"Billy Elliot" leads race for top theater honors

Tue May 5, 2009 4:14pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Billy Elliot, The Musical" led the race for U.S. theater's top honors with 15 Tony Award nominations on Tuesday, while Geoffrey Rush, Angela Lansbury, James Gandolfini and Jane Fonda were among the actors up for honors.

The Tony Awards winners, voted by about 750 industry professionals, will be announced on June 7.

Based on Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry's 2000 film about a ballet dancing schoolboy in a northern England mining town, "Billy Elliot" has already won several Laurence Olivier Awards in London and played in Australia.

The show is competing against "Shrek the Musical," "Next to Normal," and "Rock of Ages" for best musical while "Dividing the Estate," "33 Variations," "God of Carnage" and "Reasons to be Pretty" are nominated for best play.

Daldry is nominated for best direction of a musical, while Sir Elton John, who wrote the music for "Billy Elliot," is up against Dolly Parton, who wrote the music and lyrics for "9 to 5: The Musical," based on the 1980 movie starring Parton, Fonda and Lily Tomlin, in the best original score category.

"Billy Elliot" matched the record number of Tony Award nominations set by "The Producers" in 2001. "The Producers" went on to win a record 12 awards.

"Next to Normal," a musical about a suburban family coping with a crisis, has 11 nominations, while the revival of 1960s production "Hair" and "Shrek The Musical," based on the 1990 book and 2001 Oscar-winning Dreamworks film about a green ogre and a princess, nabbed eight nods.

"Mary Stuart" and "The Norman Conquests" picked up the most nominations for plays with seven each.   Continued...

<p>Actors Lin-Manuel Miranda (L) and Cynthia Nixon announce the nominees for the American Theatre Wing's 63rd Annual Tony Awards in New York, May 5, 2009. The Tony Awards will be presented at Radio City Music Hall June 7, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>