in the acting races.
Pacino was recognized for his brooding turn as the aggrieved moneylender Shylock in Merchant, opposite fellow nominee Lily Rabe’s Portia, with Daniel Sullivan up for direction of a play. In his first acting role since Angels in America in 1994, Joe Mantello is in the running for lead actor in Heart, while Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey appear in the featured actor races. Co-directors Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe also were nominated.
With only two productions eligible in the musical revival category, the contest is between Anything Goes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Cole Porter musical Anything Goes was another exceptional performer in the nominations, scoring nine mentions, including her fifth Tony nomination for lead actress Sutton Foster and a double mention for Kathleen Marshall in the director and choreographer stakes. While How to Succeed yielded eight nominations, including nods for Rob Ashford for direction and choreography, and for featured actor John Larroquette, the big surprise was the snub for well-reviewed lead Daniel Radcliffe.
Featured actress Falco scored the sole nomination for the revival of John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, leaving co-stars Ben Stiller and Jennifer Jason Leigh among many star names on Broadway to be cold-shouldered in this season’s Tonys. Redgrave’s lead actress nomination for Driving Miss Daisy also did not correspond to one for her co-star, James Earl Jones in the year’s most competitive field, lead actor in a play.
Shifting from their regular home at Radio City Music Hall this year, the Tony Awards will be presented Sunday June 12 at the Beacon Theatre uptown. The ceremony will be televised live on CBS. No host for the awards show has yet been announced, though Chris Rock, starring in The Motherf**ker With the Hat, has been the subject of recent speculation.