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Irish love story "Once" leads with 11 Tony nominations

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Broadway musical version of the Irish love story "Once" about a Dublin busker and Czech piano player who share a passion for music and an impossible attraction to each other gained the highest number of Tony Award nominations announced on Tuesday.

The intimate stage musical, adapted from the hit 2006 indie Irish film and featuring the Oscar-winning song, "Falling Slowly," gained 11 nominations, including nods for its main stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti.

"Once," was followed closely by musicals "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess", a reinvention of the 1935 opera and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," starring Matthew Broderick as a wealthy playboy. Both of those shows, which feature music and songs from George and Ira Gershwin, gained ten nominations.

The innovative play "Peter and the Starcatcher," a prequel to the Peter Pan story, followed with nine nominations.

Actress Kristin Chenoweth and actor Jim Parsons announced the nominations in New York. The Tony Awards, which honors Broadway's best musicals and plays, will be broadcast live from New York's Beacon Theater on June 10.

Besides "Once," and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," best musical nominations included the Disney production "Newsies," based on the 1899 New York newsboys strike, and "Leap of Faith," starring Raul Esparza about a con man posing as a man of faith.

"Other Desert Cities," "Venus in Fur," "Clybourne Park," and "Peter and the Starcatcher" gained nods for best new play, while best play revival nominations included "Death of a Salesman," "The Best Man," "Master Class," and "Wit."

Among the well known names nominated for best actor in a play were Philip Seymour Hoffman for a revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", James Earl Jones for "The Best Man," Frank Langella for "Man and Boy", John Lithgow for "The Columnist" and British comedian and actor James Corden for "One Man, Two Guvnors."

Nominations for best actress in a play went to Nina Arianda for "Venus in Fur," Stockard Channing for "Other Desert Cities," Tracie Bennett for "End of the Rainbow," Linda Lavin for "The Lyons" and Cynthia Nixon for "Wit".

And best musical revival nominees include "Evita," "Follies," "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

But heading into the major awards, "Once" gained the most nods across the board, including Irish playwright Enda Walsh for best book and British director John Tiffany for best direction of a musical, as well as nominations for sound design, choreography, orchestration and scenic design.

Tiffany told Reuters in a recent interview the musical, which features several new songs by the film's original songwriter stars Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, aimed to keep the film's humble story and witty tone.

Irglova and Hansard have kept a lower profile for the musical after spending years promoting the film and becoming a real life couple before later splitting up.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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