- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - The low-tech musical “Once,” based on the love story of a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, received a leading 11 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, proving sentiment can sway nominators just as much as special effects.

Two other musicals _ “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” _ each got 10 nominations as the Tony committee spread the wealth across 30 of 37 eligible shows. Unlike last year’s “The Book of Mormon,” no monster single hit dominated the nominations.

“Once,” with songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, was originally a low-budget movie made for about $150,000. The film earned $20 million, thanks in part to an original score that included the sublime, 2007 Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly.” The musical is a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage.

Its director, John Tiffany, was sitting at a play in Glasgow, Scotland, when his phone began buzzing “like crazy” with word of the show’s success. He sat through the play but learned about the Tony haul after glancing at texts.

“It’s just brilliant. It’s incredible because it’s such a delicate, unassuming show. But `Once’ constantly surprises me. I think it’s the power of the music and the storytelling that people connect with,” said Tiffany, who was nominated for best director of a musical.

His show earned its stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, best actor nominations. It also earned nods for best scenic design, best book of a musical and Elizabeth A. Davis got a nomination for an actress in a featured role.

“I think it’s a universal message about love. Not just between two people, but a love of music, a love of your country, how we share things as people,” Kazee said. “There are moments that are just snapshots in your life, but they stay with you forever. We all have those moments.”

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a play about the origins of Peter Pan, earned nine nominations, while the fall revival of “Follies” and the new Disney musical “Newsies” got eight nods each.

Later this summer, “Once,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Newsies” will compete for the title of best musical with a surprise entry _ “Leap of Faith,” which was ravaged by critics. “Ghost the Musical,” an import from London with songs by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, failed to get nominated in the best musical category.

Joe DiPietro earned a Tony nomination for writing the book to “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” which stars Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara, who also got a nomination as a leading actress in a musical. The frothy musical smartly integrates classic Gershwin songs such as “Sweet and Lowdown,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “S’Wonderful,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “They All Laughed” and “Fascinating Rhythm.”

The musical is the first since DiPietro won two Tonys for writing the still-running “Memphis,” but he’s not jaded.

“The Tonys are always a big deal,” he said. “I wrote for a long time and no one seemed to care and then I suddenly started getting produced. When I won my Tonys, it was childhood dream time coming true.”

“Other Desert Cities,” a play by Jon Robin Baitz that moved to Broadway after critical acclaim at Lincoln Center Theater, earned five nominations, including best play.

“My psychology is such that I can’t jump up and down. I suppose that makes me Jewish and of the theater,” Baitz joked after the announcement.

Baitz’s play, about a dysfunctional, politically divided family wrestling with a deep secret in their past, also earned Stockard Channing and Judith Light acting nominations.

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