In the most breathless Tony Awards presentation in history, Broadway’s Old Guard went toe-to-toe against the Young Turks for both the best musical and the best play kudos. In the end, the Old Guard won, but barely.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman”– reborn after a failed tryout three years ago only to return to Broadway triumphantly under the wing of veteran, 19-time Tony-winner Hal Prince — won seven Tonys, including best musical. But its chief competition, a boisterous stage version of the Who’s 1969 rock opera “Tommy,” took five awards, including Tonys for best direction — Des McAnuff — and choreography, Wayne Cilento.
As if to underscore the season’s — and the voters’ — divided emotions, the vote for best score of a musical was declared a tie between “Kiss” and “Tommy.”
The honors for best play were heavily weighted in favor of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” which went into the evening with the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle honors already under its belt. So no surprises there: “Millennium,” subtitled “a gay fantasia on national themes,” drew a record nine nominations and came away with four awards, including best play, direction by George C. Wolfe, best performance by a leading actor (Ron Leibman, for his over-the-top portrayal of Roy Cohn) and best featured performance by an actor, Stephen Spinella (for his work as a gay man suffering with AIDS).
“Angels” playwright Tony Kushner pointedly accepted his award “on behalf of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” underscoring the high profile of gay and lesbian themes in the Broadway season — and indeed in the theater across the country this year.
The long-shot contender in the best play category, Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Sisters Rosensweig,” managed a brief appearance, with Madeline Kahn taking the best performance by a featured actress in a play award for her equally over-the-top performance in that play. Kahn competed in one of the strongest categories, against Jane Alexander, also in “Rosensweig,” and British thesp royalty Lynn Redgrave and Natasha Richardson.
The other chief surprise of the evening was the award for best performance by a featured actress in a play, which went to Debra Monk for her knowing, wry performance in Lanford Wilson’s “Redwood Curtain.” That play closed shortly after opening earlier this spring.
Not surprising anyone, the award for best revival went to the Roundabout Theater Co. for its production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie,” starring Richardson and Liam Neeson. It was the first Tony for the company, which moved from off Broadway to Broadway last year.
In the musicals categories, “The Goodbye Girl,” an adaptation of the film by Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch and David Zippel, was blanked, while Andrea Martin took the prize for best performance by a featured actress, for her role in the failed “My Favorite Year.”
While Broadway fans awaited the outcome of the most riveting showdown in recent history, national audiences may well remember the 1993 Tony broadcast as the year recipients were drowned out. In an effort to keep the broadcast to CBS’s 2-hour maximum, director Gary Smith had the orchestra swell when any speech exceeded 30-seconds; in some cases, the intrusion came even earlier. Adding insult to injury, the best play nominees were chained together in a ludicrous rehearsal segment.
The complete list of winners follows:
“Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”– author, Tony Kushner; producers, Jujamcyn Theaters, Mark Taper Forum/Gordon Davidson, Margo Lion, Susan Quint Gallin, Jon B. Platt, the Baruch-Frankel-Viertel Group, Frederick Zollo, Herb Alpert.
“Kiss of the Spider Woman”– producer, LIVENT (U.S.) Inc.
Ron Leibman, “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”
Madeline Kahn, “The Sisters Rosensweig”
Brent Carver, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
Chita Rivera, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
“Kiss of the Spider Woman,” Terrence McNally
“Kiss of the Spider Woman,” John Kander, music; Fred Ebb, lyrics
“The Who’s Tommy,” Pete Townshend, music and lyrics
George C. Wolfe, “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”
Des McAnuff, “The Who’s Tommy”
FEATURED ACTOR, PLAY
Stephen Spinella, “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches”
FEATURED ACTRESS, PLAY
Debra Monk, “Redwood Curtain”
FEATURED ACTOR, MUSICAL
Anthony Crivello, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
FEATURED ACTRESS, MUSICAL
Andrea Martin, “My Favorite Year”
John Arnone, “The Who’s Tommy”
Florence Klotz, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
Chris Parry, “The Who’s Tommy”
Wayne Cilento, “The Who’s Tommy”
SPECIAL TONY AWARDS
La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, for continued excellence by a regional theater.
“Oklahoma!”– The landmark Rodgers & Hammerstein musical is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1993.
The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada — a labor union of professional craftspeople in 900 locals who work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.
Broadway Cares-Equity Fights AIDS — The entertainment industry’s most active charity addressing the challenges of AIDS.