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'Billy Elliot' and 'God of Carnage' lead Tony Award nominations

May 5, 2009 |  6:38 am

A musical about an impoverished boy who's gotta dance and a comedy about clashing suburban couples emerged as Tony Award front-runners when nominations were announced today.

"Billy Elliot" not only danced off with the most bids among tuners (15), but it tied the Tonys record, which was set by "The Producers" in 2001. That tuner went on to win the most trophies ever (12). "Billy Elliot" received a bid for best musical, and a curious nomination for best actor that encompassed all three boys who portray Billy on different nights on a rotating basis — David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish. For the fifth time in Tonys history, multiple actors have been bundled together into a single nomination. Read about the other four previous cases here.

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Also nominated for best musical are "Next to Normal," "Shrek" and "Rock of Ages." Missing from the lineup are "9 to 5," which led with a record number of drama desk nominations (15), and [title of show], which was a huge critical hit when it transferred from off-Broadway to the Lyceum Theatre last July before closing in October. The inclusion of "Rock of Ages" was a big surprise to most Tonys pundits, who had predicted that either "9 to 5" or "[title of show]" would take the fourth slot. The bid for "Rock of Ages" is great news for the L.A. theater scene since the jukebox musical about 1980s rocks bands on the Sunset Strip originated at the King King Club in Hollywood before moving to Broadway.

There was no surprise in the race for best play. All four leading contenders pulled through: "God of Carnage," a comedy by Yasmina Reza about suburban hypocrisy (six noms); "33 Variations," Moises Kaufman's drama about a woman (Jane Fonda) striving to solve the riddle of a composer's 200-year-old obsession (five); "Reasons to Be Pretty," Neil LaBute's expose of America's obsession with physical beauty (three); and "Dividing the Estate," a comedy about the collapsing fortune of a Southern aristocratic family by Horton Foote (two).

In that bout over which show will win best play on June 7 when trophies are doled out at Radio City Musical Hall, Foote's show may be considered a sentimental fave because no work by the late, great playwright ever won the top Tony, but "Estate" closed in early January after a six-week run. However, "Carnage" is considered to be the front-runner because it's a big hit packed with big stars (Marcia Gay Harden, James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis) written by a playwright (Yasmina Reza) who won best play in 1998 for "Art."

Fonda and all of the "Carnage" stars were nominated for best lead actor or actress in a play, in addition to Geoffrey Rush ("Exit the King"), Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter ("Mary Stuart"). Among the notable stars up for best lead musical performance are two "West Wing" alums — Stockard Channing ("Pal Joey") and Allison Janney ("9 to 5") and "American Idol" also-ran Constantine Maroulis ("Rock of Ages").

Notable snubs include Tovah Feldshuh ("Irena's Vow"), Daniel Radcliffe ("Equus"), Kristin Scott Thomas ("The Seagull") and "Waiting for Godot" stars Bill Irwin and Nathan Lane.

One nomination in the race for featured (or supporting) acting takes a starring role at this year's Tonys: Angela Lansbury's bid for portraying a wacky psychic in "Blithe Spirit." If she wins, as most pundits predict, she'll tie Julie Harris' record for having the most Tony Awards for acting. Lansbury's previous wins were all in the the category for best musical actress: "Mame" (1966), "Dear World" (1969), "Gypsy" (1975) and "Sweeney Todd" (1979). Read more about this Tonys record, Julie Harris' victories and Lansbury's kudos history here.

BEST PLAY
"Dividing the Estate"
"God of Carnage"
"Reasons to Be Pretty"
"33 Variations"

BEST MUSICAL
"Billy Elliot, The Musical"
"Next to Normal"
"Rock of Ages"
"Shrek the Musical"

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
"Billy Elliot, the Musical," Lee Hall
"Next to Normal," Brian Yorkey
"Shrek the Musical," David Lindsay-Abaire
"[title of show]," Hunter Bell

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS)
"Billy Elliot, the Musical" -- music: Elton John, lyrics: Lee Hall
"Next to Normal" -- music: Tom Kitt, lyrics: Brian Yorkey
"9 to 5: The Musical" -- music & lyrics: Dolly Parton
"Shrek The Musical" -- music: Jeanine Tesori, lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
"Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
"Mary Stuart"
"The Norman Conquests"
"Waiting for Godot"

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
"Guys and Dolls"
"Hair"
"Pal Joey"
"West Side Story"

