“Once,'' a $150,000 movie that became a $5.5 million Broadway show, won the Tony Award for best musical last night, along with seven other medallions, making it the most honored show of the season.
“Clybourne Park,” a Pulitzer Prize winner last year, won the Tony for best play. The award for best musical revival went to an adaption of “Porgy and Bess” that riled many critics and Stephen Sondheim, while the Tony for best play revival went to “Death of a Salesman,” for which director Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony.
“It’s small and subtle,” “Once” producer Fred Zollo told reporters after the ceremony, comparing the show to the 1955 film “Marty.” “There is something that spoke to a huge audience.”
Audra McDonald won her fifth Tony as Bess in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” Nina Arianda won her first, playing an auditioning actress alternately manipulating and being manipulated in “Venus in Fur.”
James Corden of the comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” was a surprise winner for best actor in a play. Philip Seymour Hoffman from “Salesman” was widely regarded the favorite.
The Tonys were selected by 851 voters, including directors, producers, actors and press agents. It was broadcast on CBS television, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris for the third time. The show opened with a skit adapted from the opening number of last year’s big winner, “The Book of Mormon.” Harris also appeared hanging face-down in a homage to the $75 million “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.”
“Once,” in which the onstage cast also plays instruments, was cited for direction, sound, lighting and set design, orchestrations and book. Steve Kazee, who plays a lovelorn Irish composer and vacuum cleaner repairman in “Once,” was named best actor in a musical.
“Newsies,” Walt Disney Co.’s pirouette-and-cartwheel-filled account of the 1899 newsboys’ strike in New York, won for choreographer Christopher Gattelli and a score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. Considered the top rival to “Once,” it was adapted from a 1992 movie starring a 17-year-old Christian Bale.
“Newsies is a whale of a show but sadly there has to be a winner,” Zollo said.
Disney’s most recent best musical nod was for “The Lion King,” in 1998, staged by Julie Taymor, who was fired from the first show to open in 2011-12, the $75 million “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” It was nominated for two awards, set and costume design and won none.
The other best musical nominees were “Leap of Faith” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” a new show with old songs by George and Ira Gershwin. “Nice Work” won for featured actors Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye.
“I guess chandeliers have been very good to me,” Kaye joked. She swings from a chandelier in “Nice Work,” and her first Tony, in 1988, was for “The Phantom of the Opera.”
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” a Peter Pan prequel, won for sound, scenic, lighting and costume design and “Smash” star Christian Borle, who plays Black Stache, a young Captain Hook.
Judith Light was named best featured actress for “Other Desert Cities,” Jon Robin Baitz’s acidic family drama.
“I feel like the luckiest girl in New York tonight,” she said.
Hugh Jackman, a past host of the program and an honorary Tony winner, presided over one of the season’s big hits, “Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.” Overall, Broadway grossed $1.14 billion, up 7.5 percent, with attendance little changed. The average ticket was just over $92, up from $76.45 five years earlier, with tickets as high as $499.50 for the final weekend of “Death of a Salesman.”
The top ticket to the Tonys, a joint production of the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, was $1,500.