As our panel of experts predicted, “War Horse” won all five of its races at Sunday’s Tony Awards. It became the first play since “Sleuth” in 1971 to take the top prize without any acting nominations. This British import also prevailed in bids by co-helmers Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris (photo, right) and the tech types responsible for lighting, scenic and sound design.
Four years ago, Nick Stafford adapted the 1982 best-seller by Michael Morpurgo that told the tale of a young English farmhand who enlists during WW I in hopes of finding his beloved colt who has been sold to the cavalry. The innovative production, which included both actors and puppeteers, won the 2007 Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards for set design (Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company) while Toby Sedgwick received the Olivier for choreography. The puppeteers were feted with a special Tony Award.
Of the other Best Play contenders, “Jersualem” won just one of its six bids as leading man Mark Rylance claimed a bookend to his 2008 Best Play Actor Tony (“Boeing-Boeing”) for his bravuara performance as the cocky Johnny “Rooster” Byron who crows about the British class system. “The Motherf***er With the Hat” also reaped six nods but was shut out. While “Good People” only earned one other nomination, as our pundits predicted Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“Fargo”) won Best Play Actress.
The first Broadway production of Larry Kramer‘s”The Normal Heart” won Best Play Revival and both featured acting prizes for John Benjamin Hickey and, in her Broadway debut, Ellen Barkin.
Of the other Play Revival contenders, “The Merchant of Venice” lost all seven of its Tony races, including the Best Actor bid Al Pacino who had won his other two Tony races (“Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?” 1969; “The Basic Training of Pavlov Hummel,” 1977). While this was the 50th production of the Shakespearean tragic comedy to play Broadway, it was only the fifth since the Tonys were created in 1947. The most recent was the 1990 staging starring Dustin Hoffman who also earned a Best Actor bid for playing the moneylender Shylock; he lost to Robert Morse for the one-man show “Tru.” The other nominees were “The Importance of Being Earnest” — which one of its other two races (Best Play Costumes) — and “Arcadia” which lost both its bids.