In a thrillingly competitive year, 2011’s Tony Award nominations, announced Tuesday, 3rd May at 9:30 AM represent, for the most part, the best of the best in a year of overall excellence. In terms of sheer numbers, The Book of Mormon, the new musical from the writers of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in collaboration with Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), raked in 14, followed closely by The Scottsboro Boys, which, with 12 nominations, surprised many with its strong showing in spite of its short Brodway run in late 2010.
In the category of Best Play, Britons and Americans are tied for nominations with Stephen Adly Guirgis’ scrappy play The Motherfucker with the Hat and David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People, both American, facing off against War Horse by Nick Stafford, which arrives on Broadway via the National Theatre in London and the West End, and Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, which began its life at London’s Royal Court Theatre, a particularly fertile breeding ground for edgy new works.
Perhaps the most notable snub was Rajiv Joseph’s thrilling Iraq War drama, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, a 2010 Pulitzer nominee which failed to pick up nominations in the categories of Best Play or Best Actor (for the formidable, understated Robin Williams), though it did receive several nominations, including a nod for supporting actor Arian Moayad. The play, which received widespread praise, seems to have been overshadowed by the spectacle of War Horse, which features acclaimed puppetry by South African company Handspring (who will be awarded a Special Tony Award this year for their contributions to the production).
Sister Act, the new musical based on the 1992 film, also made a strong showing with five nominations. Chief amongst its nominations was a nod for leading actress Patina Miller. Sister Act, alongside The Book of Mormon and The Scottsboro Boys, joins another film-to-stage adaptation, Catch Me If You Can in the category of Best Musical, a particularly healthy category this year. Besides for the nominated shows, other eligible properties included Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Wonderland, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Each of the shows that made the final cut features an original score, a thrilling contrast to last year’s nominees, which, besides for under-baked winner Memphis, included the musicals Fela!, American Idiot, and Million Dollar Quartet, each featuring preexisting music.
The revival of Larry Kramer’s AIDS-era drama, The Normal Heart, which recently opened to rave reviews, snagged a total of five nomations, including a nod for Best Revival of a Play and deserved acting nominations for its leading man, Joe Mantello, as well as for supporting cast members Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey. Also in the Best Revival of a Play category are a trio of British productions: Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. In the category of Best Revival of a Musical, only two shows were eligible for nomination, so Anything Goes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying will vie for the top prize.
Also notable is the double-nomination of four director-choreographers in the categories for Best Director of a Musical and Best Choreographer of a Musical. Though Casey Nicholaw shared directing duties with Trey Parker, he and his fellow nominees have received praise for their holistically-minded approach to their respective shows, integrating dance and direction seamlessly.