“Once,” a low-tech musical based on the 2006 film about the bittersweet romance between a Dublin street musician and a Czech flower girl, was the big winner last night with eight Tony Awards, including picking up the top prize. “Once” also picked up a best actor nod for Steve Kazee, best director for John Tiffany and best book of a musical for Enda Walsh.
The imaginative play, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a riff on J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” stories, came away with five Tony Awards, including Christian Borle for best actor in a featured role in a play, best scenic design (Donyale Werle) and best costume design (Paloma Young).
It was an evening of some genuine surprises and suspense; love from Tony voters was spread around to 11 shows that received at least one award making it a more interesting show than in previous years.
“Clybourne Park,” the Pulitzer-Prize winning play by Bruce Norris about race and real estate, won the Tony Award for best play. The production, which was directed by Pam MacKinnon, only received one Tony Award but it was a big one that should boost box office. Producer Jordan Roth was asked why he said yes to this production. “It was on the page as soon as I started reading it, that it is necessary and essential and that kind of theater that I love to see and that’s the kind of theater that we want on our stages.”
The Tony Award for best revival for a play went to Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” and to the director Mike Nichols, who won his 9th Tony. He thanked Rebecca Miller, the playwright’s daughter, and said the play “gets truer as time goes by.” The 80-year old director said he had been there before, but he meant the neighborhood of the Beacon Theater on West 76th St., which he said was the location of his old neighborhood movie theater and the place where he won a childhood pie-eating contest.
Gershwin’s opera "Porgy and Bess" received the Tony Award for best revival of a musical, beating out the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies." In a final irony, Mr. Sondheim had complained about this production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” which had been adapted by American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, along with composer Diedre Murray, who reworked the four-hour opera, shortening it and adding songs they said deepened the characterizations. Mr. Sondheim expressed fears the opera was being corrupted with these changes. On the red carpet, when we asked Ms. Parks if she had heard from Mr. Sondheim lately, she shrugged, and said, “No. It is what it is.”
Many of the races were tight, especially for best actor in a musical. The 36-year-old Mr. Kazee won over Jeremy Jordan from “Newsies.” Mr. Kazee, who is from Ashland, Kentucky, said in the pressroom that he was “absolutely shocked” to win. “I grew up dirt poor in the middle of nowheresville, and you don’t ever expect for things to happen, and I think that’s a good thing. You’re constantly surprised in your life that you’re not let down.” Mr. Kazee had one of the more emotional moments in the awards show, breaking down when he mentioned his mother, who died of cancer on Easter Sunday. “My mother told me to speak from my heart always, that’s why I don’t prepare speeches, cause speeches are boring,” he said. “She fought her butt off for 14 years and that instilled in me a certain way that I would like to live my life and that is always to speak from your heart and share. What’s the point of me pretending like everything’s ok all the time,” he said. “This has given me the opportunity to share with all of you,” he said, “what a wonderful and courageous and beautiful person my mother was.”