"Hedwig and the Angry Inch," a cult off-Broadway hit about a transgender East German performer, stars Neil Patrick Harris and won eight nominations, while "After Midnight," a musical celebrating Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club nightclub, got seven, tied with "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" and a British revival of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." Bryan Cranston won a nod for playing Lyndon Johnson in "All the Way," and Woody Allen got one for turning his film "Bullets Over Broadway" into a musical.
The nominations also made waves for snubbing some big names, including Denzel Washington, James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Michelle Williams, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Zach Braff, Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig. Daniel Radcliffe struck out for his third consecutive Broadway show.
Danny Burstein got one of the two nods "Cabaret" received and though it was his fifth nomination, he said he was sad that co-star Williams missed out on one in her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles.
"I'm heartbroken that she wasn't nominated. She is so fantastic in the show. And in all my years I have never seen anyone work harder," he said. "She comes in at 5:45 every day for an 8:00 show, to work on things, run through numbers."
The musicals up for the big prize in June are: "After Midnight," ''A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," ''Aladdin," and "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical." Shows that failed to make the cut include "Bullets Over Broadway," ''Rocky," ''If/Then" and "The Bridges of Madison County."
"It's good to be acknowledged," said Andy Karl, nominated as a leading actor for the title role in "Rocky" and who has transformed his body over three years into a fearsome boxer. "It's nice to know it was worth the time and effort." Of the lack of a best musical nomination for the show, he said he was disappointed, adding: "That's how the Tony cookie crumbles."
Jessie Mueller, nominated for playing songwriter Carole King, said she was thrilled "Beautiful" had done so well with seven nominations. She added she's still stunned by the outpouring of affection King gets.
"Every night I am still nervous about it, and I think that's what keeps me honest. I admire her so much. I take it very seriously. It's a big responsibility," said Mueller. (King, who only recently saw the show, posted on her Facebook page that she will attend the Tony Awards.)
"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" was nominated for best book by Robert L. Freedman, best original score for Freedman and Steven Lutvak, best costumes by Linda Cho, best direction by Darko Tresnjak, Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations, best featured actress in a musical for Lauren Worsham, best scenic design for Alexander Dodge and for its two lead actors: Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham.
The show, which was well received but sometimes struggled at the box office, has been considered an underdog this season, though Mays was considered a lock for a nomination: In each show, he plays all eight victims — two women and six men — and goes through 12 costume changes in the first act alone.
Disney's "Aladdin," an adaptation of the 1992 animated movie featuring a rambunctious genie, earned five nominations, including one for James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the genie.
"I know it sounds cliche, but I'm so happy to be nominated. I get to sit down at the Tonys. I'm not in the back. I'm not watching it on television. I get to sit. There's a ticket with my name on it," Iglehart said. "And I don't have to pay for it!"
Nick Cordero, a "Rock of Ages" veteran who plays a mob soldier with a flair for the dramatic in "Bullets Over Broadway," said he was flattered and exhilarated to earn a nomination for best featured actor in a musical. He admitted he had been considering leaving the business. "I'm 35 years old and I was sort of considering other options when I got this job," he said. "It's been nothing but a real gift."
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 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."
The best new play category has James Lapine's "Act One," Terrance McNally's "Mothers and Sons," Robert Schenkkan's "All the Way," John Patrick Shanley's "Outside Mullingar" and Harvey Fierstein's "Casa Valentina."
Completely ignored in that category was "The Realistic Joneses," a play by Will Eno that features Toni Collette of "United States of Tara," Marisa Tomei of "My Cousin Vinny," Michael C. Hall of "Dexter" and Tracy Letts, the Tony winning playwright and actor. None of the actors were nominated.
Mark Rylance got two nods: One as a leading actor in a play for playing the evil title character in "Richard III" and another as a featured role as a lady in "Twelfth Night." Stephen Fry also got a nomination for his featured role in "Twelfth Night."
Rylance will compete in the best leading actor in a play category with Samuel Barnett, also in "Twelfth Night," Cranston in "All The Way," Chris O'Dowd in "Of Mice and Men" and Tony Shalhoub in "Act One."
Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel, the "Frozen" singer who got a dose of attention when John Travolta mangled her name at the Oscars, also got a nomination for her role in "If/Then," the only totally original new musical on Broadway this season.
She will compete in June with Mary Bridget Davies in "A Night with Janis Joplin," Sutton Foster in "Violet," Mueller in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" and Kelli O'Hara of "The Bridges of Madison County."
A decision by a Tony administrative panel last week made Alan Cumming ineligible for a lead acting musical prize in the revival of "Cabaret" because he already won the award for the same role in 1998.
Linda Emond, who earned a nomination as the landlady Fraulein Schneider in "Cabaret," tipped her cap to Cumming, the show's emcee. "There's an economy to what he does, a brilliance to it," she said. "It's in his body. It's a privilege to be a part of the production with him."
The best play revival category includes "The Cripple of Inishmaan," ''The Glass Menagerie," ''A Raisin in the Sun" and "Twelfth Night." There are only three options for best musical revival: "Violet," ''Les Miserables" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
A new rule this year allows for a fifth nominee in the four major production categories — best musical and play and best revivals for each — if at least nine shows are eligible and the fifth-highest vote-getter finishes close enough to the fourth.
Some 870 Tony voters — members of professional groups such as the Wing, the League, Actors' Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society — will decide the final awards, which will be handed out June 8 at Radio City Music Hall. Only Broadway shows that opened in the 12 months ending on April 24 are eligible.
"I'm in shock," said Lena Hall, a Broadway veteran who earned a best featured actress in a musical for her gender-bending part beside Harris in the rock show "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
The lesson, she said of her nomination — in addition to always jump at the chance to work with Harris — is to "do what you believe in and do what you love." Hall, who has appeared in "Cats," ''Tarzan" and "Kinky Boots," said she was waiting to call her parents who were still asleep in San Francisco. "I really wasn't expecting this at all. This is crazy."
Associated Press National Writer Jocelyn Noveck in New York contributed to this report.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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