Drama League winners: Neil Patrick Harris, ‘All the Way,’ ‘Gentleman’s Guide’

Like the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League does not distinguish between Broadway and off-Broadway when doling out honors. However, all five of its winners — four productions and an individual performance — are frontrunners for the upcoming Tony Awards.

The political drama “All the Way” won the Best Play prize for Pultizer Prize champ Robert Schenkkan (“The Kentucky Cycle”). Among the other seven nominees were two of its Tony competitors: “Casa Valentina” and “Mothers and Sons.” “The Realistic Joneses,” which was snubbed by the Tonys, and four off-Broadway productions — “All That Fall,” “Domesticated,” “Mr Burns” and “The Open House” — filled out the ballot. (Predict the Best Play race at the Tonys at the bottom of this post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

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Last year, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” won here before prevailing at the Tonys. In 2012, “Other Desert Cities” triumphed here but was bested by “Clybourne Park” at the Tonys. And in 2011, “War Horse” took both prizes. 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” was named Best Musical edging out, among others, its Tony competition “After Midnight,” “Aladdin” and “Beautiful.” Three other Broadway musicals were in the running — “Bridges of Madison County,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” and “Rocky” — and the slate was filled out with two off-Broadway hits: “Fun Home” and “Murder for Two.” 

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Last year, “Kinky Boots” took this award before claiming the Tony. In 2012, “Once” won here before pulling off an upset at the Tonys. And in 2011, “The Book of Mormon” recieved this honor before sweeping the Tonys. 

While the League gives prizes for best play and musical as well as revivals of each genre — “The Glass Menagerie” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” won those races — 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.

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This year, 50 actors are competing for the honor first given to Katharine Cornell in 1935. They range from B (Reed Birney, “Casa Valentina”) to W (Michelle Williams, “Cabaret”). The winner was Neil Patrick Harris who prevailed for his star turn in “Hedwig.” 

Last year, Nathan Lane won for his work in “The Nance.” In 2012, Audra McDonald won for her performance in the revial of “Porgy and Bess” before claiming her record-tying fifth Tony. In 2011, Mark Rylance picked up this prize for his performances in “La Bete” and “Jerusalem” before winning the Best Actor Tony for the latter. In 2010, 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 in 2009, Geoffrey Rush took home this award several weeks before prevailing at the Tonys for his performance in “Exit the King.”

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