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‘Once’ and ‘Clybourne Park’ Land On Top

‘Once’ and ‘Clybourne Park’ Land On Top
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"Once" picks up most awards.

Amid high-kicking performances, unpredicted winners and an A-list of guests and honorees, the 66th annual Tony Awards brought together new talents and legendary veterans as the industry celebrated Broadway’s finest on Sunday.

“Once,” adapted from the 2006 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, won eight Tonys, including best musical. “Clybourne Park” took home the Tony for best play after winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama last year.

“Once” is the story of two strangers who find unexpected love through the emotional, bonding power of music. An Irish musician, “Guy” (Steve Kazee), is just about to give up music when a Czech immigrant, “Girl” (Cristin Milioti), hears him play the guitar in a bar and persuades him to continue. The two begin to create music and inspire each other, record a demo album—with some Dublin bar regulars—and, somewhere along the way, innocently fall in love.

Kazee tearfully dedicated his first Tony win for best actor in a musical to his mother who died this past Easter after battling cancer. “I miss you greatly and I feel you here tonight,” Kazee said at the end of his acceptance.

Director of “Once,” John Tiffany also won his first Tony and Irish playwright Edna Walsh won for best book of a musical.

Other big acting awards were distributed to Audra McDonald who won her fifth Tony as Bess in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” Judith Light for her role in “Other Desert Cities” and Nina Arianda as the mysterious actress in “Venus in Fur.” Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye, both of “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” won their respective featured role in a musical category.

Perhaps the two most unexpected winners of the night were Christian Borle as Black Stache in “Peter and the Starcatcher” (not Andrew Garfield in “Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman”) and James Corden for his comedic role in “One Man, Two Guvnors” (not Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Salesman”).

It was not all bad news for the play about a traveling salesman, however. Director Mike Nichols picked up his seventh Tony after receiving a standing ovation from the crowd as he walked to the stage.

“There’s not a person in this theatre that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman, to be way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoe shine,” Nichols said as the cut-off music slowly crept in. “As we know, a salesman’s got to dream—it goes with the territory.”

“Salesman” also won, quite expectedly, best revival of a play.

“Clybourne Park,” the satirical play that centers on race relations in 1959 and in the present day, was nominated for four awards but was only able to land the top play prize. The prequel to the famous Peter Pan story, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” racked up five (mainly technical) awards, the most of any play.

The Disney production of “Newsies,” nominated for eight awards, was said by many critics to have been the biggest threat to the chances of “Once,” but the newsboy musical only ended up with two prizes.  

After collecting eight Oscars and receiving three Tony nominations, world-famous composer Alan Menken was finally awarded his first Tony for the score of “Newsies.” Christopher Gattelli was given the Tony for best choreography.

Two Gershwin musicals, “Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” were both nominated for 10 awards and received two each. “Porgy” landed the best revival of a musical award, to the surprise of many who expected “Follies.”

Neil Patrick Harris hosted the evening and bookended the event with musical numbers. Short performances from the eight musical nominees were sprinkled in between award announcements, as well.

Producer Emanuel Azenberg was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Theatre Tony and legendary actress Bernadette Peters was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award.

According to The New York Times, 11 musicals and plays won at least one Tony out of the 37 that were eligible.