‘Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812’ leads Tony nods

NEW YORK (AP) — “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” a sung-through musical that dramatizes a 70-page melodrama at the center of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” earned a leading 12 Tony Award nominations on Tuesday, which also saw nods for Bette Midler, Kevin Kline, Josh Groban, Danny DeVito and Cate Blanchett.

Groban earned a nod for portraying — in a fat suit — an unhappy husband in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” His musical will now compete for the best new musical Tony with “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Groundhog Day.”

The best play nominees are “Sweat,” “Oslo,” “Indecent” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” The category sees a former teacher — Paula Vogel of “Indecent” — face-off against her former student, Lynn Nottage, who this year won her second Pulitzer Prize for the drama “Sweat.” Both women are making their Broadway debuts this season.

The best play revivals are “August Wilson’s Jitney,” “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes,” “Present Laughter” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Andy Karl earned his third Tony nominations as the star of the musical “Groundhog Day,” based on the much-loved 1993 movie about a jaded weatherman forced to live the same day over, with Karl starring in the Bill Murray role of Phil Connors. Karl earned Broadway respect for struggling through opening night with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“I think what I’ve always grown up knowing in the theater — and it’s one of the biggest sayings — is that `the show must go on,”‘ said Karl, who attended the Met Gala on Monday night and said he’ll soon be able to handle the demands of his show for all eight performances a week. “We all get up and we go for it.”

The Midler-led revival of “Hello, Dolly!” was the second-highest nominated show this season with 10 nods. The quirky coming-of-age musical “Dear Evan Hansen” earned nine.

Ben Platt, a star of the “Pitch Perfect” films who recently made the list of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world, got a nod as the star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” a show that centers on a profoundly lonely 17-year-old who fabricates a prior friendship with a classmate who has just committed suicide.

Platt, who has been with the show since its inception, invited his mother to fly to New York and watch the nominations. “I grew up watching the Tonys — devouring the Tonys each year — so just to be named is a surreal experience,” he said. Tonight’s performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” he predicted would have an extra bounce. “How could it not?” he joked.

This year, there are 24 competitive Tony categories. Winners will be determined by some 850 industry insiders. Kevin Spacey will host the awards show June 11 from Radio City Music Hall.

Midler will compete with “War Paint” stars Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole; Denee Benton, of “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” and Eva Noblezada of “Miss Saigon.”

In a quirk, Midler actually earned her first Tony nomination but has already won one of the trophies — the 1974 Special Tony Award for “for adding luster to the Broadway season” during a concert stand the year before at the Palace Theatre.

“Come From Away” earned seven nominations, including best book, original score, lighting and direction. The musical is set in the small Newfoundland town of Gander, which opened its arms and homes to some 7,000 airline passengers diverted there when the U.S. government shut down its airspace on 9/11.

Jenn Colella, who plays an airline pilot in the show, got a nomination for best featured actress in a musical, but missed the announcement because she thought it was 30 minutes later. “I figured by the sheer number of texts coming in that something good must have happened for me,” she said.

Her show lands on Broadway just as a debate over immigration and open borders has reignited following the Trump administration’s push for a ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations. Colella hopes her musical is a salve.

“Being mean has become OK,” said Colella. “I don’t know when that happened and so if anything this is a reminder that, first of all, we’re all compassionate and that kindness needs practice, like anything else. And we need to get back into the practice of that.”

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