‘Porgy and Bess’ gets 10 Tony Award nominations

AP Photo/Jeffrey Richards Associates, Michael J. Lutch
Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” in New York.

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’’ a revival of the George Gershwin classic that began life amid controversy last fall at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge before moving to Broadway, has racked up 10 Tony Award nominations.

That bounty placed “Porgy and Bess’’ second only to the 11 nominations for “Once,’’ a musical adaptation of a 2006 film that was developed at the ART early last year before opening in New York. “Nice Work If You Can Get It,’’ another musical built on Gershwin tunes, also received 10 nominations.

The nominations were announced Tuesday morning in New York. The Tony Awards will be handed out on June 10 in a ceremony to be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and televised by CBS.


“Porgy and Bess’’ was nominated for best revival of a musical, and Diane Paulus, the ART’s artistic director, was nominated for best direction of a musical. (Paulus also earned a Tony nomination in 2009 for directing the revival of “Hair,’’ which won for best musical revival that year.)

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For her unforgettable performance as the tormented Bess, four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald was nominated as best actress in a leading role in a musical, while Norm Lewis, who plays Porgy, was nominated for best actor in a leading role in a musical. Phillip Boykin and David Alan Grier, who play Crown and Sporting Life, respectively, were both nominated as best actor in a featured role in a musical.

“Porgy and Bess’’ also earned nods in the categories of best orchestrations and best costume design, lighting design, and sound design of a musical.

There were other notable local connections to the Tony nominations. Condola Rashad was nominated as best actress in a featured role in a play for Lydia R. Diamond’s “Stick Fly,’’ which was produced at the Huntington Theatre Company in 2010. (Rashad was not in the Huntington cast.) “Stick Fly’’ represented a Broadway debut for Diamond, a Cambridge resident who is an assistant professor at the BU School of Theatre and a former Huntington Playwriting Fellow.

Clive Goodwin, resident sound designer at the ART, was nominated for his work on “Once.’’


Paulus and her “Porgy and Bess’’ collaborators, Suzan-Lori Parks and Dierdre L. Murray, traveled a bumpy road to the Tony nominations. Before their musical-theater adaptation of Gershwin’s opera had a single preview last year, it was the target of a blistering broadside from legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, who objected to their descriptions of plans to overhaul the work.

During previews at the ART, which prompted sometimes-critical audience feedback, the creative team kept tinkering with “Porgy and Bess.’’ The production opened to critical acclaim and was revamped further by the time it opened in New York.

“Porgy and Bess’’ will vie with “Evita,’’ “Follies,’’ and “Jesus Christ Superstar’’ in the category of best revival of a musical.

Nominated for best musical are “Leap of Faith,’’ “Newsies,’’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It,’’ and “Once.’’ The best play nominees are Bruce Norris’s “Clybourne Park,’’ Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities,’’ Rick Elice’s “Peter and the Starcatcher,’’ and David Ives’s “Venus in Fur.’’

Nominated for best revival of a play are “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman,’’ “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,’’ “Master Class,’’ and “Wit.’’


The critically lambasted but commercially successful “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’’ received only two nods, for best scenic design and costume design of a musical.

In addition to McDonald, those nominated for best actress in a leading role in a musical are Jan Maxwell (“Follies’’), Cristin Milioti (“Once’’), Kelli O’Hara (“Nice Work If You Can Get It’’), and Laura Osnes (“Bonnie & Clyde’’). Lewis will face off against Danny Burstein (“Follies’’) Jeremy Jordan (“Newsies’’), Steve Kazee (“Once’’), and Ron Raines (“Follies’’) for best actor in a leading role in a musical.

Boykin and Grier are competing with Michael Cerveris (“Evita’’), Michael McGrath (“Nice Work If You Can Get It’’), and Josh Young (“Jesus Christ Superstar’’).

The Tony Awards, for which only Broadway productions are eligible, are handed out by the American Theatre Wing, a nonprofit organization, and the Broadway League, the trade association for the commercial theater industry.

At the Tony ceremony, awards will also be given to Bernadette Peters, Hugh Jackman, and Actors’ Equity Association, according to the Tony Awards Administration Committee.

Peters, who recently starred in “Follies,’’ will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award, which recognizes volunteerism, for her work promoting the adoption of shelter animals and her efforts on behalf of such organizations as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Jackman, whose recent “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway’’ was a smash hit, will be given a special award for “contributions to the Broadway community, both as a performer and humanitarian.’’ Another special award will go to Actors Equity Association, which begins marking its 100th anniversary next month.

For a complete list of nominees, click here.

Don Aucoin can be reached at