NEW YORK (CBS/AP) — The bittersweet love story “Once” captured eight Tony Awards on Sunday, including best musical direction, best lead actor in a musical and the top musical prize itself.
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” an inventive play about the origins of Peter Pan, came in second with five awards. Those honors included the best featured actor in a play prize for Christian Borle, who plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who becomes Captain Hook.
Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate, won the Tony for best play.
Audra McDonald was named best lead actress in a musical and her “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” was named best musical revival. This is her fifth Tony Award, tying the competitive record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.
“I was a little girl with a potbelly and afro puffs, hyperactive and overdramatic. And I found the theater, and I found my home,” McDonald said. Looking at her daughter, she said her big night wasn’t as wonderful as the night her daughter was born.
Her one-time co-star in “110 in the Shade,” Steve Kazee, a 36-year-old rising star and guitar player with matinee idol looks, emerged as best actor in a musical for his role in “Once,” and broke down thinking of his mother, who died Easter Sunday.
Nina Arianda, a rising star, won best leading actress in a play for “Venus in Fur,” beating stiff competition from Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Cynthia Nixon.
Accepting the award from presenter Christopher Plummer, Arianda admitted something very personal to the 82-year-old Plummer: “You were my first crush!” she squealed.
In perhaps the biggest shock of the night, James Corden nabbed the lead acting Tony Award in a play for his clownish turn in the British import “One Man, Two Guvnors.” He beat out the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman.”
Corden directed most of his comment to his girlfriend, Julia, who gave birth to his son a year ago and whom he intends to marry soon.
“I would not be holding this if it wasn’t for her. She made me say ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ and I love her,” he said.
Arthur Miller’s 63-year-old masterpiece “Death of a Salesman” won the Tony for best play revival and Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony for directing it. On winning, he said the play has a special meaning for those who work in the theater.
“There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman – to be out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” he said. “As we know, a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory.”
“Once,” a musical based on the low-budget 2006 film about the unlikely romance between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, went into the night with a leading 11 nominations. “Newsies” was supposed to challenge it, but only came up with two awards for best choreography and best score.
Composer Alan Menken, who has more Oscars than any other living person, captured his first Tony for “Newsies.” The win for “Newsies” is particularly sweet since when he and lyricist Jack Feldman originally wrote the songs for the 1992 film of “Newsies,” he was given another sort of award: a Razzie.
Hugh Jackman was presented a special Tony Award by a special presenter – his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness. “She’s never kept a secret her entire life,” Jackman, who was being honored for his contributions to the Broadway community, told the audience. He said she had told him, “I’m just off to the loo.”
Judy Kaye won for best actress in a featured role in a musical in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” playing a temperance worker who likes to drink and hangs from a chandelier at one point. It’s Kaye’s second Tony – she also won for “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“I guess chandeliers have been very, very good to me,” she said to a burst of laughter. She dedicated the award to her father, who died last week.
Judith Light, who plays an acerbic alcoholic in “Other Desert Cities,” won for for best featured actress in a play. Michael McGrath won for best actor in a featured musical role from “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Sunday’s Tony Awards opened with a nod to the past, with host Neil Patrick Harris joining with the cast of “The Book of Mormon” for their opening number of “Hello!” from the 2011 best musical winner.
The three-time host was then surrounded by dancers in tuxes and shimmering dresses for a rousing original number in which he wished that real life was more like theater, complete with backup dancers, rhymes and quick costume changes. He had cameo help from Patti LuPone, the little red-headed orphan from “Annie” and a flying Mary Poppins.
The three-hour telecast was packed with stars and performances from musicals, plays and revivals, in an attempt to showcase as much of Broadway as possible. One performance wasn’t even nearby – a song from “Hairspray” was performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea.
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