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT
"Liza's at the Palace"
"Slava's Snowshow"
"Soul of Shaolin"
"You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jeff Daniels, "God of Carnage"
Raúl Esparza, "Speed-the-Plow"
James Gandolfini, "God of Carnage"
Geoffrey Rush, "Exit the King"
Thomas Sadoski, "Reasons to Be Pretty"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hope Davis, "God of Carnage"
Jane Fonda, "33 Variations"
Marcia Gay Harden, "God of Carnage"
Janet McTeer, "Mary Stuart"
Harriet Walter, "Mary Stuart"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish‚ "Billy Elliot"
Gavin Creel, "Hair"
Brian d'Arcy James, "Shrek"
Constantine Maroulis, "Rock of Ages"
J. Robert Spencer, "Next to Normal"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Stockard Channing, "Pal Joey"
Sutton Foster, "Shrek"
Allison Janney, "9 to 5: The Musical"
Alice Ripley, "Next to Normal"
Josefina Scaglione, "West Side Story"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
John Glover, "Waiting for Godot"
Zach Grenier, "33 Variations"
Stephen Mangan, "The Norman Conquests"
Paul Ritter, "The Norman Conquests"
Roger Robinson, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hallie Foote, "Dividing the Estate"
Jessica Hynes, "The Norman Conquests"
Marin Ireland, "Reasons to Be Pretty"
Angela Lansbury, "Blithe Spirit"
Amanda Root, "The Norman Conquests"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Bologna, "Billy Elliot"
Gregory Jbara, "Billy Elliot"
Marc Kudisch, "9 to 5"
Christopher Sieber, "Shrek"
Will Swenson, "Hair"

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Jennifer Damiano, "Next to Normal"
Haydn Gwynne, "Billy Elliot"
Karen Olivo, "West Side Story"
Martha Plimpton, "Pal Joey"
Carole Shelley, "Billy Elliot"

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dale Ferguson, "Exit the King"
Rob Howell, "The Norman Conquests"
Derek McLane, "33 Variations"
Michael Yeargan, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Robert Brill, "Guys and Dolls"
Ian MacNeil, "Billy Elliot"
Scott Pask, "Pal Joey"
Mark Wendland, "Next to Normal"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Dale Ferguson, "Exit the King"
Jane Greenwood, "Waiting for Godot"
Martin Pakledinaz, "Blithe Spirit"
Anthony Ward, "Mary Stuart"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregory Gale, "Rock of Ages"
Nicky Gillibrand, "Billy Elliot"
Tim Hatley, "Shrek"
Michael McDonald, "Hair"

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
David Hersey, "Equus"
David Lander, "33 Variations"
Brian MacDevitt, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
Hugh Vanstone, "Mary Stuart"

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Kevin Adams, "Hair"
Kevin Adams, "Next to Normal"
Howell Binkley, "West Side Story"
Rick Fisher, "Billy Elliot"

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paul Arditti, "Mary Stuart"
Gregory Clarke, "Equus"
Russell Goldsmith, "Exit the King"
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Acme Sound Partners, "Hair"
Paul Arditti, "Billy Elliot"
Peter Hylenski, "Rock of Ages"
Brian Ronan, "Next to Normal"

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Phyllida Lloyd, "Mary Stuart"
Bartlett Sher, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"
Matthew Warchus, "God of Carnage"
Matthew Warchus, "The Norman Conquests"

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Stephen Daldry, "Billy Elliot"
Michael Greif, "Next to Normal"
Kristin Hanggi, "Rock of Ages"
Diane Paulus, "Hair"

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Karole Armitage, "Hair"
Andy Blankenbuehler, "9 to 5: The Musical"
Peter Darling, "Billy Elliot"
Randy Skinner, "White Christmas"

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS
Larry Blank, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas"
Martin Koch, "Billy Elliot"
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, "Next to Normal"
Danny Troob and John Clancy, "Shrek"

* * *

Special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theater
Jerry Herman

Regional Theater Tony Award
Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award
Phyllis Newman

Tony honor for excellence in the theater
Shirley Herz

Photos: Imperial Theatre, Bernard Jacobs Theatre

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L.A.'s 'Rock of Ages' rocks Tony nominations

Culture Monster:'Billy Elliot' and 'Next to Normal' top 2009 Tony nominations

Scorecard: Tonys pundits predict the nominees

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'9 to 5,' 'Shrek' and 'Billy Elliot' lead Drama Desk Awards nominations

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