Scathing ‘Book of Mormon,’ Endearing ‘War Horse’ Take Top Tonys
“The Book of Mormon,” a raucous musical comedy that has been the runaway hit of the Broadway season, picked up nine Tony Awards on Sunday night, including best musical.
The show marked the first Broadway outing for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of TV’s “South Park.” Their collaborator, “Avenue Q” composer Robert Lopez, was also part of the winning team.
“War Horse” was named best play, “The Normal Heart” best play revival and “Anything Goes” best revival of a musical.
“Mormon” won awards for its score, direction and featured actress, among others, at the ceremony that was telecast live by CBS from the Beacon Theater on New York’s Upper West Side.
The show follows two young, optimistic missionaries sent to Uganda to spread Mormonism in a community beset by deprivation, AIDS and violence.
“You did it Joseph, you got the Tony!” Parker said in one of his acceptance speeches, giving a shout-out to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
Frances McDormand, whose outfit included a denim jacket, won for best actress in a play, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” and spoke passionately about the importance of theater. Actor Mark Rylance won his second Tony, for the lead in “Jerusalem,” and recited a bizarre essay about walking through walls, never mentioning his show.
Second for Foster
“Anything Goes” star Sutton Foster cried as she thanked her longtime dresser. It was her second Tony, as it was for Norbert Leo Butz, best actor for the musical “Catch Me if You Can.” He took home that show’s lone Tony.
“War Horse,” by Nick Stafford, is the story of a boy and his horse set against the backdrop of World War I and featuring life-size equine puppets. The play won five Tonys plus a special award to the Handspring Puppet Co. of South Africa, which created the horses.
“The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s intense play about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York, won three awards, including featured actress Ellen Barkin and featured actor John Benjamin Hickey. Hickey plays the AIDS-stricken lover of a character based on playwright Larry Kramer.
The show was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris for the second time. He opened with an amusing, original song, “Broadway’s Not Just For Gays Anymore,” and rapped at the end, summarizing the proceedings and rhyming to boot, in a remarkable précis of the evening written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
A target of Harris’s levity was “Spider-Man: Turn off The Dark,” which was to open this past season and is to open on Tuesday. (“The only show in which actors in the cast are actually in casts”).
The broadcast was heavy on celebrities, even those who were passed over by the two dozen nominators in May. Daniel Radcliffe performed a number from the revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” His cast mate John Larroquette won for the featured actor in a musical.
“I just had to stop Daniel Radcliffe from poking out the war horse’s eyes,” Harris joked. “War Horse” also won for sound design and direction, by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris.
A pair of “Mormon” regular orchestra seats are not to be had from its official online ticket seller, Telecharge.com, until Nov. 29, even though at $165.25 each they’re the most expensive on Broadway. Some “premium” tickets are available for as much as $400 for some performances. Advertisements during the broadcast told viewers to be patient and to buy the album on Amazon.com for $1.99.
Chris Rock, who presented the best musical award, noted that “Mormon” was the heavy favorite before announcing it.
“This is such a waste of time!” he joked, underscoring the fact that there was little doubt about the outcome as he tore the envelope open.
Rock stars in “The Mother** With the Hat,” which didn’t win any Tonys. Other shows that left the Beacon empty handed were revivals of “Arcadia” and “Merchant of Venice” with Al Pacino, and the new musicals “Sister Act” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”
Barkin, who plays an AIDS researcher, thanked the playwright of “Normal Heart,” Kramer, as did Hickey.
The evening, like the $1.1 billion Broadway season that preceded it, was generally a prosperous one for nonprofit companies.
The Roundabout Theatre Co. produced “Anything Goes,” along with the hit revival of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Lincoln Center Theater presented the National Theatre production of “War Horse.” And Manhattan Theatre Club put on “Good People.”
The Tonys are presented by the Broadway League -- a trade association of theater owners and producers -- and the American Theatre Wing, a service organization. There are 824 Tony voters, including actors, directors, producers and theater owners.
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