- Associated Press - Monday, June 10, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — On a feel-good night for Broadway, it was only natural that the TonyAward go to its most feel-good musical, the joyous “Kinky Boots.” But most everything about Sunday’s Tony telecast was warmhearted, from inspiring speeches about the theatrical community to the inspired antics of Neil Patrick Harris, who should officially be awarded the host job on a permanent basis.

It was an especially happy night for female theater artists: In a rare feat, women took home both directing prizes, for a musical (Diane Paulus for the high-energy “Pippin” revival) and for a play (Pam MacKinnon for the searing revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).

And Cyndi Lauper won best original score for “Kinky Boots,” a result that had many in the audience whooping with delight.

“Girl, you’re gonna have fun tonight!” shouted presenter Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the “Modern Family” actor — a reference, of course, to Miss Lauper’s iconic “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”


In winning best musical, “Kinky” scored something of an upset over the terrific but decidedly darker “Matilda the Musical.” And underscoring the sunny nature of this year’s ceremony, a comedy — Christopher Durang’s dysfunctional-family satire “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” — won for best play over the more typical dramatic fare.

It wasn’t a great night for movie stars. In a season in which a number of Hollywood personalities were snubbed for Tony nominations — Scarlett Johansson, Bette Midler and Jessica Chastain among them — best-actor nominee Tom Hanks (“Lucky Guy”) lost out to Tracy Letts, previously a Tony-winning playwright, for his wrenching performance in “Virginia Woolf.”

As it was for women, it was a big night for black actors, with wins for best actor and actress in a musical, best actress in a play and featured actor in a play.

The ebullient Billy Porter won best actor in a musical for playing a drag queen with a heart of gold and a taste for, well, kinky boots in “Kinky Boots.” He graciously saluted his co-star and co-nominee, Stark Sands.

“”You are my rock, my sword, my shield,” he said. “I share this award with you. I’m gonna keep it at my house — but I share it with you.”

And the effervescent Patina Miller won best actress in a musical for “Pippin,” in a role — the Leading Player — that also won Ben Vereen a Tony in 1973. Like Mr. Vereen, Miss Miller sings and dances expertly in the role, but unlike Mr. Vereen, she also soars on a trapeze and sings while hula-hooping.

Cicely Tyson, 88, had perhaps the evening’s most emotional win — and not one but two standing ovations — for best actress in a play for “The Trip to Bountiful.” She told the audience that at her age, she had “this burning desire to do just one more — one more great role. I didn’t want to be greedy. I just wanted one more.”

And Courtney B. Vance won best featured actor in “Lucky Guy,” his first win in three nominations.

“It’s a richer experience now,” he said at the Tony after-party. “Being nominated is a whirlwind. Now I know how to pace myself.” He was snapping photos of his wife, the actress Angela Bassett, as fellow guests at the Tony after-party at the Plaza Hotel crowded around them. “Besides,” he said, “we’re the toast of Broadway now! That doesn’t happen very often.”

Wins or losses, the guests at the Tony gala seemed intent on having a wonderful time. One of them was Billy Magnussen, who plays a studly young boyfriend to Sigourney Weaver’s character in “Vanya and Sonia.” He had lost out to Mr. Vance but couldn’t stop dancing (if you wanted to interview him, you had to twirl along.)

“Who gets to dance at the Tonys?” he asked joyfully and rather rhetorically. “This guy!” He said it was “amazing to be honored for something that I would do for free anyway.”

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