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‘Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812’ leads Tony nods

UPDATED: Tue., May 2, 2017, 8:51 p.m.

By Mark Kennedy Associated Press

NEW YORK – “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” a sung-through musical that dramatizes a 70-page melodrama at the center of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” earned a leading 12 Tony Award nominations on Tuesday, which also saw nods for Bette Midler, Kevin Kline, Josh Groban, Danny DeVito and Cate Blanchett.

Groban earned a nod for portraying – in a fat suit – an unhappy husband in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” His musical will now compete for the best new musical Tony with “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Groundhog Day.”

“Come From Away,” which is co-produced by Coeur d’Alene’s Laura Little, earned seven nominations, including best book, original score, lighting and direction. The musical is set in the small Newfoundland town of Gander, which opened its arms and homes to some 7,000 airline passengers diverted there when the U.S. government shut down its airspace on 9/11.

Jenn Colella, who plays an airline pilot in the show, got a nomination for best featured actress in a musical, but missed the announcement because she thought it was 30 minutes later. “I figured by the sheer number of texts coming in that something good must have happened for me,” she said.

Her show lands on Broadway just as a debate over immigration and open borders has reignited following the Trump administration’s push for a ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations. Colella hopes her musical is a salve.

“Being mean has become OK,” said Colella. “I don’t know when that happened and so if anything this is a reminder that, first of all, we’re all compassionate and that kindness needs practice, like anything else. And we need to get back into the practice of that.”

The best play nominees are “Sweat,” “Oslo,” “Indecent” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” The category sees a former playwriting teacher – Paula Vogel of “Indecent” – face-off against one of her former students, Lynn Nottage, who this year won her second Pulitzer Prize for the drama “Sweat.” Both women are making their Broadway debuts this season.

“I’m just so glad I quit my day job,” joked Vogel, 65. “To finally make it here is pretty nice and to be in this company is an honor. I’m happy for all of us.”

The best play revivals are “August Wilson’s Jitney,” “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes,” “Present Laughter” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Andy Karl earned his third Tony nominations as the star of the musical “Groundhog Day,” based on the much-loved 1993 movie about a jaded weatherman forced to live the same day over, with Karl starring in the Bill Murray role of Phil Connors. Karl earned Broadway respect for struggling through opening night with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“I think what I’ve always grown up knowing in the theater – and it’s one of the biggest sayings – is that ‘the show must go on,“’ said Karl, who attended the Met Gala on Monday night and said he’ll soon be able to handle the demands of his show for all eight performances a week. “We all get up and we go for it.”

The Midler-led revival of “Hello, Dolly!” was the second-highest nominated show this season with 10 nods. The quirky coming-of-age musical “Dear Evan Hansen” earned nine.

Ben Platt, a star of the “Pitch Perfect” films who recently made the list of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world, got a nod as the star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” a show that centers on a profoundly lonely 17-year-old who fabricates a prior friendship with a classmate who has just committed suicide.

Platt, who has been with the show since its inception, invited his mother to fly to New York and watch the nominations. “I grew up watching the Tonys – devouring the Tonys each year – so just to be named is a surreal experience,” he said. Tonight’s performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” he predicted would have an extra bounce. “How could it not?” he joked.

This year, there are 24 competitive Tony categories. Winners will be determined by some 850 industry insiders. Kevin Spacey will host the awards show June 11 from Radio City Music Hall.

Midler will compete with “War Paint” stars Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole; Denee Benton, of “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” and Eva Noblezada of “Miss Saigon.”

In a quirk, Midler actually earned her first Tony nomination but has already won one of the trophies – the 1974 Special Tony Award for “for adding luster to the Broadway season” during a concert stand the year before at the Palace Theatre.

DeVito earned a nomination for his Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” about an embittered New York City police officer feels that life has passed him by while he took care of his now-dead father. Asked why it took him so long to get to Broadway, DeVito joked: “Have you seen the size of these Broadway dressing rooms?”

Blanchett, an Oscar-winner also made her Broadway debut in Anton Chekhov’s “The Present.” Foer the best leading actress trophy, she will face-off against Jennifer Ehle of “Oslo,” Sally Field in “The Glass Menagerie,” Laura Linney of “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” and Laurie Metcalf in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

Unlike last year when “Hamilton” vacuumed up Tony nominations, this year’s nods were scattered. Some “Hamilton” alumni struggled this time. Phillipa Soo saw her show “Amelie” get no nominations, while “Bandstand,” led by director and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, didn’t snag a coveted best musical nod, although he was nominated for choreography. Other shows ignored by the nominators include the revival of “Cats,” the box office hit “A Bronx Tale” and the already-closed “In Transit,” Broadway’s first a cappella musical.

Kline earned his nomination in Noel Coward’s 1939 farce “Present Laughter,” about an egomaniacal matinee idol in the midst of personal turmoil. He will compete for the best leading actor Tony with Denis Arndt of “Heisenberg,” Chris Cooper from “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” Corey Hawkins in “Six Degrees of Separation” and Jefferson Mays from “Oslo.”

The list

Select nominations for the 2017 Tony Awards, announced Tuesday.

Best Musical: “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day The Musical,” “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

Best Play: “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Indecent,” “Oslo,” “Sweat.

Best Book of a Musical: “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day The Musical,” “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater: “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Groundhog Day The Musical,” “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

Best Revival of a Play: “August Wilson’s Jitney,” “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes,” “Present Laughter,” “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Best Revival of a Musical: “Falsettos,” “Hello, Dolly!” “Miss Saigon.”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Denis Arndt, “Heisenberg”: Chris Cooper, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”; Corey Hawkins, “Six Degrees of Separation”; Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter”; Jefferson Mays, “Oslo.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Cate Blanchett, “The Present”; Jennifer Ehle, “Oslo”; Sally Field, “The Glass Menagerie”; Laura Linney, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”; Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Christian Borle, “Falsettos”; Josh Groban, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”; Andy Karl, “Groundhog Day The Musical”; David Hyde Pierce, “Hello, Dolly!”; Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Denee Benton, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”; Christine Ebersole, “War Paint”; Patti LuPone, “War Paint”; Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!”; Eva Noblezada, “Miss Saigon.”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Michael Aronov, “Oslo”; Danny DeVito, “Arthur Miller’s The Price”; Nathan Lane, “The Front Page”; Richard Thomas, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”; John Douglas Thompson, “August Wilson’s Jitney.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Johanna Day, “Sweat”; Jayne Houdyshell, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”; Cynthia Nixon, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes”; Condola Rashad, “A Doll’s House, Part 2”; Michelle Wilson, “Sweat.”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!”; Mike Faist, “Dear Evan Hansen”; Andrew Rannells, “Falsettos”; Lucas Steele, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”; Brandon Uranowitz, “Falsettos.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Kate Baldwin, “Hello, Dolly!”; Stephanie J. Block, “Falsettos”; Jenn Colella, “Come From Away”; Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen”; Mary Beth Peil, “Anastasia.”

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