Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Long Shot Takes 8 Tony Awards ; Romantic Musical 'Once' Triumphs at Annual Celebration of Theater

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Long Shot Takes 8 Tony Awards ; Romantic Musical 'Once' Triumphs at Annual Celebration of Theater

Article excerpt

The bittersweet romantic musical was the unexpectedly dominant winner at the 66th annual awards.

The bittersweet romantic musical "Once" was the unexpectedly dominant winner at the 66th annual Tony Awards on Sunday night, winning best musical, best actor and six other Tonys in a highly competitive year for Broadway honors. Many of the celebrated shows, including "Once" and the play "Peter and the Starcatcher," were notable for their imaginative theatricality, inventive staging and ensembles of little-known theater actors, instead of the big-budget or star-driven productions that often prevail on Tony night.

"Peter and the Starcatcher," a prequel to the Peter Pan story, won five Tonys, the most for any straight play this year, but fell short of winning the top award in its field: The best-play Tony went to "Clybourne Park," a satire of race relations by Bruce Norris that won the Pulitzer Prize for drama last year. It was the only award for "Clybourne," reflecting Tony voters' tendency to spread the good news: 11 musicals and plays won at least one Tony, out of 37 eligible shows.

"Once," a slowly unfolding tale of two Dublin musicians falling in love, emerged early as the night's favorite, winning for John Tiffany's direction and for its book by the Irish playwright Enda Walsh, as well as for set, lighting, sound design and orchestrations. The actors double as the show's band.

Near the end of the broadcastSteve Kazee, who plays the emotionally broken guitarist at the center of "Once," won for best actorand used his acceptance speech to thank his cast mates for bucking him up after his mother's death in April, shortly after the musical opened.

"This cast has carried me around, and made me feel alive, and I will never be able to fully repay them," Mr. Kazee said.

The other lead acting Tonys went to Audra McDonald, winning her fifth Tony (at age 41) as Bess in the musical revival of "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," James Corden as the comic manservant in the British play "One Man, Two Guvnors" and Nina Arianda as a sexy, mysterious actress in the play "Venus in Fur."

Ms. McDonald, who recently returned to Broadway after four years acting on television, delivered a speech that honored the stage as a refuge for actors. "I was a little girl with a potbelly, hyperactive and overdramatic, and I found the theater, and I found my home," she said.

Ms. Arianda squealed with delight several times during her speech, and paid tribute to, among others, the actor Christopher Plummer, who presented her with the award. "You were my first crush," she told Mr. Plummer.

The other leading contender for best musical was the Disney production "Newsies," an audience favorite about New York newsboys on strike in 1899. "Newsies" started the night with eight nominations and won two Tonys, for choreography and score. The latter award gave the eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken his long- awaited first Tony, shared with the lyricist Jack Feldman.

In his acceptance speech Mr. Menken described the journey of "poor 'Newsies"' -- from the 1992 film version "that earned nothing at the box office" to the Broadway adaptation that is grossing nearly $1 million a week, among the biggest box-office takes of any new show this season.

"We owe it to the generations of kids that have adopted this movie and insisted that it be brought to the stage," Mr. Menken said, referring to the years of requests to Disney that the film be turned into a musical.

Among the best-known winners on Sunday was Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning director who has earned six Tonys for directing plays and musicals on Broadway. He received a seventh for staging "Death of a Salesman." When his name was announced, he kissed his wife, Diane Sawyer, and then took the stage and declared himself "extremely touched" by the honor. He recalled that the Beacon Theater, site of the Tony Awards ceremony, was his neighborhood movie house as a kid, where he once won a pie-eating contest during a Saturday matinee. …

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