During a ceremony that frequently tipped its hat to the past, the first Tony winner of Sunday night, a breathless and beautiful Scarlett Johansson, was honored for her featured role in the revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge – which first played on Broadway in 1955.
Still, as her excitement demonstrated, being recognized for stage work was an entirely new sensation for the New York-born screen actress. “Being welcomed into this community has been a dream come true for me,” Johansson, 25, said on the great stage of Radio City Music Hall, where the 64th annual Tony Awards, honoring Broadway’s best, were broadcast live on CBS. “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be on Broadway, and here I am.”
She also expressed her gratitude to “the Canadian I live with,” husband Ryan Reynolds. “Thank you for being a theater widower for me,” she said as he applauded from the audience of the 6,000-seat hall.
A Bow to Broadway’s Past
Keeping alive the spirit of America’s theatrical past, the Tonys showered awards, including those for best revivals, on the new productions of August Wilson’s 1987 Tony-winning best drama Fences – now starring this year’s Tony-winning best actor Denzel Washington and best actress Viola Davis – and the intimate, revisionist production of 1983’s best musical Tony winner La Cage aux Folles. The new La Cage also took Tonys for its outstanding leading man Douglas Hodge and director Terry Johnson.
“I’m amazed,” said Washington, 55. “I’m really surprised and blessed.”
In her Broadway debut, Catherine Zeta-Jones, 40, an Oscar winner for the movie Chicago, was named best actress in the musical revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 A Little Night Music. “I really do feel like Cinderella,” she said, thanking her parents and her husband, Michael Douglas – whom she called “a movie star, and I get to sleep with him every night.”
The three-hour ceremony’s first-time host, Will & Grace Emmy winner Sean Hayes, now starring in a revival of the 1968 best musical Promises, Promises, opened the show on the piano, before being joined by the casts of the season’s musicals. Capping the showstopper was the band Green Day, playing from the show based on their songs, American Idiot.
“Welcome to the Tony Awards,” Hayes announced, “the World Cup of show tunes.”
All-Star Couple Power
Adding sparkle to the ceremony, in their roles as presenters, were Katie Holmes and Daniel Radcliffe – as well as a bevy of celebrity couples sitting in the front rows of Radio City. Besides Johansson and Reynolds, there were Michael Douglas and A Little Night Music winner Zeta-Jones; Beyoncé and her Fela! producer-husband, Jay-Z; fellow Fela! producers Will and Jada Pinkett Smith; A View from the Bridge nominee Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts; and presenter Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith.
Both La Cage, with 11, and Fences, with 10 nominations, went into the evening leading the race, as did the musical Fela!, about Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti, also with 11. The Tony for best musical, however, went to Memphis, a 1950s story loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, who was one of the first white radio personalities to play black music. It also won for its book, original score and orchestrations.
John Logan’s Red, about artist Mark Rothko’s effort to deal with a commercial commission in the late 1950s, was named best play. In all, it won six Tonys, including those for featured actor Eddie Redmayne and director Michael Grandage.
For a complete list of Tony winners, click here.