NEW YORK -- The intimate musical Once, based on the Fox Searchlight Irish indie movie, dominates the nominations for the 66th annual Tony Awards, making the shortlist in 11 categories. Disney shows Newsies and Peter and the Starcatcher, the Gershwin musical Nice Work If You Can Get It and revivals of Death of a Salesman, Follies and Porgy and Bess also cleaned up in the nominations announced Tuesday morning.
In a Broadway season that has yielded a number of critical hits but no clear front-runners like last year's The Book of Mormon and War Horse, the competition in all four main show categories is unusually open, with two or more favorites vying for each award. Other races like lead actress in a play are particularly tough to call.
The biggest award of the Tonys -- and the one that has the most significant impact on box office -- invariably is the best musical prize, with Once, Newsies (eight noms) and Nice Work (10 noms) competing against underdog Leap of Faith, which opened on the final day of Tony eligibility to mixed reviews. Three of the four nominated new musicals were adapted from movies.
While the first three were considered locks for nominations, there was much speculation about whether the fourth slot might go to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which was a critical punching bag but a major magnet for media attention that has done consistently strong business since its delayed opening in June. However, the superhero show had to settle for two craft nominations -- for scenic design and for the costumes of late designer Eiko Ishioka.
The heavy showing for Peter and the Starcatcher, Rick Elice's adaptation of the Peter Pan prequel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, upsets prognostications in the best play race. Its nine nominations leave favorites Clybourne Park, by Pulitzer winner Bruce Norris, and Other Desert Cities, by Jon Robin Baitz, trailing with four and five nominations, respectively. Rounding out that category is David Ives' Venus in Fur.
Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess lead for musical revival honors with eight and 10 noms, respectively. Follies also scored a lead actress mention for Jan Maxwell, lead actor slots for Danny Burstein and Ron Raines and featured actress for Jayne Houdyshell. Acting contenders for Porgy and Bess include Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in lead categories and Phillip Boykin and David Alan Grier for featured actor.
While Follies was showered with critical plaudits, the Porgy and Bess revival was more divisive among theater pundits for its radical trimming of the full-length American folk opera. Its mighty showing with 10 nominations was perhaps the biggest surprise of the race.
The Mike Nichols-directed revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is out in front of the field for best revival of a play, landing a spot for Nichols, lead actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and featured actors Linda Emond and Andrew Garfield. It scored seven nominations in total. Competing for play revival are Gore Vidal's The Best Man, Master Class and Wit.
While the rapturously reviewed British import, One Man, Two Guvnors, missed out on a best play nomination (Richard Bean's text is an update of the Goldoni commedia dell'arte classic, The Servant of Two Masters), it earned a robust seven nominations, including director Nicholas Hytner, lead actor James Corden and featured actor Tom Edden, as well as original score for Grant Olding's skiffle songs and Fab Four pastiches.
The entry into the best score race of One Man, as well as Wayne Barker's songs for Peter and the Starcatcher -- neither of which is classified as a musical -- indicates the shortage of musicals based on original material this season. Shows including Once and Nice Work were ineligible due to their pre-existing scores, while Newsies made the cut because its holdover songs from the movie are supplemented by new material.
In the lead actor in a play category, Hoffman and Corden are up against James Earl Jones in The Best Man, Frank Langella in Man and Boy and John Lithgow in The Columnist.
The tight race for lead actress in a play includes Nina Arianda for Venus in Fur, Tracie Bennett for End of the Rainbow, Stockard Channing for Other Desert Cities, Linda Lavin for The Lyons and Cynthia Nixon for Wit.
For lead actor in a musical, Burstein, Raines and Lewis will compete against Steve Kazee in Once and Jeremy Jordan in Newsies. Maxwell and McDonald face off for best actress in a musical against Cristin Milioti in Once, Kelli O'Hara in Nice Work and Laura Osnes in Bonnie & Clyde.
Featured actor in a play contenders alongside Garfield and Edden include Christian Borle (NBC's Smash) for Peter and the Starcatcher, Michael Cumpsty for End of the Rainbow and Jeremy Shamos, the sole member of the sterling Clybourne Park ensemble to be recognized. Featured actress in a play pits Emond against Spencer Kayden for Don't Dress for Dinner, Celia Keenan-Bolger for Starcatcher, Judith Light for Other Desert Cities and Condola Rashad for Stick Fly.
In addition to Boykin and Grier, featured actor in a musical nominees are Michael Cerveris in Evita (with both his co-stars Elena Roger and Ricky Martin shut out), Michael McGrath in Nice Work and Josh Young in Jesus Christ Superstar. Featured actress in a musical contenders include Houdyshell with Elizabeth A. Davis in Once, Judy Kaye in Nice Work, Jessie Mueller in the short-lived On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Da'Vine Joy Randolph in Ghost The Musical.
Directing nominees for play are Hytner, Nichols, Pam MacKinnon for Clybourne Park and co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers for Starcatcher; up for musical are Jeff Calhoun for Newsies, Kathleen Marshall for Nice Work, Diane Paulus for Porgy and Bess and John Tiffany for Once.
Marshall is a double nominee, earning a second nod for her choreography. Also nominated twice is lighting designer Natasha Katz, for Once and Follies.
In a year in which a number of multiple Tony nominations went to productions that transferred from Off Broadway, a significant winner in terms of prestige is the venerable New York Theatre Workshop, the birthplace of landmark musical Rent. The company staged the original runs of both Once and Peter and the Starcatcher prior to their Broadway transfers, giving its productions a total of 19 nominations and the highest tally in both musical and play categories.
CBS will air the 66th Tony Awards live June 10 from New York's Beacon Theatre. Neil Patrick Harris returns to host the ceremony for the third time.
For a full list of nominations, go to: www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/index.html