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NEW YORK — Boys ruled the 60th annual Tony Awards Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall, when “Jersey Boys” took the prize for best musical and “The History Boys” was named best play. With six wins, Alan Bennett’s drama matched the high mark for a play, set by “Death of a Salesman” in 1949.
A biotuner that stitches the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons into a chronicle of their bumpy rise from blue-collar Garden State suburbia to pop stardom, “Jersey Boys” nabbed four trophies, beating chief rival “The Drowsy Chaperone” in what was widely considered a two-horse race.
The two shows have been neck-and-neck since the Tony noms were announced, but the strong touring prospects of “Jersey Boys” is believed to have given it the edge in securing the all-important road presenters’ votes. The show has grossed a muscular $30 million since it opened in November.
In an evening that played out largely according to plan with few significant upsets, the split of musical awards between the two shows — “Drowsy Chaperone” took five Tonys — stands to bolster their business as potential long-runners on Broadway.
The two tuners’ victories also shine a spotlight on the Southern California theaters that spawned them: “Jersey Boys” began life at the La Jolla Playhouse under artistic director Des McAnuff, who helmed the tuner; the U.S. premiere of Canadian import “Drowsy Chaperone” was produced at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles by the Center Theater Group. It opened on Broadway to promising business May 1.
The “Jersey Boys” win continues the reversal of fortune for Dodger Theatricals, which bounced back from a string of failures. Other lead producers are Joseph P. Grano, Pelican Group, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Latitude Link and Rick Steiner/Osher/Staton/Bell/Mayerson Group.
In addition to the top award, “Jersey Boys” snagged the lead actor in a musical nod for Broadway newcomer John Lloyd Young as siren-voiced Valli and for featured actor Christian Hoff as his wiseguy bandmate Tommy DeVito.
The Tony victory for “Jersey Boys” represents a degree of redemption for the much-maligned jukebox musical. The genre has come under heavy fire on Broadway with a string of recent failures including “Lennon,” “All Shook Up,” “Good Vibrations” and “Ring of Fire.”
“Drowsy Chaperone,” the meta-theatrical parody of frothy 1920s musicals, also grabbed its share of the glory, taking home five awards including original score (for which “Jersey Boys” was ineligible), as well as the book prize for Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Latter award serves as especially appropriate acknowledgement for Martin, also a best actor nominee for his role as Man in Chair, the sad-sack musical theater aficionado who comments on the show within the show.
Beth Leavel’s turn as the dipsomaniac title character landed her the featured actress in a musical prize, while David Gallo’s set designs and Gregg Barnes’ costumes also were recognized.
Brit import “The History Boys” romped home with six Tonys. Bennett’s compassionate reflection on cultural, academic, spiritual and moral education scored Nicholas Hytner his second Tony for direction. The National Theater’s a.d. won for direction of a musical in 1994 with “Carousel.”
The play also landed Tonys for lead actor Richard Griffiths’ turn as a maverick English teacher, and for featured actress Frances de la Tour’s work as his world-weary colleague. Bob Crowley won for scenic design of a play, while Mark Henderson won for lighting. The limited-run transfer plays on Broadway through Sept. 3 with the original cast from the National intact.
Producers on the Broadway run are Boyett Ostar Prods., Roger Berlind, Debra Black, Eric Falkenstein, Roy Furman, Jam Theatricals, Stephanie P. McClelland, Judith Resnick, Scott Rudin, Jon Avnet/Ralph Guild, Dede Harris/Mort Swinsky and National Theater of Great Britain.
The win for leading actress in a musical by LaChanze as the downtrodden but ultimately empowered Celie in “The Color Purple” was the hit show’s sole trophy out of 11 nominations. Tuner narrowly avoided the fate of the 1985 Steven Spielberg film adaptation at the Oscars, which scored 11 noms but no wins.
The evening’s biggest surprise came with the win for musical revival of Roundabout’s “The Pajama Game.” The smash production, starring Harry Connick Jr. and Kelli O’Hara, also landed a second choreography Tony for director Kathleen Marshall, who won in 2004 for “Wonderful Town.”
The pared-down return of “Sweeney Todd” had been generally tipped to win for revival. But that production didn’t go empty-handed. Brit helmer-designer John Doyle won the award for direction of a musical while Sarah Travis won for her orchestrations, which reworked Stephen Sondheim’s complex score for a cast of 10 actor-musicians.
