‘What America should be’ – Broadway celebrates wide variety

Musicals based on the children's TV show and 2004 comedy landed 12 nominations each.

This image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows a performance of "Mean Girls," in New York. The Tony Awards race is dominated by big established brands, including Disney's “Frozen,” J.K. Rowling's “Harry Potter” franchise, Tina Fey's “Mean Girls” and Nickelodeon's “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The nominations for the 72nd Tony Awards will be announced on Tuesday, May 1. (Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP) –The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Tony voters on Tuesday celebrated everything from the goofy to the grotesque on Broadway, handing out nominations in double digits to such varied shows as Tina Fey’s catty “Mean Girls,” the sprawling AIDs drama “Angels in America,” a grown-up Harry Potter play and a candy-colored slice of seafood in “SpongeBob SquarePants” musical.

“I feel like that’s what you want — you want a diverse community coming to the theater,” said Fey, who got a writing nomination for her Broadway debut. “It just feels like there’s something for everyone, which is how it should be.”

Seven shows earned 10 or more nominations, led by “Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 12 each. “Angels in America,” ”The Band’s Visit” and “Carousel” tied with 11, and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “My Fair Lady” each got 10.

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“It’s really exciting to be part of this nice mix,” said “Mean Girls” star Taylor Louderman, a first-time nominee who plays a high school queen bee laid low. “I’m really glad that we’re not leaving out a genre or commercial theater.”

The best new musical category is filled by “The Band’s Visit,” ”Frozen,” ”Mean Girls” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Those musicals that failed to make the cut were the Hal Prince revue “Prince of Broadway,” the Jimmy Buffett musical “Escape to Margaritaville” and “Summer,” about disco diva Donna Summer.

J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise extended its magical touch to Broadway, with the two-part stage play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” earning nominations for lead actor Jamie Parker, featured actor Anthony Boyle, featured actress Noma Dumezweni, set design, costumes, lighting, sound design, choreography and a director nod for John Tiffany.

Boyle, who plays Scorpius Malfoy, originated the role in London but said he’s having a ball with Broadway audiences. “They’re so vocal, it’s like having an extra cast member onstage,” he said. “You hear audible gasps, and sobs. Broadway audiences are incomparable.”

Another British revival, “Angels in America,” Tony Kushner’s monumental, two-part drama about AIDS, life and love during the 1980s in New York, grabbed the most nominations for any play in Tony history. Its 11 nods beat Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia” and August Wilson’s “Fences,” which both got 10.

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Denise Gough, who plays Harper Pitt in “Angels in America,” was just pleased that the British import landed so gracefully on Broadway. “We’re doing New York’s play! That is a total privilege,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be terrible if we came back and you were all like, what have you done with our play?”

Katrina Lenk earned her first Tony nomination for “The Band’s Visit,” based on a 2007 Israeli film about an accidental clash of cultures when an Egyptian orchestra gets lost and ends up in the wrong Israeli town.

“I suppose it sounds cheesy if you say it, but it’s really an honor. It’s kind of hard to put into words. It’s a deep joy.” Next up for the actress: a nap before Tuesday night’s performance. “Then I get to do the show again. I love doing it. I love this cast. I love being here. So the best way to celebrate is just to come back and do it.”

Lenk and Louderman face competition for best actress in a musical from Lauren Ambrose of “My Fair Lady,” Hailey Kilgore of “Once On This Island,” LaChanze of “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” and Jessie Mueller of “Carousel.”

This is Tony-winner Mueller’s fourth nomination but she said it never gets old. “It’s still exciting. It always feels different because every show means something different, and is very personal in its own way. I just keep thinking of all the happy faces I’m going to see tonight when I go to work,” she said.

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Best male acting nominations for a play include Denzel Washington, starring in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s epic “The Iceman Cometh.” The 2010 Tony winner for “Fences” faces off against Andrew Garfield in “Angels in America,” Tom Hollander of “Travesties,” Parker of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and Mark Rylance in “Farinelli and The King.”

Tony-winner George C. Wolfe, who directed the original “Angels in America” in 1993, earned another nomination for his work on “The Iceman Cometh,” which captured eight nods. He celebrated a diverse Broadway season that includes a singing squid, New York drunks and high school nerds.

“It’s what Broadway should be. It’s what New York should be. It’s what America should be,” Wolfe said. “Awards are complicated, wonderfully silly things, but it’s really nice when they are reflective of a season that is telling as many different stories as can be told.”

Amy Schumer, who made her Broadway debut in Steve Martin’s comedy “Meteor Shower,” won a nomination for best actress in a play. Others in the category include Glenda Jackson from “Three Tall Women,” Condola Rashad in “Saint Joan” and Lauren Ridloff in “Children of a Lesser God.”

Ridloff, a deaf actress making her Broadway debut in the revival of Mark Medoff’s 1979 play, is following in the footsteps of Phyllis Frelich, who pioneered the part in 1980 and won a Tony in the same role. In the play, a teacher at a school for the deaf, who becomes romantically involved with a former student, Sarah.

“The messages that come with this story reach to all people that are marginalized — women, people of color, differently abled people,” Ridloff texted on Tuesday. “I just keep my focus on telling Sarah’s story — that is the most important thing to me at the end of the day.”

“Carousel,” ”My Fair Lady” and “Once on This Island” make up the best musical revival category, mostly because they’re the only shows eligible.

Michael Cera and “Atlanta” star Brian Tyree Henry both were recognized for their featured performances in the Kenneth Lonergan play “Lobby Hero,” which will compete with “Angels in America,” ”Three Tall Women,” ”Travesties” and “The Iceman Cometh” for best plat revival.

One surprise was the relatively few nominations for Disney’s “Frozen” — three, for best original score, best book and best musical. The much-anticipated adaptation of the animated blockbuster got no nominations for its leading ladies — Caissie Levy and Patti Murin— or for traditional Disney strengths like sets and costumes.

While Broadway veterans like Louderman, Mark Rylance and Condola Rashad all received nominations, some Hollywood stars were shut out, including Uma Thurman, Chris Evans and Clive Owen.

Bruce Springsteen, whose solo show mixes songs and stories from his best-selling memoir “Born to Run” and has been banking over $2 million each week he’s onstage, will be granted a special, non-competitive Tony, along with John Leguizamo for “Latin History for Morons.”

Plenty of nominations don’t necessarily lead to actual wins on Tony night. While “Hamilton” was nominated for 16 awards in 2016 and went on to win 11, just last year “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” earned a leading 12 nominations but got just two technical awards on the big night.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS at 8 p.m. June 10.

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Associated Press writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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