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Tony nominations spread out but 'Once' leads

Associated Press Modified: May 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm •  Published: May 1, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — There was something for virtually everyone to smile about on Broadway on Tuesday after 30 of 37 shows this season got at least one Tony Award nomination. The folks at "Once" had the most reason to celebrate tonight at their working bar on stage.

The musical based on the low-budget 2006 film about an unlikely romance between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin earned a leading 11 nominations, including nods for best musical, for both its lead actors, its book, lighting, sound, choreography and its set, which offers the audience real drinks before the show in a replica pub.

"'Once' constantly surprises me. I think it's the power of the music and the storytelling that people connect with," said John Tiffany, who was nominated for best director of a musical.

Two other big winners were Disney and the Gershwin estate: Two musicals using George and Ira Gershwin songs — "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It" — each got 10 nominations.

And "Peter and the Starcatcher," a play about the origins of Peter Pan co-produced by Disney Theatrical Productions earned nine nominations, while Disney's energetic song-and-dance musical "Newsies" got eight nods.

Christian Borle, the "Smash" star who was nominated for his hysterical performance as Black Stash in "Peter and the Starcatcher," was preparing to go on with a big smile on his face. "It's been an amazing day. So, really, I could get hit by a bus right now and think it was a net gain."

Later this summer, "Once," ''Nice Work If You Can Get It," and "Newsies" will compete for the title of best new musical with a surprise entry — "Leap of Faith," which was ravaged by critics. "Ghost the Musical," an import from London with songs by mega producers Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, failed to get nominated in the best musical category.

The fall revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" got eight nominations, setting up a face-off in the best revival category with "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," which Sondheim had criticized for messing with a classic.

The nominations, picked by 22 theatre professionals, were announced at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday by Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons. The actual awards will be broadcast on CBS from the Beacon Theatre on June 10. Neil Patrick Harris, the star of "How I Met Your Mother," will be the host.

Broadway's most expensive show, the $75 million "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," got only two nominations, for best scenic design and costume. The show, a former punch-line, is now a top-earning hit and a spokesman shrugged off the snub.

"Even without a nomination for best musical, we can assure you that the audiences this week will love the show just as much as they did last week," Rick Miramontez said.

The best new play category is very strong and includes "Clybourne Park" by Bruce Norris, "Other Desert Cities" by Jon Robin Baitz, "Peter and the Starcatcher" by Rick Elice, and David Ives' "Venus in Fur."

"It certainly is a hair-raising list of plays for this season for anybody who is in contention. I had so much fun at lots of these plays and so my hair was raised around 8:33 this morning and only settled down in last few minutes," joked Ives.

Plays that didn't make the cut included Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop," Nicky Silver's "The Lyons," David Auburn's "The Columnist" and Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar." With no nominations for "Seminar," producers said they would end performances after Sunday. Producers for "Magic/Bird" also said it would play its final performance on May 12 having failed to secure a nomination.

Ives, who likes to say that he wrote an erotic play based on a German pornographic novel from 1870, hailed its star, Nina Arianda, who stayed with it after earning raves when "Venus in Fur" was off-Broadway in 2010.

"She has all of the universe before her," he said. "I mean, she's already galaxy high at this moment. She seems to be a constellation all her own. So I have no doubt that she's going to lighten up our skies for a very long time."

In the musical revival category, "Follies" and "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" will compete against two Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice works: "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita."

"Once," with songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, was originally a low-budget movie made for about $150,000. The film earned $20 million, thanks in part to an original score that included the sublime, 2007 Oscar-winning song, "Falling Slowly." The musical is a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage.

"Once" earned its stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, best actor nominations. It also earned nods for best scenic design, best book of a musical and Elizabeth A. Davis got a nomination for an actress in a featured role.

The best leading actor in a play Tony will pit James Corden from the British import "One Man, Two Guvnors," Philip Seymour Hoffman from Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," James Earl Jones from "Gore Vidal's The Best Man," Frank Langella from "Man and Boy" and John Lithgow of "The Columnist."

"I expect to go out with the gang tonight, which I don't do very often because this play is so damned exhausting," Lithgow said, laughing. "And I intend to buy all the drinks. That's pretty unusual, too. I am a Scotsman, after all."

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