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Gazette Premium Content Tony Award nods largely skip stars for veterans

MARK KENNEDY, The Associated Press Updated: April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The Tony Awards committee largely favored tried-and-true stage veterans over flashy visitors Tuesday when announcing this year's Tony nominations, with Hollywood stars such as Bette Midler, Jessica Chastain, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes and Scarlett Johansson never hearing their names called.

With the exception of Broadway debutant Tom Hanks, the acting categories were mostly filled by established theater creatures such as Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton, Laura Osnes, Nathan Lane, Tracy Letts, David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen.

Hanks, who earned a best actor nod playing gutsy New York City newspaper columnist Mike McAlary in the late Nora Ephron's "Lucky Guy," joked that he was out of his league and that to win he'd have to beat Lane and Pierce.

"Olivier and Gielgud!" Hanks exclaimed. "It's such a thrill and a delight to be included with these guys." He added: "This makes me both giddy and nervous, and it could not be more special."

The awards will be broadcast on CBS from Radio City Music Hall on June 9. The snubs of big-name actors may mean a less starry telecast.

Stage veterans littered the play and musical categories, including the tight race to be crowned best musical. The leading contenders — "Kinky Boots" and "Matilda: The Musical" — are both stories that celebrate the little guy.

"Kinky Boots" is based on the 2005 British movie about a real-life shoe factory that struggles until it finds new life making fetish footwear. Cyndi Lauper's songs and a story by Harvey Fierstein — both nominated — have made it a crowd-pleaser.

"When we were writing this, I kept thinking 'I don't know if this show is going to be any good, but at the very least I think I've discovered a new Broadway composer,'" Fierstein said of Lauper, who was writing songs for the stage for the first time. "I could hear it. My feeling is Cyndi's going to be around for a while."

The show earned a leading 13 nominations, including sets by David Rockwell, directing and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, and nominations for its two leading men, Billy Porter and Stark Sands. Annaleigh Ashford earned a featured role nomination.

Close behind with 12 nominations is "Matilda: The Musical," the witty, dark musical adaptation of the novel by Roald Dahl that is still running in London.

"Matilda" earned nominations for Peter Darling's choreography, Matthew Warchus' directing, Chris Nightingale's orchestrations, Dennis Kelly's book, Tim Minchin's lyrics and songs, and Bertie Carvel for best leading role in a musical.

Carvel, who also played the evil headmistress Miss Trunchbull in London, said he is enjoying his time in New York, although he did admit to being nervous about how Americans would react. "I feel like I've landed on happy shores," he said. "The show is in great shape. People are loving it."

"Matilda" was one nomination shy of "Kinky Boots" and could have caught up if the four girls who rotate as the lead — Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro — landed a best actress nod. But they were deemed ineligible.

Both "Kinky Boots" and "Matilda" will duke it out for the best musical prize with the acrobatic "Bring It On: The Musical" and "A Christmas Story, The Musical," adapted from the beloved holiday movie.

The nominations Tuesday proved that recognition for theater work is not easy for stars. Midler, appearing on Broadway for the first time in 30 years, got nothing despite being in a one-woman show. And Johansson and Chastain, Hollywood princesses, were greeted with a Broadway shrug.

The best play nominees are Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties," Ephron's "Lucky Guy," Colm Toibin's "The Testament of Mary" and Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike."

In addition to Hanks, nominees for leading actor in a play are Lane for "The Nance," Pierce from "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Tom Sturridge from "Orphans," and Letts from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

"Lucky Guy" got six nominations, including a best featured actor nod for Courtney B. Vance. He and Hanks were among the few actors in the production to work with Ephron before her death last year. "She'd be ecstatic. She'd be grinning ear to ear," Vance said. "And she is, right now."

The best musical revival candidates are "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," ''Annie," ''The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and "Pippin," which nabbed 10 nominations.

Patina Miller, last on Broadway as the heroine of "Sister Act," stepped into the Ben Vereen role of Leading Player in "Pippin" and earned her second straight nomination.

The first time, she said, "I was so nervous about saying and doing the right things. This time, I've enjoyed it, I've been given a great opportunity and I want to keep enjoying it. Not a lot of people get to experience something like this."

The producers of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" saw both their Cinderella — Laura Osnes — and her prince — Santino Fontana — nominated for leading roles in a musical.

"I'm floating on air! I think I am over the tears now," said Osnes. "I started crying when Santino's name was called. So I was already crying when they called mine. I am just so thrilled, so excited."

Candidates for best leading actress in a play include Metcalf of "The Other Place," Morton in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Nielsen of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Holland Taylor in her one-woman show, "Ann," and Cicely Tyson in "The Trip to Bountiful." With such talent on show, notably squeezed out were Fiona Shaw of "The Testament of Mary" and Jessica Hecht in "The Assembled Parties."

Durang, the playwright of "Vanya and Sonia," wrote parts in it for both Nielsen and Weaver.

"We're both really lucky to have someone of his caliber that would even think of putting words in our mouth," Nielsen said. "I wish he were here to put words in my mouth today!"

The revival of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy," a play about a young man torn between his natural talent as a violinist and the fast money and fame of being a boxer, earned eight nominations, the most for any play.

Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties," a New York City drama concerning the power of familial bonds, earned three nominations, including ones for Judith Light, scenic design and best play.

"It's been so luxuriously treated by this production," the playwright said. "It was given such care and attention. I think you only get something that unblemished once. And so I'm relishing it."

Kenneth Posner had a great morning. The lighting designer got three of four slots — for "Kinky Boots," ''Pippin" and "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella." He will face off against Hugh Vanstone, the lighting designer for "Matilda: The Musical."

Playwright Douglas Carter Beane earned a best book nomination for the lush, big musical "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," but not for his more intimate play "The Nance," although it earned five nods. A veteran, he rolled with it Tuesday morning.

"You just have to really enjoy it when you get nominated and you have to just not care when you're not," he said. "It's one of those little rules you learn. Like, only read the reviews that they put outside the theater."

The hit-stuffed "Motown: The Musical," about Motown Records under founder Berry Gordy, earned four nominations, including Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross and Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson.

LeKae, who was an understudy or swing in four other Broadway shows, is making her Broadway debut as a leading lady and said everything in her life has prepared her for the role. She grew up listening to Ross and performing her songs.

"It's very interesting the way life works out. I left 'The Book of Mormon' last year in March and I was a swing for the show," she said. "It's amazing how life can change in a matter of a year's time. You can be swinging one year and be nominated the next."

Shalita Grant, who plays a housekeeper convinced she can see the future in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," was woken by her publicist with the news that she's landed a features actress nomination. Unlike her character, she never expected it.

"I did not think this was going to happen with all of the people, with all of the shows, with all of the names. I've only been on Broadway for like two months. I'm like, 'I don't see this in my future,'" she said, laughing. "You know what? We'll just hope for the best. There's a quote that I love, which is, 'If you shoot for the moon, you can usually clear the trees.'"

___

AP Entertainment Writer Frazier Moore and AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

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