The insanely popular satire THE BOOK OF MORMON, a silly profane musical about religious missionaries going to Uganda, was the big winner at the 2011 Tony Awards bagging 9 awards at the American Theatre Wing’s 65th Annual show televised live on CBS from the Beacon Theatre on Sunday June 12 from 8-11 pm EST. WAR HORSE, THE NORMAL HEART, and ANYTHING GOES were major winners as well for Best Play, Best Revival of Play and Best Revival of a Musical, respectively.
The theatrical event of the 2010/2011 season, WAR HORSE, a story about a young boy searching for his horse during World War I, won 5 awards including scenic design, lighting design, sound design, and Best Direction for Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris. The Lincoln Center Production of War Horse, a hit at The National Theatre of Great Britain is inspired by a children’s novel about a horse being drafted into the European army and has been optioned to become a major motion picture. The Handspring Puppet Company won a special Tony this year for the life size equine puppets that bring audiences to tears nightly.
Larry Kramer’s powerful drama THE NORMAL HEART, about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, produced by Daryl Roth, also scored featured acting awards for John Benjamin Hickey, which we predicted in our review, and for Ellen Barkin making her Broadway debut. She gave one of the evening’s most magnanimous acceptance speeches, while looking absolutely ravishing. The impassioned star said “the experience transformed me not just as an actress, but as a person, and I learned one person (referring to Larry Kramer) can make a difference.”
The revival of Cole Porter’s ANYTHING GOES also scored for Sutton Foster (Best Actress in a Musical) and Kathleen Marshall (Best Choreography). Thanking her acting coach, Larry Moss, for helping her find this role Foster gushed in the press room, “I’ve never been happier in my life and I love going to work.”
The creators of THE BOOK OF MORMON, South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone with composer Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) made several trips to the podium and the musical carried a lovely and exuberant Nikki M. James to a mild surprise win for Best Featured Actress in a musical over Laura Benanti, who was an inspiration in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Norbert Leo Butz performed his show stopping number “Don’t Break the Rules,” from Catch Me if You Can, on the live telecast before beating out the Mormon boys and taking home his second Tony Award as the detective in Catch Me, the lone award for the musical revival. Also the lone win for David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People was the Best Performance by Actress in a leading role that went to Film and stage star Frances McDormand, who characteristically shunned the glamour of the evening by donning denim jacket over her evening gown.
Mark Rylance took Best Performance by an Actor in a leading role for his dazzling technical display in Jerusalem. His tongue in cheek acceptance speech was a poem about walking through walls written by Lois Jenkins. He read a poem from the same poet when he won the 2008 Tony Award in the same category for Boeing Boeing. With his sly devilish style he toyed with the press and said “He always feels sort of sad when he wins,” but there were no tears. He was grinning ear to ear most of the time.
John Larroquette making his Broadway debut in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying said “This just sort of fell into my lap.”
At the end of the evening hosted by a spectacular Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Rock came center stage to announce Best Musical by saying, “This is ridiculous…like taking a hooker to dinner when you are going to laid,” before saying “And the winner is The Book of Mormon,” a satire that pokes fun at organized religion while supporting faith that steam rolled the Tony Awards this year. P Christiano
And The Winners Are:
Photography: Barry Gordin