By Mark Kennedy
NEW YORK — The low-tech musical Once, based on the love story of a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, received a leading 11 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, proving sentiment can sway nominators just as much as special effects.
Two other musicals — The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It — each got 10 nominations as the Tony committee spread the wealth across 30 of 37 eligible shows. Unlike last year’s The Book of Mormon, no monster single hit dominated the nominations.
Once, with songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, was originally a low-budget movie made for about $150,000.
Its director, John Tiffany, was sitting at a play in Glasgow, Scotland, when his phone began buzzing “like crazy” with word of the show’s success. He sat through the play but learned about the Tony haul after glancing at texts.
“It’s just brilliant. It’s incredible because it’s such a delicate, unassuming show. But Once constantly surprises me. I think it’s the power of the music and the storytelling that people connect with,” said Tiffany, who was nominated for best director of a musical.
His show earned its stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, best actor nominations. It also earned nods for best scenic design, best book of a musical and Elizabeth A. Davis got a nomination for an actress in a featured role.
Peter and the Starcatcher, a play about the origins of Peter Pan, earned nine nominations, and the fall revival of Follies and the new Disney musical Newsies got eight nods each.
Later this summer, Once, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Newsies will compete for the title of best musical with a surprise entry — Leap of Faith, which was ravaged by critics.
Joe DiPietro earned a Tony nomination for writing the book to Nice Work If You Can Get It, which stars Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara, who also got a nomination as a leading actress in a musical.
Other Desert Cities, a play by Jon Robin Baitz that moved to Broadway after critical acclaim at Lincoln Center Theater, earned five nominations, including best play.
Baitz’s play, about a dysfunctional, politically divided family wrestling with a deep secret in their past, also earned Stockard Channing and Judith Light acting nominations.
The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS from the Beacon Theatre on June 10. Neil Patrick Harris, the star of How I Met Your Mother, will be the host.
The best new play category includes Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, Other Desert Cities, Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice, and David Ives’ Venus in Fur. Plays that didn’t make the cut included Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, Nicky Silver’s The Lyons, David Auburn’s The Columnist and Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar.
In the musical revival category, Follies and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess will compete against two Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice works: Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.
The best leading actor in a play Tony will pit James Corden from One Man, Two Guvnors, Philip Seymour Hoffman from Death of a Salesman, James Earl Jones from Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Frank Langella from Man and Boy and John Lithgow of The Columnist.
The battle in the female leading actress play category will be fierce, with: Nina Arianda of Venus in Fur, Tracie Bennett of End of the Rainbow, Linda Lavin of The Lyons, Cynthia Nixon in Wit and Channing.