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Utopia, Awakening, Grey Gardens take top Tonys

Utopia, Awakening, Grey Gardens take top Tonys

Two passionate works--SpringAwakening, a pounding, post-rock musical of teenage sexual anxiety, and The Coast of Utopia, Tom Stoppard's sweeping examination of 19th-century Russian intellectuals--dominated the 2007 Tony Awards on Sunday.

SpringAwakening, with a score by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, was named Best Musical and took home eight total awards, and the trilogy The Coast of Utopia took Best Play honors among seven prizes. It was a Tony record for plays, topping six won in previous years by both Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Alan Bennett's The HistoryBoys.

Together, Spring Awakening and The Coast of Utopia received 15 of the evening's 25 competitive Tonys handed out during the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. A small, serious musical which began life last summer at off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company, Spring Awakening also took awards for score, book of a musical, direction of a musical, featured actor, choreography, orchestrations, and lighting of a musical.

Its army of producers, numbering more than a score, all marched onstage to accept the Best Musical prize.

''Steven and I definitely set out to make a new kind of musical,'' said Sheik, describing the edgy show, set among troubled teens in late-19th-century Germany. ''We were trying to forge our own path. I think we got lucky timing-wise--what's happening politically. People were ready to deal with something that had teeth.''

The Coast of Utopia, lavishly produced by Lincoln Center Theater for a limited engagement that ended last month, also won prizes for direction, featured actor in a play, and featured actress in a play as well as sweeping the play technical awards for sets, costumes, and lighting.

''I would be more than happy to have equaled the playwright of Death of a Salesman and a contemporary of mine, Alan Bennett,'' Stoppard said about setting a record with Utopia.

The award was Stoppard's fourth Best Play Tony. He had previously won for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1968), Travesties (1976), and The Real Thing (1984). There were a few surprises, most notably in newly out actor David Hyde Pierce's win as a musical-theater-loving detective in the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains. Pierce thanked his life partner, Brian Hargrove, in his acceptance speech.

Cradling his award, Pierce noted that he made his Broadway debut 25 years ago as a waiter with the line ''I'm sorry, we're going to have to ask you to leave.''

Of his Tony chances this year, he said, ''I think, Oh, yeah, they're going to call my name. They're going to say, 'David Hyde Pierce, I'm sorry, we're going to have to ask you to leave.'''

Also in something of an upset, an ebullient Julie White received the actress-play award for her portrayal of a conniving talent agent with a closeted gay client in Douglas Carter Beane's satiric The Little DogLaughed. Said a disbelieving White: ''You Tony voters--what a bunch of wacky, crazy kids.''

More expected was Frank Langella's triumph, winning his third Tony. He took the actor-play prize, for his sympathetic portrait of Richard M. Nixon in Peter Morgan's docudrama Frost/Nixon. ''I am very proud to work among you splendid people,'' a gracious Langella said.

Grey Gardens proved lucky for the two women who play mother and daughter in this musical about eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Christine Ebersole took the top musical performance prize in what many critics called the performance of the season.

Mary Louise Wilson, who portrays her mother in the show, received the featured actress-musical prize and some of the biggest laughs of the evening. She came onstage and said, ''Everyone has been so articulate.'' Then she let out howl of delight as the audience cheered.

Within hours of its final curtain Sunday, Journey'sEnd, R.C. Sherriff's antiwar drama, won the revival play award as producer Bill Haber came onstage with the entire cast to accept the award. Despite enthusiastic reviews, the production struggled at the box office and closed after a disappointing four-month run.

The musical revival prize went to Stephen Sondheim's Company.

The 2007 Tonys, broadcast by CBS, were voted on by 785 theatrical professionals. The awards were founded in 1947 by the American Theatre Wing, which now produces the show with the League of American Theatres and Producers. (Michael Kuchwara, AP, with additional reporting by The Advocate)

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