'Spring' ahead: 11 Tony noms

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"Spring Awakening" continued its unfettered run through the theater award season Tuesday by garnering 11 Tony nominations, the most of any Broadway production.

The Steven Sater-Duncan Sheik musical, which combines pop-rock sensibilities with a story set in 19th century Germany, will be considered for best musical, score, book, director, choreography and orchestration as well as for leading actor (Jonathan Groff), featured actor (John Gallagher Jr.) and three design awards.

The nominations for the 61st annual Tony Awards, presented by the League of American Theatres and Producers and the American Theatre Wing, were announced by Jane Krakowski and Taye Diggs at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Right behind with 10 nominations were Tom Stoppard's trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" and the musical "Grey Gardens," which figures to provide the stiffest competition for "Spring." Based on the Maysles brothers' documentary, "Grey" also received noms for best musical, book, score, director and orchestration as well as two acting nominations: Christine Ebersole for leading actress and Mary Louise Wilson for featured actress. Ebersole is favored to take home her second Tony (she also won for "42nd Street"), but previous multiple winners Audra McDonald ("110 in the Shade") and Donna Murphy ("LoveMusik") will receive strong consideration. Last season, Ebersole collected several prizes for her performance as the eccentric Edie Beale, Jacqueline Onassis' cousin, during the show's off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons. The Tonys are for Broadway productions only.

The Stoppard trilogy, a philosophical-political rumination on prerevolutionary Russia, earned noms for best play, director and five for acting: Brian F. O'Byrne (lead actor), Billy Crudup and Ethan Hawke (featured actor) and Martha Plimpton and Jennifer Ehle (featured actress). "Coram Boy," the British import by Helen Edmundson, received the second-most nominations among plays but did not receive a nom for best play. In a curious bit of logic, though, director Melly Still did get a nomination.

"Radio Golf," the final installment of the late August Wilson's 10-play cycle about the black American experience in the 20th century, received four nominations: best play, scenic design (David Gallo) and two for acting (Anthony Chisolm and John Earl Jelks in the featured actor category).

Among revivals, "Journey's End" (six) and "110 in the Shade" (five) led the way for plays and musicals, respectively. In addition to best revival, "Journey" earned recognition for direction, scenic and lighting design and for two of its actors: Boyd Gaines (lead) and Stark Sands (featured). "110 in the Shade" is in the running for musical revival, lead actress (McDonald), featured actor (John Cullum), orchestrations and lighting design.

"Spring," which uses rock 'n' roll to convey the teen angst of 19th century German schoolchildren, opened in the beginning of the season off-Broadway, at the Atlantic Theater, before moving uptown in the fall. Therefore, it is receiving a raft of nominations and awards for both off-Broadway and Broadway productions. At the Lucille Lortel Awards, given exclusively to off-Broadway shows, it tied with "In the Heights" for best musical, and the New York Drama Critics Circle voted it top tuner. A week later, the Outer Critics' Circle named it best new Broadway musical.

"Curtains," starring David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk, was third among new musicals with eight nominations, followed by "Legally Blonde: The Musical" and "Mary Poppins" (seven each). "Curtains and "Poppins" received noms for best musical, but "Blonde" did not. Although it has received mixed to good reviews, and Laura Bell Bundy earned a nomination for best musical actress, the odds for it receiving a major Tony Award are long, which could affect its performance at the boxoffice. Still, it figures to be in better shape than "The Pirate Queen," the $16 million musical from "Les Miserables" creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg that has been skewered by critics and received no nominations.

"Curtains" was not exactly a critics' darling, either, but has done decently at the boxoffice and should get a boost after Tuesday's announcements, particularly because Pierce and Monk each received nominations in their lead acting categories. Karen Ziemba also received a nom for featured actress.

"LoveMusik," the tuner about Kurt Weill and his troubled relationship with his wife, Lotte Lenya, earned the most nominations from the Drama Desk (12) but only four Tony noms, and none for best musical, book or direction. In addition to Murphy, Michael Cerveris (lead) and David Pittu (featured) were recognized for their acting.

In addition to the category for best leading actress in a musical, the best leading actor in a play figures to be particularly competitive, with Gaines, O'Byrne, Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Christopher Plummer ("Inherit the Wind") and Liev Schreiber ("Talk Radio") vying for the honor. Eve Best ("A Moon for the Misbegotten"), Swoosie Kurtz ("Heartbreak House"), Angela Lansbury ("Deuce"), Vanessa Redgrave ("The Year of Magical Thinking") and Julie White ("The Little Dog Laughed") will compete for best leading actress in a play.

In addition to Cerveris, Esparza, Groff and Pierce, Gavin Lee of "Poppins" will compete for best leading actor in a musical. "Coram's" Xanthe Elbrick and Jan Maxwell will compete with Dana Ivey ("Butley"), Ehle and Plimpton for featured actress in a play.

"Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!" and "Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway" will vie for the special theatrical event award, and the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, the city's major nonprofit company, received the Tony for outstanding regional theater.

The Tonys will be presented June 10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York and boradcast by CBS.

A complete list of nominations follows.

Andrew Salomon is news editor at Back Stage East.
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