Avenue Q, I Am My Own Wife, Hugh Jackman triumph at Tonys
Avenue Q, an irreverent puppet-and-people extravaganza, pulled off one of the biggest Tony upsets in recent years by claiming best musical over top-nominated Wicked at the 58th annual Tony Awards for excellence in Broadway theater.
Avenue Q concerns a neighborhood of young New Yorkers, mostly portrayed by Sesame Street-style muppets in the hands of a terrific cast led by out actor John Tartaglia. An audience favorite is Tartaglia's puppeteering turn as closeted Republican investment banker Rod, whose lame efforts at hiding his sexuality win him the tolerant sympathy of all. On the way to its best musical award, Avenue Q won for best book and score. The musical's producers had conducted a controversial campaign for the Tonys, using newspaper ads, radio spots, and mailings to the 735 Tony voters to drum up support.
"It certainly doesn't suck to be us tonight," said producer Robyn Goodman, whose cast performed the Avenue Q song "It Sucks to Be Me" for the awards program.
Out playwright Doug Wright topped his Pulitzer Prize with the Tony for best drama for I Am My Own Wife, a one-man show about real-life German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survived the Nazi and Communist regimes. Its star, Jefferson Mays, who plays more than 40 parts, won as best actor.
Stephen Sondheim's edgy Assassins led all shows with five awards. Assassins, about nine assassins and would-be assassins of U.S. presidents, was named best musical revival, with its director, Joe Mantello, and actor Michael Cerveris, who plays John Wilkes Booth, the killer of Abraham Lincoln, also taking honors. "It just shows you don't have to kill someone to get this," said Cerveris, clutching his first Tony. "You just have to pretend to."
Best actress in a musical went to Idina Menzel for her towering performance as the green witch in Wicked. Although one of Broadway's biggest box office hits, the high budget, inside-out Oz extravaganza won only three of the 10 awards for which it was nominated.
Best actor in a musical went to Australian film star Hugh Jackman for The Boy From Oz. Jackman also hosted the awards show, broadcast from Radio City Music Hall. When it came time to do a production number from Oz, in which Jackman plays flamboyant gay singer-songwriter Peter Allen, he delighted the audience at Radio City Music Hall by making his entrance aboard a camel--just the kind of thing Allen, who sold out Radio City Music Hall in his heyday, would have loved to do.
Jackman and Avenue Q's Tartaglia also won laughs with a bit in which Rod, the closeted puppet, swoons over hunky Jackman.
Phylicia Rashad became the first African-American woman honored for a leading role in a play for her portrayal of matriarch Lena Younger in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Her costar, gay favorite Audra McDonald, won for featured actress, collecting her fourth Tony award for her role in the 1960 drama about a struggling black family in segregated Chicago.
Anika Noni Rose was recognized as best featured actress in a musical for her role in Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change in an overall disappointing night for the musical, seeing Kushner, composer Jeanine Tesori, star Tonya Pinkins, and out director George C. Wolfe all overlooked.
Best featured actor in a play went to Brían F. O'Byrne for his role as a serial child killer in Frozen, while the Lincoln Center production of Henry IV won awards for best director (Jack O'Brien) and best revival of a play.
Here is the complete list of winners:
I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright
Best Book of a Musical
Jeff Whitty for Avenue Q
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx for Avenue Q
Best Revival of a Play
Best Revival of a Musical
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Jefferson Mays for I Am My Own Wife
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Phylicia Rashad for A Raisin in the Sun
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Hugh Jackman for The Boy From Oz
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Idina Menzel for Wicked
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Brían F. O'Byrne for Frozen
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Audra McDonald for A Raisin in the Sun
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris for Assassins
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Anika Noni Rose for Caroline, or Change
Best Scenic Design
Eugene Lee for Wicked
Best Costume Design
Susan Hilferty for Wicked
Best Lighting Design
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer for Assassins
Best Direction of a Play
Jack O'Brien for Henry IV
Best Direction of a Musical
Joe Mantello for Assassins
Kathleen Marshall for Wonderful Town
Michael Starobin for Assassins
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
James M. Nederlander
Regional Theatre Tony Award
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park