"Once," a low-key musical based on an indie film, triumphed over "Newsies," a bigger-budgeted popular hit, to win the Tony Award for Best Musical on Sunday night.
Broadway's biggest night was one filled with surprises, as the theater world rejected two high-profile Hollywood imports who were heavily favored to win Tonys for their work in "Death of a Salesman" and honored an urban drama over a popular children's fantasy.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield both left the awards ceremony empty handed, while "Clybourne Park" earned its single award for Best Play over "Peter and the Starcatcher," which racked up five victories in lesser categories.
But "Once" was the night's big story and by capturing the top prize should see its commercial prospects increase dramatically. The production won 8 Tony awards in all, including statues for Best Actor in a Musical for star Steve Kazee and Best Director for John Tiffany.
Accepting the award, producer Frederick Zollo thanked the cast and creative team, telling Tony watchers, "'Once' serves it up every night at the Jacobs Theater and if you like
you can wash it down with a cold beer."
"The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess," a controversial update of the classic opera, was another big winner. Despite raising the anger of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim for altering the text and adding new scenes, "Porgy and Bess" captured two statues for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical for Audra McDonald.
In the plays category, Tony voters rewarded two dramas that seemed to echo America’s current economic malaise. Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” won the statue for “Best Revival of a Play,” while “Clybourne Park,” a prequel-sequel to "A Raisin in the Sun," beat out the more fantastical “Peter and the Starcatcher” to win the award for Best Play.
Accepting a Best Director statue for his role in helming the latest version of Miller’s tragedy, Mike Nichols said the play was still as relevant today as it was win it took Broadway by storm in 1949.
“It gets truer as time goes by,” Nichols said.
The film and theater legend went on to say that he had won a pie-eating contest as a child in the same theater where the Tony Awards were handed out.
“It was nice, but this is nicer,” Nichols said.
Though “Death of a Salesman” and Nichols won as expected, the revival did not do as well as some Tony Awards prognosticators had anticipated it would, winning just two statues.
In the evening's major upset, James Corden won Best Leading Actor in a Play for his slapstick work in “One Man, Two Guvnors” over Hoffman’s blistering interpretation of Willy Loman.
A breathless Corden seemed surprised too, but was had the presence of mind to name each of his fellow nominees and label Hoffman his favorite actor.
“To be on a list with you is enough...it just reminds me that there is no such thing as best,” Corden said.
Also surprising was the loss of Hoffman's co-star Andrew Garfield. Cinema’s newest Spider-Man, who had been the favorite to earn a Tony for his performance as Biff in “Death of a Salesman.”
He remained seated while Christian Borle picked up the award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his villainous turn in “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
"Thank you for making my mom very, very happy with this great honor and for this great moment in time," Borle said.
The evening's other major prizes included a Best Actress in a Play award to rising star Nina Arianda for her sexually provocative work in "Venus in Fur."
Accepting the award from Christopher Plummer, Arianda told the Oscar and Tony winner that she was smitten with his performance in "The Sound of Music" and confessing, "sir, you were my first crush."
The evening's emotional high-point came courtesy of "Once" star Kazee who thanked his castmates for supporting him through the recent death of his mother.
"This cast has carried me around and made me feel alive," Kazee said.
Though "Newsies" only received a disappointing two Tony Awards despite its commercial success, it did win composer Alan Menken his first theater award to go along with his eight Oscars.
While picking up his statue, Menken noted that the film version of "Newsies" had bombed when it first appeared in movie theaters in 1992, noting that he won a Golden Raspberry award for worst song. He said that the movie's endurance and the subsequent musical version were made possible thanks to its discovery on home video.
Neil Patrick Harris returned for his third stint hosting the awards show, mixing in song and dance numbers with comic bits that had him dangling from the ceiling in a nod to "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" and dressing up as a missionary from "The Book of Mormon."
He kicked off the evening with a reference to E.L. James' tawdry best-seller, welcoming theater lovers to a show he dubbed, "50 shades of gay."
Here is the complete list of winners:
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Once , Enda Walsh*
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSICAL AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATER
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Steve Kazee, Once
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Audra McDonald, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Judith Light, Other Desert Cities
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Donyale Werle, Peter and the Starcatcher
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bob Crowley, Once
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paloma Young, Peter and the Starcatcher
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregg Barnes, Follies
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Jeff Croiter, Peter and the Starcatcher
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Natasha Katz, Once
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY
Darron L. West, Peter and the Starcatcher
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Clive Goodwin, Once
Christopher Gattelli, Newsies
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Mike Nichols, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
John Tiffany, Once
Martin Lowe, Once
SPECIAL TONY AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE
REGIONAL THEATRE AWARD
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.
ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD
SPECIAL TONY AWARD
Actors’ Equity Association
TONY HONOR FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE
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