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Critic's Notebook

Tony Nominations 2012: Silver lining to a mostly cloudy season

May 01, 2012|By Charles McNulty
  • Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, the stars of "Once," which is nominated for best musical.
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, the stars of "Once," which… (Jennifer S. Altman / For…)

This post has been updated. Please see note at bottom for details.

Seventy-five million dollars can buy you a lot of things in the theater -- good press, bad press and a huge head-start at the box office, as “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” has ostentatiously shown us.  But Tony Awards still aren’t up for sale.

The nominees, announced Tuesday, diligently spread the love around in fulfillment of the accolades' marketing purpose. But “Spider-Man,” which has been doing brisk business despite all the backstage mayhem and clobbering reviews, was recognized in only two musical categories, scenic design and costume design, leaving bounced director Julie Taymor time to focus on her humongous lawsuit. 
The race for best musical has four contenders, but the competition is largely seen to be between “Once,” based on John Carney’s entrancing 2006 art-house sleeper about a brief encounter between a Dublin street musician and a pixieish Czech immigrant, and “Newsies,” an adaptation of the Disney film about orphan newspaper sellers uniting against the media barons exploiting them.

PHOTOS: Top nominees 

Not many Broadway prognosticators give much of a chance to “Nice Work If You Can Get,” the “new” musical comedy by those upstart Gershwin brothers starring a super-blasé Matthew Broderick, or “Leap of Faith,” a retooled version of the show that had its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in 2010 with Brooke Shields. Given the New York reviews, Shields was probably relieved she was chucked overboard and could no longer be branded as the weak link. 
If originality were the sole criterion, “Once” would have the best musical Tony in the bag.  The family-friendly “Newsies” is infinitely more derivative. (Imagine the score for “Annie” revised by Oscar glutton Alan Menken, who’s up for an award with “Newsies” lyricist Jack Feldman in the chronically anemic best score category.)
But this Disney Theatrical offering has two secret weapons: a captivating performance by Jeremy Jordan, one of this season’s breakout stars, who justly received a nomination for lead actor in a musical, and book writer Harvey Fierstein, the consummate Broadway insider who knows better than any press agent how to curry favor with Tony voters.

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