Hunky host Hugh Jackman shared his singing, dancing and joke-telling talents on the Radio City Music Hall stage, and Broadway shared the prizes among several winners at Sunday night’s 59th annual Tony Awards.
The loony musical Monty Python’s Spamalot took the top musical honor, though – despite its 14 nominations – it won only two other Tonys: for director Mike Nichols and featured actress Sara Ramirez.
The big musical winner, with six Tonys, was the lush romantic A Light in the Piazza, set in the 1950s and featuring a Tony-winning score by Adam Guettel – grandson of the legendary Richard Rodgers (The Sound of Music) – and starring best actress in a musical winner Victoria Clark.
Backstage, Nichols – who kissed wife Diane Sawyer before bounding to the stage to collect his Tony – admitted that he was worried about how Spamalot was going to fare given the surprising power of Piazza.
“I sat there thinking we are in the toilet,” Nichols told reporters. “This is backlash big-time. But then it turned out okay.” He also said Spamalot will go on tour and could become a movie.
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-Prize-winner drama about a popular parish priest and a confrontational nun (best dramatic actress Tony winner Cherry Jones) in a Roman Catholic school, was named best play and won a total of four Tonys, including one for director Doug Hughes.
Said Shanley in his acceptance speech: “I want to thank the Sisters of Charity for teaching me how to read and write. I want to thank the Irish Christian Brothers for throwing me out of high school.”
Another surprise winner: Bill Irwin, as leading dramatic actor (opposite Kathleen Turner) in the revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In the musical actor department, the winner was a delighted Norbert Leo Butz, who stars opposite John Lithgow in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Glengarry Glen Ross was named best dramatic revival, and while its featured actor winner Liev Schreiber didn’t discuss his personal life (including reports that he and Naomi Watts are dating), he did tell reporters that the play he stars in has a special meaning to him. “This was the first Broadway show that my father took me to 20 years ago,” he said.
The happiest winner of the night seemed to be Billy Crystal, whose autobiographical one-man show 700 Sundays took the award for special theatrical event. “I want to thank everybody on behalf of the entire cast,” he declared upon winning.
Crystal was also the funniest presenter of the night. While engaged in a mock standoff with Jackman over who was the real host of the show, Crystal announced on the Music Hall stage for all to hear: “I, too, am head over heels in love with Katie Holmes.”
Backstage, a far more serious Crystal said that when he won his Tony he was thinking about his parents. “They were so in my heart but they always have been. This whole play is about my family, so it’s a very personal evening.”