- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — “Hairspray” took a firm hold of the 2003 Tony Awards yesterday, winning eight, including best musical and prizes for its stars Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

“Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s drama about a homosexual baseball player, was named best play.

Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was named best revival, while Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave, the play’s tortured parents, received the other top acting honors.

An emotional Miss Redgrave, winning her first Tony, recalled all the American actors, singers and dancers who inspired her over the years as she accepted her award.

“Nine” took the musical revival award, while Jane Krakowski, the voluptuous mistress in the show, received the featured-actress award.

Miss Winokur gushed as she picked up the actress-musical prize for “Hairspray”:

“If a 4-foot-11, chubby, New York girl can be a leading lady in a Broadway show and win a Tony,” she said to raucous cheers, “then anything can happen.”

When he took the stage, Mr. Fierstein said, “Boy, am I glad this was not a beauty contest,” looking at his main competition, the Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas, star of “Nine.”

Marc Shaiman, composer of “Hairspray,” shared the award with co-lyricist Scott Wittman, with whom he’s been partners for 25 years and to whom he declared his continued love.

Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the two authors of “Hairspray,” consciously talked over each other while proclaiming the need for collaboration and listening to each other.

Jack O’Brien, the show’s director, also was honored as was featured actor Dick Latessa.

In an upset, a visibly shocked Joe Mantello received the direction prize for his work on “Take Me Out” — an award that Robert Falls of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was favored to win.

“Acting is a team sport and we have the best team in the world,” said an enthusiastic Denis O’Hare as he picked up the prize for featured actor. Mr. O’Hare plays a nebbish business manager who discovers the joys of baseball in “Take Me Out.”

Michele Pawk, who played Carol Burnett’s alcoholic mother in the short-lived “Hollywood Arms,” won the featured-actress prize.

“I have never ever been more proud to be a member of this community,” said Miss Pawk. “Men kissing each other on stage, drag queens, children — it’s a perfect world. As it should be.”

Billy Joel, who won a pre-telecast award for orchestrations, opened the 2003 Tony ceremonies in Times Square, singing “New York State of Mind.”

The song is featured in “Movin’ Out,” a dance celebration of songs by Mr. Joel, who, along with Stuart Malina, won the award for best orchestrations. The show’s creator, Twyla Tharp, also garnered the award for choreography.

“La Boheme,” Baz Luhrmann’s lavish retelling of the Puccini opera, picked up two design awards, one for sets, created by Mr. Luhrmann’s wife, Catherine Martin, and the other for lighting, by Nigel Levings.

William Ivey Long’s outlandish 1960s clothes for “Hairspray,” won the costume prize.

The awards are voted by more than 700 members of the theatrical community and journalists. The nominees, chosen in 22 categories, were announced May 12.

Between last fall and this spring, Broadway suffered through continuing economic doldrums, unusually severe winter weather, a strike by musicians and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — not to mention such expensive musical flops as “Dance of the Vampires” and “Urban Cowboy,” and tepid revivals of “Flower Drum Song” and “The Boys From Syracuse.”

But thanks to ever-rising ticket prices (most musicals are now $100 a ticket, and so is “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”), Broadway grossed a record $720.9 million for the season ending May 31, up 12 percent from the previous year.

Attendance topped 11.4 million, up 4.3 percent from the previous year.

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