"August: Osage County," the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family, captured seven nominations, followed by "The 39 Steps," a humorous reenactment of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film, which won six.
Radio City Music Hall on June 15, featured a mixture of nominees for highly praised dramatic revivals such as "Macbeth" and "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," along with well-known musicals, such as "Gypsy" and "Sunday in the Park With George." A special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theater will be presented to Stephen Sondheim at the award ceremony, to be broadcast on CBS and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.
But a new breeze was also blowing down the Great White Way, with "In the Heights" dominating the performance categories and seven nominations for "Passing Strange," a rock and blues-infused musical about a black musician from Los Angeles who sets off on a quest for artistic discovery in Amsterdam and Berlin. There were notable omissions in the nominations announced at Lincoln Center: The all-black revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," a box-office hit starring Terence Howard and James Earl Jones, received no nominations, and "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin's "The Farnsworth Invention" also was passed over.
Two of the season's most expensive musical productions -- "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein" and Walt Disney's "The Little Mermaid" -- received only five nominations between them. Still, that was considered a minor victory since both had received the cold shoulder from many drama critics.
Several productions created in Southern California received nominations, including the musical "Cry-Baby," which originated at the La Jolla Playhouse; "A Catered Affair" from San Diego's Old Globe Theatre; and "Come Back, Little Sheba," first seen at Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
The 2008 nominees for best new musical included "In the Heights"; "Passing Strange"; "Xanadu," a musical based on the 1980 cult classic film; and "Cry-Baby." For best new play, the nominees were Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll," Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer" and Patrick Barlow's "The 39 Steps."
In the hotly contested race for best musical revival, the nominees are "South Pacific," "Gypsy," "Sunday in the Park With George" and "Grease." The contestants for best revival of a play are "Macbeth," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," "The Homecoming" and "Boeing-Boeing."
The Tony nominees for best leading actor in a play are Laurence Fishburne in "Thurgood," Patrick Stewart in "Macbeth," Ben Daniels in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," Mark Rylance in "Boeing-Boeing" and Rufus Sewell in "Rock 'n' Roll." For best actress, the nominees are Eve Best in "The Homecoming," Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton for "August: Osage County," Kate Fleetwood in "Macbeth" and S. Epatha Merkerson in "Come Back, Little Sheba."
Nominees for best actress in a musical are Kelli O'Hara in "South Pacific," Patti LuPone in "Gypsy," Kerry Butler in "Xanadu" and Faith Prince in "A Catered Affair." The best actor category features Lin-Manuel Miranda for "In the Heights," the musician and writer Stew for "Passing Strange," Paulo Szot in "South Pacific," Daniel Evans for "Sunday in the Park With George" and Tom Wopat for "A Catered Affair."
Nominations for best featured actor in a play went to Bobby Cannavale for "Mauritius," Raul Esparza for "The Homecoming," Conleth Hill and Jim Norton for "The Seafarer" and David Pittu for "Is He Dead?" The featured actress nominations went to Sinead Cusack in "Rock 'n' Roll," Mary McCormack in "Boeing-Boeing," Laurie Metcalf in "November," Rondi Reed in "August:" Osage County" and Martha Plimpton in "Top Girls."
In the musical category, the nominees for best featured actor are Daniel Breaker for "Passing Strange," Danny Burstein in "South Pacific," Robin De Jesús for "In the Heights," Boyd Gaines for "Gypsy" and Christopher Fitzgerald for "Young Frankenstein." Featured actress nods went to de'Adre Aziza in "Passing Strange," Olga Merediz for "In the Heights," Andrea Martin in "Young Frankenstein," Laura Benanti in "Gypsy" and Loretta Ables Sayre in "South Pacific."
The nominations for best director of a play went to Maria Aitken for "The 39 Steps," Conor McPherson for "The Seafarer," Anna D. Shapiro for "August: Osage County" and Matthew Warchus for "Boeing-Boeing." In the musical category, the nods went to Arthur Laurents for "Gypsy," Bartlett Sher for "South Pacific," Thomas Kail for "In the Heights" and Sam Buntrock for "Sunday in the Park With George."
Other special awards announced Tuesday included the annual Regional Theatre Tony Award, for Chicago's Shakespeare Theater, and a special award for the late Robert Russell Bennett, a highly praised orchestrator who worked on the original "South Pacific," among many other productions.
A full list of nominees is at latimes.com/arts.