'American in Paris,' 'Fun Home' lead Tony nominations pack
NEW YORK (AP) -- The musicals "An American in Paris" and "Fun Home" each received a leading 12 Tony Award nominations on Tuesday, showing two very different sides of this Broadway season.
One side is sunny - the dance-heavy stage adaptation of the 1951 musical film with George and Ira Gershwin songs - and the other moody - the dark show based on Alison Bechdel's coming of age graphic novel about her closeted, suicidal dad.
"It's nice to know if something's good, there's room for it," said Max von Essen, who earned a nomination for featured actor in a musical in "American in Paris." "There's room for a smaller, darker piece and there's room for a big, show-stopping revival."
Michael Cerveris got one of the dozen nods for "Fun Home" - as best leading actor in a musical - and hopes they will attract more people to see his critically acclaimed and poignant show.
"The real value of the Tonys - and I suppose any awards - is to draw attention to something that people otherwise might not seek out. So the fact that every aspect of the production has been acknowledged is the best kind of advertising," he said.
The nominations ranged from 11-year-old Sydney Lucas in "Fun Home" to 82-year-old Chita Rivera, looking for her third Tony. Helen Mirren and Bradley Cooper each got nominations but Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kelsey Grammer and Matthew Morrison from "Glee" didn't get nods.
Rivera, who is wowing crowds just with a raised eyebrow, has championed her show, the dark John Kander and Fred Ebb musical "The Visit," since 2001. She called its arrival on Broadway "joyous" and said the experienced cast and creators are superb. "We think it's a jewel," she said.
The best new play category includes "Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two," `'Hand to God," `'Disgraced" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." Larry David's "Fish in the Dark" was snubbed entirely.
The first casualty of the nominating process was "Living on Love," which announced it would close May 3. The Renee Fleming-led play earned no nominations Tuesday and needed something to goose box office receipts. Last week, it grossed only about 16 percent of its $957,000 potential.
In addition to "An American in Paris" and "Fun Home," the best new musical category includes "Something Rotten!" and "The Visit." The Peter Pan-themed "Finding Neverland," Harvey Weinstein's first-ever venture into Broadway as a lead producer, didn't get a single nomination.
The British did well, with transfers "Wolf Hall Parts One & Two," `'The Audience", "The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time" and "Skylight" grabbing 24 nominations. Sting's "The Last Ship" earned the rocker a nomination for best original score even though his show closed in January.
"I'm just thrilled. I had no expectations. I wasn't even thinking about it. This morning when I got the news, I thought, `Yep. That's wonderful,'" Sting said. "The whole experience for me has been joy from start to finish. This is just another iteration of joy."
Another production - the revival of "The Elephant Man," about a horribly deformed man who galvanized London society in the late 19th century - plans to go the other way and open in London this summer with all 13 American actors, including Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson, who all earned nominations.
Clarkson called the play "one of the greatest experiences of my career" and was thrilled that it wasn't over when it ended its run in New York. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said. "We're invading their shores, baby! Get ready!"
"The Elephant Man" will face competition in the best play revival category from "Skylight," `'This is Our Youth" and "You Can't Take It With You." The revival of Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance," with John Lithgow and Glenn Close, failed to muster a single nomination.
The musical revival category has three strong candidates: "The King and I," `'On the Town" and `'On the Twentieth Century." (Vanessa Hudgens' "Gigi" only got one, for actress Victoria Clark.)
Ruthie Ann Miles, who earned a supporting actress nomination for playing Lady Thiang in the lush Lincoln Center Theater revival of the classic 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I," was happy she and her co-star Ken Watanabe were recognized.
"It has definitely been something that Asian-American actors have been wanting and passionately fighting for - to be recognized and also to have a more mainstream voice, to not be pegged into a very specific category," she said.
The architect and set designer David Rockwell earned nominations for the intricate detailed work he put into the play "You Can't Take It with You" and the huge train he created for "On the Twentieth Century."
