Plus: Whoopi dances with Mario Lopez, while Gypsy star Patti LuPone is a big winner

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 15, 2008 11:00 PM

Broadway came out swinging Sunday night for the 62nd annual Tony Awards, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.

August: Osage County was named best play and won five awards in all, while In the Heights was the recipient of four Tonys, including best musical.

Besides the top award, In the Heights, a celebration of Latin-community life in Upper Manhattan, was recognized for its orchestration, choreography and score, with its writer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, stopping the show with his acceptance speech – delivered, in breathtaking fashion, as a rap song.

Adding to its distinction as this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, about a prickly and dysfunctional Oklahoma family, was named best play. The production’s four other Tonys were for its director Anna D. Shapiro, leading actress Deanna Dunagan, featured actress Rondi Reed and its scenic designer Todd Rosenthal.

Overall, it was a night for new names as well as for looking back, with the revivals of the classic musicals Gypsy (originally presented in 1959) and South Pacific (in 1949) dominating the musical categories.

Gypsy swept the musical-acting categories, with its star, Patti LuPone – who earned a standing ovation with her electrifying rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” early in the evening – winning the best leading actress in a musical. Featured players Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti were also honored.

The Biggest Winner

But it was the critically acclaimed Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific – the first time the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical landmark has returned to Broadway in nearly half a century – that struck the strongest note of the evening, winning a total of seven Tonys, including best musical revival and awards for director Bartlett Sher and its handsome leading actor, Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot.

In the craft categories, the show also won for its scenery, lighting, costume design and sound design.

Passing Strange, a jazz-and-rock riff on one man’s coming of age (and the show considered the strongest competition to In the Heights), was cited for its book.

Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance was named best actor for his role as the hapless witness in the 1960s jet-age French farce Boeing-Boeing, which was named best revival of a play. In his lengthy, rambling acceptance speech, Rylance offered advice on how to dress. It made no sense, and was hilarious.

Legendary composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George) received a lifetime achievement award. Though he did not appear at the ceremony, he sent a message to the Tony audience. He said he still intends to achieve.

Whoopi as Mary Poppins

At the top of the three-hour show, Goldberg made her entrance in the crab costume from this season’s Disney production of The Little Mermaid, even though the production number on stage was from Disney’s 10-year-old (and still running) The Lion King.

Later, through some camera trickery, Goldberg danced with Mario Lopez in A Chorus Line, while an airborne Goldberg also descended upon the Radio City Music Hall stage outfitted as Mary Poppins.

“My point is,” said Goldberg, “if I can play Mary Poppins, anybody can.”

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