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Article updated: 4/30/2013 5:42 PM

Steppenwolf's 'Virginia Woolf' revival earns 5 Tony noms

By Barbara Vitello

Steppenwolf Theatre's acclaimed revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- which opened on Broadway 50 years to the day from its Oct. 13, 1962, premiere -- received five Tony Award nominations Tuesday.

The Chicago theater's production earned nods for best play revival along with nominations for actors Tracy Letts, Amy Morton and Carrie Coon and director Pam MacKinnon, who received her second directing nomination in as many years.

Besides Steppenwolf's home-grown production, Tuesday's announcement included nominations for shows that had their out-of-town tryouts in Chicago, including the musicals "Kinky Boots," "Bring It On" and "A Christmas Story, The Musical."

Surprised. Relieved. Elated. Proud. Grateful. Humbled. That's how MacKinnon described her reaction to the five "Virginia Woolf" nominations for a show that was not supposed to go to Broadway.

Originally, Steppenwolf had planned to close the show after a transfer to the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Plans changed after producer Jeffrey Richards saw the penultimate performance there, MacKinnon said.

By the first intermission, said MacKinnon, Richards had decided to produce the show on Broadway, but he wanted to wait a season and a half to coincide with the play's 50th anniversary

"I'm incredibly happy for all of our work. I'm incredibly proud of all of us," said MacKinnon praising the actors, designer and producers.

"To get to direct such an iconic, brilliant play is both daunting and ultimately rewarding," she said.

Morton's nomination for her performance as Martha marks her second lead actress nomination. She was nominated in 2008 for "August: Osage County."

Carrie Coon had a feeling Letts, Morton and MacKinnon would earn nominations, but she said she never expected to be among them.

"I was not expecting an individual nomination," said Coon, who credits her Chicago and Wisconsin communities for making her a better actor.

"It's the pinnacle of our profession," she said. "You never expect it's going to happen to you."

More importantly, Coon says, she is "thrilled to see our theater community is getting the recognition it deserves."

Fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Laurie Metcalf received a lead actress nomination for "The Other Place." Also earning a best actress nomination was Holland Taylor, whose one-woman show "Ann," about the late Ann Richards, played Chicago in 2011. Other best actress in a play nominees include Kristine Nielsen for "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" and Cicely Tyson for "The Trip to Bountiful."

Letts, who won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his play "August: Osage County," received his first acting nomination for his turn as puppet master George.

Joining Letts in that category is Tom Hanks for "Lucky Guy," Nathan Lane for "The Nance," David Hyde Pierce for "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" and Tom Sturridge for "Orphans."

In the musicals category, the nominees had a decidedly British flavor. The Cindy Lauper-Harvey Fierstein musical "Kinky Boots" was inspired by the true story of a failing British shoe factory that found success manufacturing shoes for drag queens. The show, which premiered in Chicago last fall on its way to Broadway, received 13 nominations including best musical along with nods for director Jerry Mitchell, lead actors Billy Porter and Stark Sands and featured actress Annaleigh Ashford. Fierstein earned a nomination for his book, as did Lauper for her Broadway-ready score.

London import "Matilda," inspired by Roald Dahl's 1988 novel about a talented, telekinetic young girl cursed with terrible parents, received 12 nominations including best musical, Dennis Kelly's book, Tim Minchin's score and director Matthew Warchus.

"A Christmas Story, The Musical" -- the charming show based on Bob Clark's well-loved 1983 film, which Chicago audiences experienced two years ago on its protracted journey to Broadway -- received nominations for best musical, for Joseph Robinette's faithful book and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's perky score.

The light "Bring It On: The Musical," loosely based on the 2000 film about competitive cheerleading, received nominations in the best musical category and for Andy Blankenbuehler's highflying choreography.

Wire services contributed to this report.

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