By Chris Jones
12:05 AM CDT, June 13, 2011
"The Book of Mormon" knocked down the door of the 65th annual Tony Awards at New York's Beacon Theatre on Sunday night, snagging a worshipful total of nine Tonys, including best musical. In the winner's circle: composers Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, directors Casey Nicholaw and Parker and an emotional newcomer-no-more named Nikki M. James, now a best supporting actress winner.
There were no unexpected miracles. In the slightly more contested category of best play, the sentimental English favorite "War Horse" still ran past the post, winning five Tonys, including a best direction Tony for Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris' bravura piece of emotional staging. Most other awards also went as expected, including a best revival of a musical Tony for "Anything Goes" -- along with a Tony for its star Sutton Foster -- and best revival of a play for the searing production of Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart."
Parker thanked his loyal "South Park" fans, many of whom have been flocking to "Mormon," Broadway's hottest and funniest show. "Without you guys," he said, accurately in many ways, "we wouldn't be here." Foster, meanwhile, thanked all of her teachers. And her dresser.
Mark Rylance, winner for best actor in a play for his fine turn in "Jerusalem," delivered a typically strange and appealing speech about walking through walls. Norbert Leo Butz, winner for best actor in a musical, was one of the few bright spots for "Catch Me If You Can."
Two fine Hollywood actresses added to their mantles. Frances McDormand won best actress honors Tony for her powerfully rooted work as a working-class Bostonian in the play "Good People." Ellen Barkin, who won best supporting actress in a play for her blistering Broadway debut in "The Normal Heart," paid emotional tribute to playwright and AIDS activist Kramer, saying he had taught her that "one person can make a difference in the world." Her co-star John Benjamin Hickey, a Tony winner in the best supporting actor category for his moving work, said of Kramer, "those of us still standing, Larry, can never repay you."
During the broadcast, hosted in familiar and surprise-free fashion by a smooth and relaxed Neil Patrick Harris, most Americans got their first look at Daniel Radcliffe in musical-comedy mode: The chirpy, apparently fearless star of the Harry Potter movies acquitted himself well in the song-and-dance number "The Brotherhood of Man," as he does onstage in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Radcliffe wasn't on tenterhooks; he wasn't even nominated.
Presumably, a number of Mormon viewers got their first actual look at the Tony-winning show that has been making headlines. Whatever they thought, the number "I Believe" was shrewdly chosen for a TV show intended to promote Broadway's current and future wares as much as celebrate achievements -- the song captured the combination of withering satire and genuine respect for faith that has made the show a hit.
Actress Brooke Shields, seated in the audience, was less shrewdly chosen, blowing a musical segment in Harris' mostly witty opening number, a spoof declaring that a "broadened" Broadway is no longer "just for gays," one that contained a couple of words that parents across America were probably less than delighted to be explaining to their theater-loving children. No in-home explanation was necessary for actor Bobby Cannavale's unheard contribution to the ditty -- the CBS censor took care of that. Mr. Bleep got another workout during "The Book of Mormon" segment, but it would have been wrong to play it any other way. The night's liveliest number was the disco classic "It's Raining Men" from "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel knew that the Lookingglass Theatre was going to be the winner of the regional theater Tony, as previously announced. In a statement put out Sunday night he congratulated Lookingglass for "its success in delivering quality, original theater for all to enjoy."
Kathleen Marshall said she planned to change the name of her twins to "Antoinette and Perry," in honor of her Tony victory as best choreographer of "Anything Goes." Meanwhile, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," now the first Broadway opening of the 2011-12 season, took it on the chin all night. Bono and The Edge poked fun at their missing the awards show's deadlines. "In rock 'n' roll," The Edge wryly observed, "deadlines are just the lies your manager tells you to get you back on the bus."
But the Tonys aren't rock 'n' roll. They're all Broadway. "I sent Bono a congratulatory cable," said Harris, firing off a series of gags aimed at the accident-plagued superhero spectacle. "It snapped."
The night's winners: Musicals
Best musical: "The Book of Mormon"
Revival: "Anything Goes"
Actor: Norbert Leo Butz, "Catch Me If You Can"
Actress: Sutton Foster, "Anything Goes"
Supporting actor: John Larroquette, "How to Succeed In Business"
Supporting actress: Nikki M. James, "The Book of Mormon"
Direction: Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker, "The Book of Mormon"
Score: "The Book of Mormon"
Book: "The Book of Mormon"
Choreography: "Anything Goes"
Best play: "War Horse"
Revival: "The Normal Heart"
Actor: Mark Rylance, "Jerusalem"
Actress: Frances McDormand, "Good People"
Supporting actor: John Benjamin Hickey, "The Normal Heart"
Supporting actress: Ellen Barkin, "The Normal Heart"
Direction: Marianne Elliott, Tom Morris, "War Horse"
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