Hollywood stars get little love at Tony nominations, but quirky musicals and Shakespeare do

  • Article by: MARK KENNEDY , Associated Press
  • Updated: April 29, 2014 - 3:40 PM
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This theater image released by the O+M Company shows a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York.

Photo: Joan Marcus, Associated Press - Ap

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NEW YORK — It was a brutal Tuesday morning for some A-list stars on Broadway.

Snubbed for Tony Award nominations were Denzel Washington, James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Michelle Williams, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Zach Braff, Billy Crudup, Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig. Daniel Radcliffe struck out for his third consecutive Broadway show.

Neil Patrick Harris, who won a nomination for his brilliant performance in the punk-rock show "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," said he was surprised by the final list. But he's been a Tony host and knows from experience the process is often rough.

"Having been the host in previous years, it's always interesting and surprising," he said. "It's a small group of people that nominate and you're never quite sure what they're responding to. That being said, it does get to showcase the talents of people who often don't get their moment in the spotlight."

One of the winners on Tuesday was unconventional musicals: "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," a romp with a leading man killed eight times, led the field with 10 nods. It was followed by "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," a rock concert by a transgender German, with eight, and "After Midnight," a candy sampler of stunning dance and singing acts, with seven.

When the dust settled, the musicals up for the Tony's biggest prize are: "After Midnight," ''A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," ''Aladdin," and "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical." Not one of the shows has a big movie star.

"It's going to be a really exciting Tony race to watch," said Scott Sanders, who produced "After Midnight," which celebrates Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club nightclub. (The nomination happened to come on Ellington's birthday.) "The four shows could not be more different in many ways."

Another big winner was the old master himself — Shakespeare. The Mark Rylance-led productions of "Richard III" and "Twelfth Night" from London together scooped up eight nominations.

Rylance, who played "Richard III," will compete in the best leading actor in a play category with Samuel Barnett, also in "Twelfth Night," Bryan Cranston in "All The Way," Chris O'Dowd in "Of Mice and Men" and Tony Shalhoub in "Act One." Rylance also snagged a supporting nomination playing a woman in "Twelfth Night."

He said he didn't care which role actually won. "My preference is being nominated," he said, laughing. "I find in my experience winning is rather an isolating, lonely experience."

The Shakespeare productions — performed by an all-male cast and seeking to replicate how the plays were produced in the Bard's day — also extended the trend on Broadway toward embracing drag.

Last year, "Kinky Boots" and "Matilda the Musical" featured leading men dressed as women. This year has "Casa Valentina," Harvey Fierstein's play about straight cross-dressers, and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," starring Neil Patrick Harris in a skirt. Even "Gentleman's Guide" features Jefferson Mays playing both genders.

While not all Hollywood stars came away empty-handed — Cranston, as expected, won a nod for playing Lyndon Johnson in "All the Way" — the lack of nominations for Broadway veterans from the film world such as Washington, Radcliffe, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, or first-timers, like Franco and Williams, was striking.

"I'm heartbroken that she wasn't nominated," said Danny Burstein, who got his fifth nod, about his "Cabaret" co-star Williams, who plays as Sally Bowles. "She is so fantastic in the show. And in all my years, I have never seen anyone work harder," he said.

One of the spots that likely may have gone to a Hollywood star instead went to Andy Karl, who transformed his body over three years into a fearsome boxer to play the title role in "Rocky."

"It's nice to know it was worth the time and effort," he said. "I've never done anything quite this extensive. It's truly an acting piece, it's truly a musical piece, it's truly a physical piece."

Five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald earned a leading actress in a play nomination for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill." That's the one female acting category in which she hasn't already notched at least one win, meaning she is in a position to make history as the Tonys' first grand-slam performance winner.

McDonald, who plays Billie Holiday, goes up against Tyne Daly from "Mothers and Sons," LaTanya Richardson Jackson of "A Raisin in the Sun," Cherry Jones from "The Glass Menagerie" and Estelle Parsons in "The Velocity of Autumn." Parsons' nomination couldn't save the play; it announced it would close this weekend after weeks of poor box office receipts.

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