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‘Billy Elliot’ Leads in Tony Nominations

The nominations for the 2009 Tony Awards bear a distinctly Tinseltown glint, with big- and small-screen heavyweights leading the list. A number of the recognized performers — Angela Lansbury, James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden, Allison Janney and Jane Fonda, just to name a few — have had incredibly successful careers on television and in film. And many of the nominated works have been adapted from movies.

One of those adaptations is the musical “Billy Elliot,” which dominated the other productions with its 15 nominations, including best musical. Elton John received a nod for his original score and Stephen Daldry, who directed both the film and musical, was also nominated.

‘Shrek: The Musical,’ based on the 2001 animated movie, “Next to Normal” and “Rock of Ages” round out the best musical category. Actors from those productions (including former “American Idol” contestant Constantine Maroulis in “Rock of Ages”) are nominated in the best actor category, along with Gavin Creel in “Hair.” And in an unusual, but not unique situation, the three young actors who rotate in the lead role of “Billy Elliot” share the final actor nomination.

The musical send-up of the 1980 film “9 to 5” earned a best score nomination for Dolly Parton, and an acting nomination for Janney, but did not receive a best musical nod.

Janney’s former co-star on “The West Wing,” Stockard Channing, also earned a best actress in a musical nomination for “Pal Joey.” Josefina Scaglione was nominated for her role in the revival of “West Side Story,” as were actresses from “Shrek” and “Next to Normal.”

In the best play category, nominees include playwright Yasmina Reza’s star-studded “God of Carnage,” the late Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate,” Neil LaBute’s ‘Reasons to Be Pretty’ and Moises Kaufman’s Jane Fonda-headliner “33 Variations.”

This was Fonda’s first Broadway production in nearly 40 years. She’ll be up against Harden and Hope Davis, both in “Carnage,” and “Mary Stuart’s” Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter for best actress in a play.

Aside from Harden and Davis’s honors, “Carnage” scored nominations for director Matthew Warchus and its other stars, James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels, for best actor in a play. Geoffrey Rush joins them for his role in “Exit the King,” his Broadway debut. Other nominees include Raul Esparza of “Speed The Plow” and Thomas Sadoski of “Reasons to be Pretty.”

Angela Lansbury is up for best featured actress in a play for her performance in “Blithe Spirit,” her sixth Tony nomination. Other actors nominated for their featured performances include John Glover in the Beckett classic “Waiting for Godot,” Christopher Sieber in “Shrek” and Martha Plimpton in “Pal Joey.”

Just as impressive as the list of well-known actors who were nominated, is the list of well-known actors who weren’t: Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Brian Dennehy, Frank Langella (who was nominated for an Academy Award this year), Kristin Scott Thomas, John Goodman and “Harry Potter’s” Daniel Radcliffe.

With all the big names, the true winner this season may not be one of the nominees, but Broadway itself, which has seen increased ticket sales and revenue despite the economic crisis thanks to all of the star power and high-profile productions.

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