Entertainment

'Once' crowned best musical at the Tony Awards

Monday, June 11, 2012
Host Neil Patrick Harris performs at the 66th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10, 2012, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes /Invision/AP)

Host Neil Patrick Harris performs at the 66th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10, 2012, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes /Invision/AP) (AP Photo)

The bittersweet romantic musical "Once" has won the best musical prize at the Tony Awards.

The musical is based on the documentary-style 2006 film about an unlikely love affair between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin.

Both the film and musical use songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, including the sublime, 2007 Oscar-winning song, "Falling Slowly." It stars Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti.

It beat out "Newsies," ''Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Leap of Faith."

John Tiffany, the British director of "Once," won Sunday, making his Broadway debut. The musical also won best orchestration, best sound design, and Enda Walsh took home the award for best book of a musical.

Mike Nichols, one of those rare people who have won a Tony, Grammy, Oscar and Emmy, won his ninth Tony for directing "Death of a Salesman." He had won six times previously, directing such shows as "Barefoot in the Park," ''The Odd Couple" and "Spamalot."

On winning, Nichols said Arthur Miller's 63-year-old play gets truer as time goes by and has a special meaning for actors. "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."

"Peter and the Starcatcher" won for best costume design and best sound design for a play. Christian Borle, who plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who will be Captain Hook in the Peter Pan prequel, was named best featured actor in a play.

"Thank you for making this so much fun," said Borle, who also stars in the NBC series "Smash." He said he was even more pleased that his mother was in the crowd.

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."

With no clear, dying-to-see-it front-running musical like last year's juggernaut, "The Book of Mormon," the show Sunday at the Beacon Theatre actually began with a nod to the past, with host Neil Patrick Harris joining with the cast of "Mormon" for their opening number of "Hello!" from the 2011 musical winner.

He then was 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.

Christopher Gattelli, who thrillingly combined ballet with bold athletic moves in "Newsies, won the best choreography Tony. His work included a sequence of synchronized dancing on real newspapers and carving out of a few moments for each young dancer to spotlight their talents. It is his first award; he previously was nominated for "South Pacific" in 2008.

The three-hour telecast is packed with stars and performances from musicals, plays and revivals. The explosion of performances is an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible. One performance won't even be nearby - the song from "Hairspray" will be performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea.

It promises to be a hectic night. Winners were warned that they only had 90 seconds from the time their name was called to get on stage and give their speech before loud music will drown them out.

Last year's Tonys was seen by 6.9 million viewers, roughly the same number as the year before. But the program posted a 9 percent year-to-year gain in the ratings for the 18-to-49 demographic.

The popular Harris is back again this year with several songs and skits. He'll be competing Sunday against the "Mad Men" season finale, but this time no NBA postseason games.

He'll also been tasked with trying to MC between performances from the four best musical nominees - "Leap of Faith," ''Newsies," ''Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Once." To make time, most technical awards will be handed out during the commercial breaks.

The four musical revival nominees also get a turn on stage, with performances from "Evita," ''Follies," ''The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." There will even be time carved out for the cast of "Godspell" and "Ghost: The Musical" - two shows not up for best musical Tony.

As if that wasn't enough, look out for performances from the Tony-nominated plays "End of the Rainbow," ''One Man, Two Guvnors" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." There also are video snippets from other plays.

Producers of the telecast are counting on some intriguing matchups to keep interest high: Which play will win from a very strong category? Will James Corden from "One Man, Two Guvnors" take the best drama leading man award from the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman"? Who will emerge with the award in the best actress in a drama race - Nina Arianda, Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin or Cynthia Nixon?

Harris will have plenty of help on stage, from both veterans of Broadway and newcomers. The list of presenters includes Jessica Chastain, Nick Jonas, Tyler Perry, Amanda Seyfried, Jim Parsons, Paul Rudd, Ellen Barkin, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Candice Bergen, Christopher Plummer, James Marsden, Mandy Patinkin and Sheryl Crow. Hugh Jackman will get a few moments to talk after being presented with a special Tony.

The Tony Awards show is serious business and the exposure in front of millions is priceless. Many shows that are suffering pre-summer slumps are counting on a bump from the telecast. "Godspell" producer Ken Davenport was warned that his production's future may hinge on making a splash at the ceremony.

Overall, the health of Broadway is good, with shows yielding a record $1.14 billion in grosses this season, and total attendance reaching 12.3 million. The only concern is that audience numbers were flat, meaning higher ticket prices are pushing the overall box office take.

This season, 40 new shows opened - 14 new musicals, 23 new plays and three specials. Many of the musicals once again relied on Hollywood, with "Once," ''Ghost The Musical," ''On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," ''Newsies" and "Leap of Faith" all originating on celluloid.

Some older works - "Follies" and "Death of a Salesman" - reminded a new audience why they are classics. And George and Ira Gershwin - or at least their estates - are clear winners, with the revival of "Porgy and Bess" and the musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It" proving Gershwin songs still soar.

But, if anything, this was the season of brilliant original plays: "Clybourne Park" by Bruce Norris, "Other Desert Cities" by Jon Robin Baitz, "Peter and the Starcatcher" by Rick Elice and David Ives' "Venus in Fur."

Select winners from the 2012 American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards, announced Sunday. Choreography: Christopher Gattelli, "Newsies."
Orchestration: Martin Lowe, "Once."
Book of a Musical: Enda Walsh, "Newsies."
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Judith Light, "Other Desert Cities."
Sound Design of a Musical: Clive Goodwin, "Once."
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Michael McGrath, "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
Sound Design of a Play: Darron L. West, "Peter and the Starcatcher."
Direction of a Musical: John Tiffany, "Once."
Direction of Play: Mike Nichols, "Death of a Salesman."
Costume Design of a Play: Paloma Young, "Peter and the Starcatcher."
Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Christian Borle, "Peter and the Starcatcher."
Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, "Follies."
Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Judy Kaye, "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
Scenic Design Play: Donyale Werle, "Peter and the Starcatcher"
Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: "Newsies."
Scenic Design of a Musical: Bob Crowley, "Once."
Revival of a Play: "Death of a Salesman."
Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz, "Once"
Play: "Clybourne Park."
Lighting Design of a Play: Jeff Croiter, "Peter and the Starcatcher."
Revival of a Musical: "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess."
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Steve Kazee, "Once."
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: James Corden, "One Man, Two Guvnors."
Performance by an Actress in Leading Role in a Play: Nina Arianda, "Venus in Fur."
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Audra McDonald, "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess."
Musical: "Once."

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