‘Once,’ ‘Clybourne Park’ win top Tony Awards

Once” won eight of its 11 bids at the Tony Awards Sunday. As our panel of Experts predicted this adaptation of the 2007 Oscar-winning film about an Irish songwriter and his Czech muse won Best Musical, Musical Book, Director (Musical), Orchestrations and Sound Design (Musical) and pulled off  three surprises — Steve Kazee for his lead performance, Lighting Design (Musical) and Scenic Design (Musical). (See full list of winners here.)

While “Newsies” lost its Best Musical bid, it did win eight-time Oscar champ Alan Menken his first Tony for Best Score. This tuner version of the 1992 Disney movie about the Gotham newsboys strike of 1899 also won Choreography.

As our pundits predicted Audra McDonald won Best Actress (Musical) for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” This is her first Tony in a lead category after two wins in each featured actress race for the musicals “Carousel” (1994) and “Ragtime” (1998) and the plays “Master Class” (1996) and “A Raisin in the Sun” (2004). She is now tied with two titans of the Broadway stage — Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury — for the most awards. Her show upset frontrunner “Follies” for Best Musical Revival which had to settle for just one win from eight bids — Costumes (Musical). 

The featured acting prizes for musicals went to the two scene-stealers from  “Nice Work If You Can Get It“) — Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye. They were the sole wins for this Gershwin trunk show which had 10 bids in all including Best Musical. Kaye, who was the frontrunner, won this prize in 1988 for “The Phantom of the Opera.” McGrath edged out Michael Cerveris from “Evita.” The final Best Musical nominee was “Leap of Faith,” which contended only in that category. 

As predicted, last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner “Clybourne Park” won Best Play but lost its three other races. This revisiting by Bruce Norris of the landscape first explored by Lorraine Hansberry in “A Raisin in the Sun” delves into race relations and gentrification in the changing face of a Chicago neighborhood.

Its chief rival for the top prize was the searing domestic drama “Other Desert Cities.” This first play by Jon Robin Baitz to run on the rialto was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer. It pits a returning liberal daughter against her conservative parents who balk when she threatens to expose a long-held secret. It won one of its five bids: Featured Actress (Play) for Judith Light.

Peter and the Starcatcher” led among all plays with nine nominations and won five awards. “Smash” star Christian Borle claimed Featured Actor (Play) and went four for four in the design categories — costume, lighting, scenery, sound — equalling the sweep by “South Pacific” in 2008. Rick Elice adapted the 2004 children’s bestseller by Dave Barry and Ridely Pearson for the stage. This tale imagines what life was like for Peter Pan long before he met Wendy and the rest of the Darlings.

The final Best Play nominee, “Venus in Fur,” may have lost that race but David Ives‘ two-hander about sexual politics made a star of Nina Arianda who pulled off an upset with her Best Actress (Play) win over Tracie Bennett who portrayed Judy Garland in “End of the Rainbow.” 

Likewise, James Corden pulled off an surprise with his Best Actor (Play) win for “One Man Two Guvnors.” He beat Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”) who had been predicted to be the first Oscar champ to win Best Actor (Play) for portraying Willie Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” George C. Scott, who turned down his 1970 Academy Award for “Patton,” contended in 1975 for the first Broadway revival of this 1949 Best Play winner; he lost to John Wood (“Travesties”). Dustin Hoffman was snubbed for his 1984 performance though the production won Best Revival and he claimed an Emmy in 1986 for the TV version. (Jeremy Irons won Best Actor that year for the original production of “The Real Thing.”). The most recent remounting of “Salesman” was in 1999 and both star Brian Dennehy and the production won Tony Awards.

This remounting of “Death of a Salesman” won two of its seven bids: Best Play Revival for a record third time accepted by the newest EGOT champ, producer Scott Rudin, while another EGOT winner Mike Nichols claimed Director (Play) for a record sixth time. While Broadway newcomer Andrew Garfield was a frontrunner for featured actor, he will have to settle for contending for kudos for his upcoming screen appearance as Spider-Man. 

The other three Play Revival nominees — “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” “Master Class” and “Wit” were shut out. 

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