‘Vanya and Sonia,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ get Tonys boosts with Drama League wins

While the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors, all five of its prizes went to Tony Awards contenders this year. 

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” won Best Play over, among others, its three Tony rivals: “The Assembled Parties,” “Lucky Guy” and “The Testament of Mary.” Also in contention were two other Broadway plays — “I’ll Eat You Last” and “The Nance” — as well as off-Broadway productions “Old Hats” and “The Whale.”

Last year, “Other Desert Cities” won here but was bested by “Clybourne Park” at the Tonys. Two years ago, “War Horse” took both prizes. 

Kinky Boots” was named Best Musical over Tonys rival “Matilda” as well as the Tony-snubbed “Motown” and four off-Broadway hits: “Dogfight,” “Here Lies Love,” “Murder Ballad” and “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” 

Last year, “Once” won here before pulling off an upset at the Tonys. Two years ago, “The Book of Mormon” claimed this prize before sweeping the Tonys. 

While the League gives prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre, it is unique among the theater kudos in that it hands out only one award for distinguished performance. And once won, the performer cannot contend again.

This year’s winner was Nathan Lane for his performance in “The Nance.” He beat 59 other performers ranging from B (Alec Baldwin, “Orphans”) to W (Vanessa Williams, “The Trip to Bountiful”) for a prize first given to Katharine Cornell in 1935. 

Last year Audra McDonald won for her performance in the revial of “Porgy and Bess” before claiming her record-tying fifth Tony. Two years ago, Mark Rylance picked up this prize for his performances in “La Bete” and “Jerusalem” before winning the Best Actor Tony for the latter. Three years ago, Alfred Molina won over the League with his work in “Red” but went on to lose the Best Actor Tony to Denzel Washington (“Fences”). And four years ago, Geoffrey Rush took home this award several weeks before prevailing at the Tonys for his performance in “Exit the King.”

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