NEW YORK – The bittersweet musical “Once” captured eight Tony Awards on Sunday, including best direction of a musical, best lead actor in a musical and the top musical prize itself.
The inventive play “Peter and the Starcatcher” was next with five awards, but most every show came away with something to crow about.
Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park,” the remarkably perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate, won the best play Tony.
Audra McDonald was named best lead actress in a musical and her “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” was named best musical revival. This is her fifth Tony Award, tying the competitive record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.
“I was a little girl with a potbelly and afro puffs, hyperactive and overdramatic. And I found the theater, and I found my home,” McDonald said. Looking at her daughter, she said her big night wasn’t as wonderful as the night her daughter was born.
Her one-time co-star in “110 in the Shade,” Steve Kazee, a 36-year-old rising star and guitar player with matinee idol looks, emerged as best actor in a musical, and broke down thinking of his mother, who died Easter Sunday.
Another new star, Nina Arianda, won best leading actress in a play, beating stiff competition from Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Cynthia Nixon.
In perhaps the biggest shock of the night, James Corden nabbed the lead acting Tony Award in a play for his clownish turn in the British import “One Man, Two Guvnors.” He beat out the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman.”
Arthur Miller’s 63-year-old masterpiece “Death of a Salesman” won the Tony for best play revival and Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony for directing it. The reworked version of the Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess” managed to come home with more and more prestigious awards than a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.”
“Once,” a musical based on the low-budget 2006 film about an unlikely romance between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, went into the night with a leading 11 nominations. “Newsies” was supposed to challenge it, but only came up with two awards.
Composer Alan Menken, who has more Oscars than any other living person, captured his first Tony for “Newsies.” The win for “Newsies” is particularly sweet since when he and lyricist Jack Feldman originally wrote the songs for the 1992 film of “Newsies,” he was given another sort of award: a “Razzie.”
Judy Kaye won for best actress in a featured role in a musical in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” playing a temperance worker who, it turns out, likes to drink and hangs from a chandelier at one point. It’s Kaye’s second Tony – she also won for “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Judith Light, who plays an acerbic alcoholic in “Other Desert Cities,” won 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.”
The show at the Beacon Theatre actually began with a nod to the past, with host Neil Patrick Harris joining with the cast of “The Book of Mormon” for their opening number of “Hello!” from the 2011 musical winner. The show ended with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the co-creators of “Mormon,” handing out the final award.
Christopher Gattelli, who thrillingly combined ballet with bold athletic moves in “Newsies,” won the best choreography Tony.