"The Book of Mormon" — the irreverent Broadway musical from the creators of TV's "South Park" — led the Tony Award nominations Tuesday with 14 nods, including best musical. The satirical comedy about a pair of bumbling Mormon missionaries on a trip to Africa has been the standout critical and audience success of the Broadway season.
This year's nominations embraced the usual crop of mainstream crowd pleasers, including revivals of "Anything Goes," with nine nominations, and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" with eight. But the Tony committee also showed a taste for edgier, more unconventional fare. "The Scottsboro Boys," a musical mash-up of history and minstrelsy that closed early, surprised many on Tuesday by receiving 12 nominations.
In the play category, Jez Butterworth's three-hour "Jerusalem" and Stephen Adly Guirgis' comedy "The Mother... With the Hat," featuring an expletive in the title, dominated with six nominations each.
The other play nominees were David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People" and "War Horse," which will receive a special award for the Handspring Puppet Company, the creator of the play's life-size equine characters. "War Horse" will come to the Ahmanson Theatre in 2012.
The year's most talked-about production, the troubled "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," was ineligible for awards consideration because its opening date has been delayed until June 14.
The 14 nominations for "Mormon" fell just shy of the record 15 nominations earned by "The Producers" in 2001 and "Billy Elliot" in 2009. The musical, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, is the creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo behind the popular animated series "South Park." Robert Lopez, who wrote the 2004 best musical Tony winner "Avenue Q," co-wrote the musical with Parker and Stone.
This year's ceremony will take place June 12 at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The show will be broadcast live on CBS, with a delay for the West Coast.
"Scottsboro" — directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, and featuring the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb — flopped when it transferred to Broadway in the fall, closing after just 49 regular performances. The musical gives a postmodern spin to minstrelsy as it revisits the infamous 1931 case of nine young men accused of rape.
Stroman said the play sold well off-Broadway and at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, but on Broadway "we couldn't sell a ticket. So sadly we had to close. I didn't think we'd be remembered today."
Barry Weissler, who produced the show on Broadway, said "Scottsboro" will be presented at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego next year. Stroman will return as director-choreographer for the musical, which will also travel to San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre.
In addition to "Mormon" and "Scottsboro," the new-musical nominees included "Catch Me If You Can," based on the 2002 movie, and "Sister Act," based on the 1992 movie. "Sister Act" had its world premiere in 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse.
"The Mother... With the Hat" will pose an awkward challenge for Tony presenters who will have to avoid saying the play's full title on television.
"When I wrote the play, I had no expectations that it would be performed in midtown Manhattan. It was a downtown play," said Guirgis, who developed the drama with his New York group, the LAByrinth Theater Company, and at the Ojai Playwrights Conference.
The play's profane title was seen by some as a potential hurdle to commercial acceptance. But the presence of actor-comic Chris Rock and warm reviews have helped make the show a sleeper hit.
"No one asked me to change the title so I didn't," Guirgis said. "I wasn't trying to make some grand statement, or raise my middle finger to anyone.... But it was something to overcome because you can't advertise it."
The nominees for revival of a play were "Arcadia," "The Importance of Being Earnest," "The Merchant of Venice" and "The Normal Heart."
This year's acting nominees featured a number of marquee names — Al Pacino in "Merchant," Edie Falco in "The House of Blue Leaves," Frances McDormand in "Good People," Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem," Sutton Foster in "Anything Goes," Ellen Barkin in "The Normal Heart" and Vanessa Redgrave in "Driving Miss Daisy."
One star who failed to land a nomination was Daniel Radcliffe for his lead role in "How to Succeed." Also snubbed were James Earl Jones in "Driving Miss Daisy" and the entire cast of "That Championship Season," including Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric.
"Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist last year, was overlooked in the play category. Its high-profile star, Robin Williams, also failed to earn a nomination, though Arian Moayed was nominated in the featured actor category. The war drama had its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2009.
This year's Tony for regional theater will go to the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago.