'Once' crowned best musical at the Tony Awards

Associated Press Modified: June 11, 2012 at 12:16 am •  Published: June 11, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — The bittersweet musical "Once" captured the hearts of Tony Award voters on Sunday night, winning eight trophies and earning bragging rights as the top musical on Broadway, even as most shows came away with at least something to crow about.

"It's just amazing," said Cristin Milioti, the female lead in "Once," of her show's Tony haul, as she made a quick trip through the elaborate food stations at the gala post-Tony party at the Plaza Hotel.

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 down at her daughter from the stage, 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.

Accepting the award from presenter Christopher Plummer, Arianda admitted something very personal to the 82-year-old Plummer: "You were my first crush!" she squealed.

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."

Corden directed most of his comment to his girlfriend, Julia, who gave birth to his son a year ago and whom he intends to marry soon.

"I would not be holding this if it wasn't for her. She made me say 'us' instead of 'I' and 'we' instead of 'me' and I love her," he said.

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. He said the play has a special meaning for those who work in show biz.

"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."

Christian Borle, who plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who will later become Captain Hook in "Peter and the Starcatcher," 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.

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."

Diane Paulus, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater, adapted it for Broadway with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Obie Award-winning composer Diedre Murray.

The team condensed the four-hour opera into a two-and-one-half-hour musical, eliminated a lot of the repetitiveness and tried to deepen the characters. Their effort generated headlines when purists including Sondheim complained that a musical treasure was being corrupted.