He added hundreds of mementos and photos on the walls on the play's sets, while his interior train set had to give the impression of optimism, speed and opulence. "There was certainly more slamming of doors than any play I've ever worked on."
Said Rockwell: "It's an incredible privilege to do the work you love and then to have it acknowledged is just unbelievable."
The Tonys will be handed out at Radio City Music Hall on June 7. For some, that might mean another restless night.
"I couldn't sleep last night," said Robert Fairchild, who earned a best actor nod for his turn in "An American in Paris." "Not that I expected it, but to even have a glimmer, a dream, just the possibility of this happening. But I never even thought this would be a possibility - it's so surreal."
The best actress in a musical category includes Kristin Chenoweth for "On the Twentieth Century," Kelli O'Hara for "The King and I," Rivera for "The Visit," Leanne Cope from "An American in Paris" and Beth Malone from "Fun Home."
O'Hara got her sixth nomination - but has yet to win one - for her role as the English school teacher in a revival of the classic 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I."
She and Chenoweth are the hot favorites in the category to win; the two are friends and O'Hara said their two shows are "like apples and oranges."
"I certainly don't want to win because of something left over from years past. I'm doing a show every night and that needs to be judged," she said. "And that's all I can focus on."
"Something Rotten!" a big, bawdy show about the birth of the first musical, earned 10 nominations, including best book, best new score, best actor in Brian d'Arcy James and best featured actor in Christian Borle, who plays William Shakespeare like a petulant rock star.
"We love the material so much that I think the audience can feel the good will that we all have and they reciprocate in the loveliest ways," said Borle, who won a featured actor Tony for "Peter and the Starcatcher."
The actor, who seems to be having the time of his life as a Shakespeare who sings sonnets and steals lines from others, thinks The Bard will survive the portrayal. "I think he'll be just fine. He will be around long after my particular brand of chicanery has come and gone," said Borle.
The best actor in a play nominees include Cooper, Ben Miles for "Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two," Alex Sharp in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," Steven Boyer in "Hand to God," and Bill Nighy for "Skylight."
This time last year, Sharp hadn't yet graduated from Juilliard. "I never imagined this, not in my wildest dreams," said the star of moving, breathtaking show about a teenager with Asperger's syndrome who tries to find a dog's killer.
Sharp, who thought he'd be an unemployed actor for a decade, didn't miss the announcement. "Yes I was up, watching. The ones who say they aren't are probably lying," he said.
Another actor making his Broadway debut who earned a nomination is Micah Stock, who plays Gus, a fledgling actor-turned-coat check boy in "It's Only a Play."
The play stars a who's who of theater heavyweights, including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, F. Murray Abraham and Stockard Channing. But only Stock was tapped with a Tony honor. "There's certainly some sort of meta thing to be drawn from Gus and my experiences," Stock said.
The five best actresses in a play nominees are: Carey Mulligan in "Skylight," Mirren in "The Audience," Ruth Wilson in "Constellations," Geneva Carr in "Hand to God" and Elisabeth Moss in "The Heidi Chronicles."
Mirren earned her nod for playing Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience," which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and eight of Britain's prime ministers. Mirren already has an Oscar for playing the same sovereign in the film "The Queen."
"I've studied the shape of her mouth. I know her face probably better than anyone else does. But it's only my portrait," she said. "I can only surmise and imagine."
Another actor who plays a monarch was pleased, too. "I don't think there many happier King Henry VIIIs anywhere in the world," said Nathaniel Parker, who plays a ruthless and yet vulnerable monarch in the "Wolf Hall" plays, adapted from the Hilary Mantel book series about the rise of Thomas Cromwell.
Parker, who already has an Olivier Award for the role, must now duke it out with five others for best featured actor in a play. "It is such a thrill to be nominated," he said. "From the moment we started, what I dreamt of was Broadway for this play. And we've got here. And we're a hit."
Associated Press National Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits