It was a big night for big hair at the Tony Awards, as “Hairspray” nabbed eight trophies at the 57th annual ceremony honoring Broadway’s best.
The hit musical about a girth-challenged teen and her zaftig mother took home the night’s big trophy, for best musical. It also was honored for Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book and the score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Jack O’Brien, a five-time nominee, won his first Tony for directing the musical based on the John Waters picture. Leading lady Marissa Jaret Winokur, leading lady — oops, man — Harvey Fierstein and featured actor Dick Latessa were honored, as was William Ivey Long for his costumes.
The night’s other big winner was “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s play about a gay baseball player. It continued a long streak of victories this season by taking home the best play nod and two other awards, for director Joe Mantello and featured actor Denis O’Hare.
The hit revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” also won a trio of awards, for revival of a play, actor Brian Dennehy and actress Vanessa Redgrave.
The evening’s other multiple winners were “Nine,” which took home the hotly contested trophy for revival of a musical and the featured actress nod for Jane Krakowski; “Movin’ Out,” which was honored for Twyla Tharp’s choreography and the orchestrations by Billy Joel and Stuart Malina; and Baz Luhrmann’s revival of “La Boheme,” which won trophies for Catherine Martin’s set designs and Nigel Levings’ lighting.
The major production blanked at the awards was the revival of “Gypsy,” which had four nominations. But the show — and its leading lady — had an undeniable moment of triumph in Bernadette Peters’ altogether electrifying performance of “Rose’s Turn.”
The prizes to “Take Me Out” were just one factor in turning the 57th Tonys into an awards night with a pronounced but casual pro-gay feeling. Accepting the second award of the night, for their score for “Hairspray,” were Shaiman and Wittman, who are longtime partners both professionally and personally.
Wittman recalled coming to Radio City as a kid: “My mother used to say one day you’ll be up there onstage. I thought she meant as a Rockette.” Shaiman concluded his thanks by giving Wittman an enthusiastic kiss, which gave rise to cheerful comment by more than one award-winner.
“I think I just saw two guys kiss on CBS, which is cool,” Mantello said.
“Men kissing each other onstage, drag queens, children — it’s a perfect world,” gushed Michele Pawk, who took home the award for featured actress in a play for “Hollywood Arms.” (The nod was one of the evening’s few surprises, as the show closed quickly last fall.) Accepting his award, Latessa noted, “One of the most adorable couples on Broadway this season is two men.”
The telecast, which returned to a full three hours on network TV after a few years of a split deal with PBS, was a generally buoyant three hours, and it was directed smoothly. It was perhaps a little long on excerpts and interviews, to the point that at times it seemed as much a documentary about the season as an awards show. (The only mishap was the somewhat muddled live-from-Times Square segment from “Def Poetry Jam,” which might have been fall-back filler for a telecast that had given out all but two awards by 10:40.)
The writing was often sharp and funny. Frank Langella suavely gave “the speech that always sends me to the refrigerator” (the one about the American Theater Wing’s many worthy programs). Host Hugh Jackman, the “X-Men” star coming to Broadway this fall in “The Boy From Oz,” gave an “explanation, not a plug” for the show by describing its subject, songwriter Peter Allen, as “making history as the first man ever to marry Liza Minnelli.” Jackman’s hosting chores were not heavy, and he handled them with impressive grace and amiability.
A tribute to Al Hirschfeld was a classy touch, and the musical segments were generous. Among the highlights: Billy Joel, at the piano in Times Square (weather permitted), and the cast of “Movin’ Out,” opening the show with exciting if not always comprehensible excerpts from Twyla Tharp’s choreography; “Hairspray’s” dizzying finale; Peters’ galvanizing “Rose’s Turn”; and Brian Stokes Mitchell’s vocally splendid “The Impossible Dream.” (“Man of La Mancha” took home no awards but could see a serious bump at the B.O. nonetheless.)
Perhaps less ideally suited to the format were “La Boheme,” which had to divide its attentions among its many principal performers, creating a confused image, and “Nine,” which came across as a bit static — and, in the excerpt chosen, somewhat wordy.
Presenters were all performers with some sort of theater experience and, more meaningfully, some sort of profile in TV or movies, too. (Mike Wallace explained that he played a role in a Broadway show some 49 years previously.) Barbara Walters was the exception, although she explained her showbiz lineage through her father, who was a producer.
The evening’s air of inclusiveness and friendliness extended beyond the cheerful gay subtext. Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” took home the trophy for special theatrical event, and the telecast devoted two segments to its cast of young performers of various ethnicities (despite the fact that the show has closed). Brit actress Redgrave used her speech to credit the many American performers who had inspired her in her early days, while Dennehy spent much of his describing the merits of his competitors.
But the mood of collegial camaraderie was perhaps best epitomized by Winokur’s ebullient acceptance speech, in which she bubbled happily that if “a chubby 4-foot-11 girl can be a leading lady in a Broadway show, and win a Tony, anything can happen.”
“Take Me Out,” by Richard Greenberg. Produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays, Frederick DeMann, Donmar Warehouse and the Public Theater
“Hairspray,” produced by Margo Lion, Adam Epstein, Baruch-Viertel-Routh-Frankel Group, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer, Rick Steiner/Frederic H. Mayerson, SEL & GFO, New Line Cinema, Clear Channel Entertainment, A. Gordon/E. McAllister, D. Harris/M. Swinsky, J. & B. Osher
Book Of A Musical
Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, “Hairspray”
Marc Shaiman (music), Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman (lyrics), “Hairspray”
Revival Of A Play
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” produced by David Richenthal, Max Cooper, Eric Falkenstein, Anthony and Charlene Marshall, Darren Bagert, Kara Medoff, Lisa Vioni, Gene Korf
Revival Of A Musical
“Nine,” produced by Roundabout Theater Co., Todd Haimes, Ellen Richard, Julia C. Levy
Special Theatrical Event
“Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on Broadway,” produced by Russell Simmons, Stan Lathan, Kimora Lee Simmons, Island Def Jam Music Group, Brett Ratner, David Rosenberg
Leading Actor In A Play
Brian Dennehy, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Leading Actress In A Play
Vanessa Redgrave, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Leading Actor In A Musical
Harvey Fierstein, “Hairspray”
Leading Actress In A Musical
Marissa Jaret Winokur, “Hairspray”
Featured Actor In A Play
Denis O’Hare, “Take Me Out”
Featured Actress In A Play
Michele Pawk, “Hollywood Arms”
Featured Actor In A Musical
Dick Latessa, “Hairspray”
Featured Actress In A Musical
Jane Krakowski, “Nine”
Catherine Martin, “La Boheme,” produced by Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Emanuel Azenberg, Bazmark Live, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Korea Pictures/Doyun Seol, J. Sine/I. Pittelman/S. Nederlander, Fox Searchlight Pictures
William Ivey Long, “Hairspray”
Nigel Levings, “La Boheme”
Direction Of A Play
Joe Mantello, “Take Me Out”
Direction Of A Musical
Jack O’Brien, “Hairspray”
Twyla Tharp, “Movin’ Out,” produced by James L. Nederlander, Hal Luftig, Scott E. Nederlander, Terry Allen Kramer, Clear Channel Entertainment, Emanuel Azenberg
Billy Joel and Stuart Malina, “Movin’ Out”
Special Tony Award For Lifetime Achievement In The Theater
Regional Theater Tony Award
Children’s Theater Co., Minneapolis
Tony Honors For Excellence In Theater
The principal ensemble of “La Boheme”
Johnson-Liff Casting Associates
The Acting Co.