'Hamilton' leads Tony Awards nominations

Posted at 7:57 AM, May 03, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — The megahit musical "Hamilton" has grabbed a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations, the biggest haul in Broadway history and another notch in the show's march into theatrical history.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary on Tuesday broke the 15-nominations record held by "The Producers" and "Billy Elliot." ''Hamilton" was nominated in virtually every category it could compete in, from acting to scenic design.

"I feel really grateful that they kind of spread the wealth. It's hard to ask for more, Miranda said. "This isn't a book award. This isn't like I wrote some novel by myself with an editor. Theater requires collaboration and I'm lucky to be working with some of the best people in their respective fields alive right now."

Next month, "Hamilton" will fight for Broadway's biggest crown — best new musical — with "Bright Star," ''School of Rock," ''Shuffle Along" and "Waitress."

"Waitress," a musical with songs by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles that is adapted from a 2007 film starring Keri Russell about a waitress and pie-maker trapped in a small-town diner and a loveless marriage, earned four nominations.

"I'm so grateful to have found my way back toward the theater community. I grew up doing theater. It's how I learned to listen to music," Bareilles said. "This experience of working on 'Waitress' has so changed my life in personal ways and professional ways."

"School of Rock," the adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes of the Jack Black movie about a wannabe rocker who enlists fifth-graders to form a rock group, earned four nominations, including best musical, book, original score and best leading man in Alex Brightman.

"It's a funny season this one, isn't it," said Lloyd Webber from London. "As you know, it's the 'Hamil-Tonys.' We've gotten everything we could have hoped for and that's all we'll get. But it's lovely in this season of all seasons to get score and musical and book. We're terribly pleased."

The best play category is composed of "Eclipsed," ''The Father," ''The Humans" and "King Charles III."

The awards will be handed out June 12, with James Corden playing host from the Beacon Theatre.

After "Hamilton," the other top nominations went to the new musical "Shuffle Along," a show that explores a groundbreaking 95-year-old musical starring, written and directed by African-Americans, which got 10 nominations, and the revival of "She Loves Me," which earned eight.

Audra McDonald, who was eligible as a lead actress in a musical, was not nominated and will not be able to win her seventh Tony.

"Hamilton" earned seven acting nominations — Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson and Renee Elise Goldsberry. It also earned nominations for scenic design, costumes, lighting design, direction, choreography, orchestrations, best book and best original score.

The loudest screams in Miranda's house Tuesday morning were for the announcement of Jackson, who plays George Washington. Jackson was one of the first people to audition in New York in 2002. "To see him get recognized got a particularly loud scream from my parents and my wife and I," Miranda said.

Soo, nominated for best leading actress in a musical, will face off against Laura Benanti, a previous Tony winner who stars in "She Loves Me," the 1963 romantic musical by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock about two star-crossed co-workers at a perfume store.

Benanti and Soo also face competition from Carmen Cusack in "Bright Star," Cynthia Erivo in "The Color Purple" and Jessie Mueller in "Waitress."

"It feels like in this political climate and what's happening in our nation as well as so much violence happening all over the world that to have 2 hours and 45 minutes to just sit in a theater and smile and laugh and be transported to a sweeter, softer place feels really necessary to me right now," said Benanti, who was enjoying her first-time nomination in a leading actress category.

"I think that there is room for so many different types of shows on Broadway and that's what I'm loving about this particular Broadway season. You can go to a show and be educated. You can go to a show and be entertained. Our particular show feels like putting on the most comfortable pajamas you've ever owned."

"Hamilton" has burst through the Broadway bubble like few shows. U.S. presidential candidates have tweeted about it, it has influenced the debate over the nation's currency and the show has been referenced on "Saturday Night Live" and "Inside Amy Schumer."

Some Hollywood stars didn't do so well on Tuesday, with Clive Owen, Al Pacino, Bruce Willis, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan and George Takei all missing out on nods. But Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne earned nominations for the revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night," and Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels got ones for "Blackbird."

Daniels compared their work to the "The Defiant Ones" starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, who appeared onscreen chained together. "That's what it feels like because there's such a yin and a yang, act-react to it. I told her in February, 'Half my performance is in you,'" he said. "So I was thrilled for her as I was for me."

Visionary director Ivo van Hove, who had two Arthur Miller revivals this season of "The Crucible" and "A View from the Bridge," got a nod only for "A View from the Bridge," although both plays got nominated for best revivals.

His frequent collaborator, Jan Versweyveld, was nominated for the lighting design for both plays as well as best scenic design for "A View from the Bridge."