Actress in a play went to Cynthia Nixon for her role as a grieving mother in emotional isolation from her family in the Manhattan Theater Club production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole.”
Ian McDiarmid took the prize for featured actor in a play for his work as a chatty Cockney manager recalling both the joy and pain of the past in “Faith Healer,” an import from Dublin’s Gate Theater.
Lincoln Center Theater and director Bartlett Sher’s lovingly staged remounting of the 1935 Clifford Odets drama about a Bronx family during the Depression, “Awake and Sing!” scored Tonys for revival of a play and for Catherine Zuber’s period costumes. It was the second consecutive Tony for Zuber, who won last year for Sher and LCT’s “The Light in the Piazza.”
As previously announced, Harold Prince received a special Tony for lifetime achievement, adding to his 20 past wins. Prince won his first Tony in 1955 as producer of “The Pajama Game” and his most recent in 1995 for directing “Show Boat.” The Broadway vet gave a video acceptance speech; he skipped the awards ceremony to focus on “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular,” now in previews and opening June 24.
Also announced previously, Sarah Jones won a special Tony for her work as author and performer of the hit Off Broadway transfer “Bridge and Tunnel,” while Seattle’s Intiman Theater won the regional theater Tony, which includes a grant of $25,000.
The choice to forgo a lead host this year in favor of 60 presenters to mark the awards’ 60th anni led to a somewhat anonymous Tony ceremony, but the numbers presented from nominated musicals all came across well, as opposed to the hit-and-miss stagings of past editions. The national promo platform is considered a useful tool to boost ticket sales for all shows as the summer tourist season gears up.
In a shrewd move indicating the studio knows musical-theater fans will be a significant part of its core audience, during the telecast DreamWorks unveiled the trailer for Bill Condon’s screen adaptation of Broadway tuner “Dreamgirls,” due in theaters at Christmas.
“The History Boys” by Alan Bennett. Producers: Boyett Ostar Productions, Roger Berlind, Debra Black, Eric Falkenstein, Roy Furman, Jam Theatricals, Stephanie P. McClelland, Judith Resnick, Scott Rudin, Jon Avnet/Ralph Guild, Dede Harris/Mort Swinsky, National Theater of Great Britain
“Jersey Boys,” producers: Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Pelican Group, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Latitude Link, Rick Steiner/Osher/Staton/Bell/Mayerson Group
BOOK OF A MUSICAL
“The Drowsy Chaperone,” Bob Martin and Don McKellar
ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
“The Drowsy Chaperone,” music & lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
REVIVAL OF A PLAY
“Awake and Sing!,” producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
“The Pajama Game,” producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Jeffrey Richards, James Fuld, Jr., Scott Landis
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Richard Griffiths, “The History Boys”
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Cynthia Nixon, “Rabbit Hole”
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
John Lloyd Young, “Jersey Boys”
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
LaChanze, “The Color Purple”
PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Ian McDiarmid, “Faith Healer”
PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Frances de la Tour, “The History Boys”
PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Hoff, “Jersey Boys”
PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Beth Leavel, “The Drowsy Chaperone”
SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Bob Crowley, “The History Boys”
SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
David Gallo, “The Drowsy Chaperone”
COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Catherine Zuber, “Awake and Sing!”
COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregg Barnes, “The Drowsy Chaperone”
LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Mark Henderson, “Faith Healer”
LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Howell Binkley, “Jersey Boys”
DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Nicholas Hytner, “The History Boys”
DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
John Doyle, “Sweeney Todd”
Kathleen Marshall, “The Pajama Game”
Sarah Travis, “Sweeney Todd”
SPECIAL TONY AWARD
Sarah Jones for “Bridge & Tunnel”
SPECIAL TONY AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATER
Intiman Theatre, Seattle
WINS BY SHOW
“The History Boys” 6
“The Drowsy Chaperone” 5
“Jersey Boys” 4
“Awake and Sing!” 2
“The Pajama Game” 2
“Sweeney Todd” 2
“The Color Purple” 1
“Faith Healer” 1
“Rabbit Hole” 1
“Bridge & Tunnel” 1