NEW YORK – "In the Heights," the little barrio musical that brought a fresh salsa and hip-hop beat to Broadway, leads the 2008 Tony Award nominations with 13 nods heading into Sunday night's show.
In the best-musical category, "Heights" will compete against diverse, high-spirited shows such as "Passing Strange," "Cry-Baby" and "Xanadu."
Tradition was served by Lincoln Center Theater's elegant revival of "South Pacific." The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, first seen on Broadway nearly 60 years ago, received 11 nominations, including one for musical revival where its competition is "Gypsy," "Sunday in the Park With George" and "Grease."
Photo Essay: Tony Nominees
As expected, "August: Osage County," already a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, received a best-play nomination -- and six others. Tracy Letts' play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family faces "The 39 Steps," Patrick Barlow's spoof of the Alfred Hitchcock film favorite; Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer," a Yuletide tale of a devilish poker game; and Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll," a look at recent Czech history interspersed with a cavalcade of pop music.
There were a few starry names in the acting categories, most notably Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne and S. Epatha Merkerson.
"There's never been an actor who has had greater, brilliant support than I do from our other 17 actors," said a jubilant Stewart, who plays the title character in "Macbeth," imported from England's Chichester Festival. "So in ... this fantastically creative environment, (director) Rupert (Goold) just set me free to explore this poor, sad, murderous madman and have as much fun with it as possible."
Said Fishburne, now playing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the one-man show "Thurgood": "I am totally, completely shocked and amazed by all of this. More than that, I am grateful and truly blessed that every night I get to play one of the most compelling and extraordinary men from the 20th century."
Patti LuPone as a ferocious stage mother in "Gypsy" heads the list of nominees for the actress-musical prize.
A special lifetime achievement Tony will go to Stephen Sondheim, with a special Tony awarded posthumously to orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett, who died in 1981. The regional theater Tony will go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The winners in 26 competitive categories will be announced Sunday in a three-hour CBS telecast from Radio City Music Hall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.