Actors Jim Parsons and Kristin Chenoweth helped announce the nominations… (Fernando Leon / Getty Images )
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NEW YORK -- A wide-open year helped propel a trio of musicals — “Once,” “The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” -- to the top of the Tony Awards heap.
“Once,” a modest romance set amid the Dublin music scene, led all comers with 11 nominations, including best musical, direction of a musical and three acting nominations. Directed by John Tiffany, the show is a marked contrast to bigger and brasher Tony favorites in recent years, such as 2011’s “The Book of Mormon” and 2009’s “Billy Elliot," both of which were lavish productions with showstopping numbers. Both shows went on to win best musical.
Right behind “Once” in the Tony tally were two musicals with classic Gershwin songs.
THE TONYS: Surprises and snubs
“The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess” and the Gershwin pastiche “Nice Work If You Can Get It” each received 10 nominations, including musical revival and musical, respectively. The Tony attention serves as validation of sorts for “Nice Work,” which faced delays before reaching its Broadway opening night late in April and mixed reviews when it did arrive.
In addition to “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” "Follies" (which received four acting nominations), “Evita” and "Jesus Christ Superstar" have been shortlisted for musical revival. “Leap of Faith” and “Newsies” round out the musical category. The Broadway production of "Follies" closed earlier this year and will open next week at the Ahmanson Theatre, the Broadway cast intact except for the role played by Bernadette Peters; Victoria Clark will play Sally in Los Angeles.
The lack of a prohibitive favorite this year is true on the play side as well, where a number of shows are in contention for the top prizes.
Arthur Miller's “Death of a Salesman” received seven nominations, including revival of a play, direction of a play for Mike Nichols and three acting nominations, including noms for the iconic roles of Willy and Biff Loman for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield, respectively. The other play revival nominees are "Master Class," "Gore Vidal's The Best Man" and "Wit."
“Other Desert Cities,” Jon Robin Baitz’s story of a fragmented Palm Springs family coming together over the holidays, also had a strong showing, with five nominations, including best play. The other play nominations went to "Clybourne Park," the Pulitzer Prize-winner about race, which had a somewhat disappointing day with only four overall nominations, as well as the Peter Pan origin story "Peter and the Starcatcher" and "Venus in Fur," David Ives’ new work set in a theatrical casting session. (The same production of "Clybourne Park" being seen on Broadway was seen at the Mark Taper Forum earlier this year. "Other Desert Cities" is scheduled at the Taper late this year.)
“Once” began life as a film in 2006 before its stage musical premiere in late 2011 at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop. It made a quick jump to Broadway, where it was received positive if not overwhelming reviews.
On the other end of the Tony spectrum, the long-embattled musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," which became eligible for prizes in this Tony-voting cycle, landed just two nominations, both in technical categories: scenic design and costume design of a musical.
On the acting side, in addition to Hoffman, James Corden ("One Man, Two Guvnors"), James Earl Jones ("Gore Vidal’s The Best Man"), Frank Langella ("Man and Boy") and John Lithgow ("The Columnist") all received nods for performance by an actor in a play.
Nina Arianda ("Venus in Fur"), Tracie Bennett ("End of the Rainbow,"), Stockard Channing ("Other Desert Cities"), Linda Lavin ("The Lyons") and Cynthia Nixon ("Wit") are the nominees for performance by an actress in a play.
Danny Burstein and Ron Raines of "Follies" each was nominated for performance by an actor in a leading role of a musical, joined by Jeremy Jordan ("Newsies"), Steve Kazee ("Once") and Norm Lewis ("The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess").
The actress side of the category included Jan Maxwell of "Follies" as well as Audra McDonald ("The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"), Cristin Milioti ("Once"), Kelli O’Hara ("Nice Work if You Can Get It") and Laura Osnes ("Bonnie and Clyde").