Tony nomination surprises and snubs: Not much love for 'Motown' or Bette

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Image Credit: Matthew Murphy

There were plenty of surprises in the Tony nominations this morning, starting with the fact that the most-recognized show was Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots (with 13 total nominations, including Best Musical) — and not presumed front-runner Matilda (with 12). Of course, the Roald Dahl-inspired Matilda might have picked up a tying 13th nomination had the four young actresses rotating in the title role not been ruled ineligible for Best Actress in a Musical (the quartet will share special Tony honors instead).

Plenty of familiar Hollywood names made the cut for nominations, including three in the Best Actor in a Play category: Tom Hanks (inching closer to EGOT status with his leading role in the late Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy), Nathan Lane for The Nance, and David Hyde Pierce for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

But the Tonys continued its tradition as the anti-Golden Globes, snubbing several A-listers who’ve appeared on Broadway this season. Bette Midler and Alan Cumming both earned mostly raves for their newly opened one-person shows (I’ll Eat You Last and Macbeth, respectively) but were absent from the Tony roster — in fact, their shows earned no nominations at all. Hollywood vets and past Tony winners like Scarlett Johansson (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Al Pacino (Glengarry Glen Ross) also fell short, though admittedly both garnered only mixed notices from critics. Another oddity: Though The Testament of Mary earned one of the four slots for Best Play, the provocative one-woman show’s star, Harry Potter alum Fiona Shaw, wasn’t picked as one of the five Best Actress in a Play contenders.

The clearest sign that the nominating committee wasn’t blinded by celebrity: In several cases, major stars were passed over for lower-wattage costars. Up-and-coming British actor Tom Sturridge earned a Best Actor nod for Orphans over Alec Baldwin, while scene-stealing Kristine Nielsen got a Best Actress nod over Sigourney Weaver for the comedy Vanya and Sonia. And it was Condola Rashad, not Vanessa Williams, who earned a featured actress nomination for The Trip to Bountiful. (Rashad, the daughter of former Cosby mom Phylicia, was nominated in the same category last year for Stick Fly.)

And while Motown the Musical has emerged as the biggest new hit of the season, the Tony committee seemed to go out of its way to pass it over as a Best Musical contender. In fact, the committee plucked two long-closed movie-based shows, Bring It On and A Christmas Story, to compete with Matilda and Kinky Boots. (Motown did earn four noms, including ones for lead actress Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross and for featured actor Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson.

Interestingly, the most-nominated nonmusical is another long-shuttered production, Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, which picked up eight nominations but will be unable to capitalize on them at the box office. Several still-running shows which have seen soft ticket sales in recent weeks — the musical revival Annie, actress-writer Holland Taylor’s biodrama Ann, and The Big Knife with Bobby Cannavale and nominee Richard Kind are unlikely to see a Tony bounce since they each earned but a single nomination.

Follow Thom on Twitter: @ThomGeier

Read more:
2013 Tony Nominations: ‘Kinky Boots,’ ‘Matilda,’ and ‘Pippin’ lead the pack
‘Rocky’ musical headed to Broadway in spring 2014
This Week on Stage: Bette Midler, Alan Cumming, and Cicely Tyson take the stage
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