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

 "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” when it appeared at the American Repertory Theater. Denee Benton (center left), who plays Natasha, was nominated as best actress in a musical.
"Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” when it appeared at the American Repertory Theater. Denee Benton (center left), who plays Natasha, was nominated as best actress in a musical.(Gretjen Helene/American Repertory Theater)

“Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812,’’ which was presented and partly shaped for Broadway at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater two years ago after earlier runs in New York, emerged at the front of the pack in the Tony Award competition, racking up 12 nominations.

The nominations, announced Tuesday morning, include a nod for best musical. In addition, “Natasha’’ cast members Denee Benton, who plays Natasha, and Josh Groban, who portrays Pierre, both making their Broadway debuts, were nominated as best actress and actor in a musical. Among those Benton will compete with is Bette Midler, nominated for her acclaimed performance in the revival of “Hello, Dolly!,’ which received 10 nominations, second only to “Natasha.’’


In its bid to be named best musical, “Natasha’’ is up against “Dear Evan Hansen,’’ “Come From Away,’’ and “Groundhog Day,’’ a musical adaptation of the beloved Bill Murray film. The nod for “Natasha’’ adds to a streak of ART-related productions that have earned Tony nominations, and sometimes victories, including “Waitress,’’ “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’’ and “Pippin.’’

The ART is one of numerous producers of the Broadway production of “Natasha,’’ and is listed as the theater where the show was “further developed and produced.’’ Based on a section of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,’’ the musical originally premiered at Ars Nova in New York in 2012, then had a run off-Broadway. In late 2015, “Natasha’’ was remounted at the ART’s Loeb Drama Center. It was the first production of the musical within a proscenium stage. (Groban joined the cast when the show moved to Broadway.)

In the running for best revival of a musical, meanwhile, is “Falsettos,’’ by veteran composer William Finn, a Natick native who serves as artistic producer of the Musical Theatre Lab at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. Finn wrote the music and lyrics for “Falsettos,’’ which received five Tony nominations overall, and cowrote the book with James Lapine.


“Falsettos’’ will be in competition with “Hello, Dolly!’’ and “Miss Saigon.’’

Unlike last year, when “Hamilton’’ earned 16 Tony nominations (and eventually won 11), this year’s contest is considered to be relatively wide open. The Tony Awards will be presented on June 11 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, hosted by Kevin Spacey.

Given that Broadway has long been seen as inhospitable to women playwrights, it’s notable that two of the nominees for best play were written by women. They are Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,’’ about the impact of economic decline in Reading, Pa., and Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,’’ a backstage drama about the uproar that surrounded a 1922 production of the Yiddish play “The God of Vengeance.’’ Also nominated are J.T. Rogers’s “Oslo,’’ about the role played by a Norwegian couple in the 1993 agreement between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, known as the Oslo Accords; and Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2,’’ a play set years after Ibsen’s landmark drama that imagines what would have transpired if Nora walked back through the door she famously slammed at the end of “A Doll’s House.’’

Competing for best revival of a play will be August Wilson’s “Jitney,’’ Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,’’ John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation,’’ and Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter.’’

In addition to Benton and Midler, the nominees for best lead actress in a musical are Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole for “War Paint’’ (they play rival cosmetics executives Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden) and Eva Noblezada for “Miss Saigon.’’


In addition to Groban, the nominees for best lead actor in a musical are Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen’’), Andy Karl (“Groundhog Day’’), David Hyde Pierce (“Hello Dolly!’’), and Christian Borle (“Falsettos’’).

In the category of best lead actress in a play, Sally Field (“The Glass Menagerie’’) will compete with Cate Blanchett (“The Present’’), Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House, Part 2’’), Laura Linney (“The Little Foxes’’), and Jennifer Ehle (“Oslo’’).

The nominees for best lead actor in a play are Kevin Kline (“Present Laughter’’), Corey Hawkins (“Six Degrees of Separation’’), Denis Arndt (“Heisenberg’’), Jefferson Mays (“Oslo’’), and Chris Cooper (“A Doll’s House, Part 2’’).

It was previously announced that James Earl Jones, a two-time Tony winner who recently costarred in Tennessee Williams’s “The Night of the Iguana’’ at the American Repertory Theater, is this year’s recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. The Dallas Theater Center will receive the 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.