‘The Book of Mormon’ leads with 14 Tony Awards nominations

“The Book of Mormon,” the smash hit tuner from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, landed a leading 14 bids for the Tony Awards including Best Musical and for both its lead actors Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells. “The Scottsboro Boys” had a surprisingly strong showing earning 12 nominations including the top tuner prize. This hard-hitting story of racial injustice was the last musical from the Tony-winning team of Kander & Ebb and shuttered last fall after just two months.

The other two shows in contention for Best Musical are a pair of movie adaptations — “Sister Act” (5 nods, including Best Actress for Patina Miller) and “Catch Me If You Can” (4, including Best Actor for Norbert Leo Butz). With the category limited to just four shows, there was no room for another screen to stage tuner “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” That musical had to make do with just two bids — Tony Sheldon reprising his Olivier-nominated turn as a transexual and Oscar winners Tom Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner for more outrageous costumes.

Among the new plays on Broadway, “Jersualem” and “The Motherf***er With the Hat” lead with six nods apiece including Best Play and for leading performanes by Tony champ Mark Rylance (“Boeing Boeing”) and Emmy winner Bobby Canavale (“Will & Grace”) respectively. The other plays in contention for the top award are “War Horse” which was snubbed in the acting races but reaped bids across three of the four design categories and “Good People” which managed just one other nod for its leading lady, Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“Fargo”).

Only two tuner revivals contend for that prize — “Anything Goes” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” This is the third rialto production for each of these musicals. While “Anything Goes” won the 1988 combined revival award, the 1995 production of “Succeed” was bested by “Show Boat” in the musical revival race. Among the nine nods for “Anything Goes” is a fifth Best Musical Actress nomination for Sutton Foster who won with her first bid back in 2002 for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” This season, that race has just four contenders due to the lack of leading roles for women in musicals. While “Succeed” scored eight bids, Daniel Radcliffe was snubbed for the leading role that won Tonys for both Robert Morse (1962) and Matthew Broderick (1995).

Two-time Tony champ Al Pacino earned another Best Play Actor nod for his performance as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” While this was the 50th production of the Shakespearean tragic comedy to play Broadway, it was only the fifth since the Tonys were created in 1947. The most recent was the 1990 staging starring Dustin Hoffman who also earned a Best Actor bid for playing the moneylender; he lost to Robert Morse for the one-man show “Tru.” The other plays in the running for the revival award are “The Normal Heart” (5 noms), “The Importance of Being Earnest” (3) and “Arcadia” (2).

Nominees were determined by 22 theater professionals appointed by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. Winners of the 26 competitive races will decided by by 824 members of the theatrical community. The 65th annual awardsfest will be broadcast live from the Beacon Theatre on CBS on Sunday June 12, beginning at 8:00 pm ET.

The Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa will receive a special Tony Award this year for their innovative work on “War Horse.” Lifetime achievement awards will be made to playwright Athol Fugard and Philip J. Smith, Chairman of the Shubert Organization. The Isabelle Stevenson Award will be presented V-Day founder and artistic director, Eve Ensler. The 2011 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre will be presented to William Berloni, The Drama Book Shop and Sharon Jensen and Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts. And the Regional Theatre Award will be presented to Lookingglass Theatre Company of Chicago.

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