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‘Spring Awakening’ gets a leading 11 Tony nods

“Spring Awakening,” Broadway’s most acclaimed rock musical since “Rent,” received 11 Tony nominations Tuesday — more than any other show, making it a favorite to dominate next month’s awards ceremony.
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Spring Awakening,” Broadway’s most acclaimed rock musical since “Rent,” received 11 Tony nominations Tuesday — more than any other show, making it a favorite to dominate next month’s awards ceremony.

Besides best musical, the contemporary reworking of Frank Wedekind’s classic drama about the insecurities and sexual longings of youth, picked up nominations for book, score, actor, featured actor, director, choreography, orchestrations, sets, costumes and lighting.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s starting to feel real good,” Duncan Sheik, the show’s composer, said with a laugh. “With the exception of our director (Michael Mayer), we are all kind of Broadway outsiders. We wanted to shake things up a bit. And we just set out to make this really cool piece of theater.”

“Spring Awakening” already has won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Outer Critics Circle awards for best musical.

The show, which has book and lyrics by Steven Sater, will compete for the top Tony musical prize against “Grey Gardens,” a look at an eccentric mother and daughter who were relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; “Mary Poppins,” a lavish Disney and Cameron Mackintosh confection about the world’s most efficient nanny; and “Curtains,” a backstage whodunit and one of the last musicals to have a score by the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia,” a three-part, nearly nine-hour examination of 19th century intellectual life in Russia, took 10 nominations, including one for best play. Its competition: “Radio Golf,” August Wilson’s final chapter in his epic, decade-by-decade celebration of the black experience in 20th century America; “Frost/Nixon,” a docudrama about a series of interviews between talk show host David Frost and Richard M. Nixon; and “The Little Dog Laughed,” Douglas Carter Beane’s wickedly satiric look at Hollywood hypocrisy.

One of the most competitive categories promises to be actor-play, with Frank Langella, as Nixon in “Frost/Nixon,” going up against Christopher Plummer, a wily defense lawyer in the revival of “Inherit the Wind”; Liev Schreiber, an acerbic broadcaster in “Talk Radio”; Boyd Gaines, a scrupulously decent soldier in the anti-war drama “Journey’s End,” and Brian F. O’Byrne, who portrays philosopher Alexander Herzen in “The Coast of Utopia.”

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The actress-play category features several previous Tony winners: Angela Lansbury, Vanessa Redgrave and Swoosie Kurtz — Lansbury nominated for her portrait of a tennis champion in Terrence McNally’s “Deuce”; Redgrave for her portrayal of Joan Didion in the author’s adaptation of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” and Kurtz for playing the free-spirited Hesione Hushabye in a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s “Heartbreak House.”

They will face first-time nominees Eve Best, the lonely farm girl in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” and Julie White, who portrayed a manipulative agent in “The Little Dog Laughed.”

“What a surprise — I never thought it could happen again,” said Lansbury, a four-time Tony winner. “I am overwhelmed. I am proud for the play and proud for the extraordinary lady I am out there playing every night.”

Audra McDonald, who also has four Tonys, will be up for a fifth for her role as a love-starved spinster in the musical “110 in the Shade.”

“It’s really bittersweet for me this year. One of the first calls I’ve always made after these (nominations) was to my Dad,” the actress said, referring to her father, Stanley, who was killed last month in a small plane crash.

McDonald’s competition includes Christine Ebersole, up for her dual roles of an off-kilter mother and her quirky daughter in “Grey Gardens”; Debra Monk, a tough-minded producer in “Curtains”; Laura Bell Bundy, the fashion-conscious, would-be lawyer in “Legally Blonde,” and Donna Murphy as actress Lotte Lenya in “LoveMusik,” a look at Lenya’s relationship with composer Kurt Weill.

Michael Cerveris’ portrait of Weill also received a nomination in the actor-musical category. Also nominated were Jonathan Groff, the young rebel in “Spring Awakening,” Raul Esparza, the perennial bachelor of “Company”; Gavin Lee, the exuberant chimney sweep of “Mary Poppins,” and David Hyde Pierce, a musical-theater-loving detective in “Curtains.”

Among the more unusual aspects of the nominations: Melly Still received three, including one for direction of “Coram Boy,” a British melodrama with music about parents, children and bringing families back together. She also scored nominations, along with co-designer Ti Green, for the show’s sets and costumes.

“I really wasn’t expecting anything because our reviews were mixed,” Still said. “I just want the show to be able to run and for people to see it.”

Among the more prominent performers getting shut out of nominations this season were Kevin Spacey, Kristin Chenoweth, Julianne Moore, Bill Nighy and Nathan Lane.

And some of the nominees were steeling themselves for not winning at the 61st annual Tonys, which will be broadcast June 10 on CBS.

“It’s my first (Tony nomination) and I expect it to be my only one,” Peter Morgan, author of “Frost/Nixon,” said from London. “I am going to savor every minute. I am going to fly the whole distance, lose to Tom Stoppard and still feel good about it.”