August, South Pacific, In the Heights, Boeing-Boeing, LuPone Are Tony Winners

By Kenneth Jones
15 Jun 2008

Best Actor and Actress winners Mark Rylance, Deanna Dunagan, Paulo Szot and Patti LuPone.
Best Actor and Actress winners Mark Rylance, Deanna Dunagan, Paulo Szot and Patti LuPone.
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

August: Osage County, South Pacific, Boeing-Boeing and In the Heights won top production honors at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards June 15.

Click Here for List of Tony Winners

The awards celebrate the best of Broadway's 2007-08 season. Whoopi Goldberg hosted the 8-11 PM portion of the ceremony, which was broadcast on CBS TV. The ceremony began shortly after 7 PM with the presentation of the Creative Arts Awards, which honor behind-the-scenes show folk — including designers. These presentations, hosted by Michael Cerveris and Julie White, were seen live via webcast on TonyAwards.com.

Playbill.com senior editor Andrew Gans offers a peek backstage with his live Tonys blog.

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Lincoln Center Theater's lush revival of South Pacific took the most awards of the night: seven. Trailing it were August: Osage County with five and In the Heights with four (see complete tally below).

Despite its new-to-Broadway sound, including hip-hop, rap and Caribbean-influenced music, In the Heights is viewed as a traditional feel-good musical, a snapshot of 21st-century Latino immigrants who are struggling to succeed (and who ask questions about identity) in their colorful neighborhood at the top of Manhattan — Washington Heights. Some critics consider it a cousin to Fiddler on the Roof, another show about outsiders seeking a place to call home.

The least surprising win of the night was Tracy Letts' August: Osage County as Best Play. The playwright had already won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his layered comic drama about three sisters who reunite with their pill-addicted mother at their childhood home. A family mystery has brought them together.

Accepting the award, Letts recognized the fact that the producers committed to produce an American play on Broadway with theatre actors rather than — implicitly — movie stars or TV names.

As Best Actress in a Play, Deanna Dunagan said that a year ago, when August: Osage County bowed at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, no one suspected that the three-and-a-half-hour comic drama would become a Broadway sensation. A 34-year veteran of regional theatre, Dunagan plays the monstrous matriarch Violet, who repeatedly bruises her grown children and members of her extended family. Her final performance in the play was June 15. Estelle Parsons succeeds her June 17.

Likewise, Rondi Reed, the 2008 Best Featured Actress in a Play for playing Aunt Mattie Fae in August, exited the show Sunday.

A national tour of August will launch in 2009 and there is hope for a London run.

Anna D. Shapiro won for Best Direction of a Play, for August. The ensemble drama is an example of the sort of committed group work for which Steppenwolf is world famous.

The sex comedy Boeing-Boeing, a onetime Broadway flop from the 1960s, was embraced as Best Revival of a Play for the new production directed by Matthew Warchus. The revival was a recent hit in London that came to Broadway with one of its original cast members — Mark Rylance, who won as Best Actor in a Play.

The Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific won Tonys in all four musical design categories: Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Sound Design (Scott Lehrer), Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Lighting Design (Donald Holder). Its director, Bartlett Sher, was Tony-honored for Best Direction of a Musical. The depth of LCT's Vivian Beaumont Theatre helps make the World War II tropical island setting of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic an expansive, sensual world, complete with sand dunes and a horizon of volcanic mountains on the sea.

Brazilian opera star Paulo Szot won as Best Actor in a Musical for playing Frenchman Emile deBecque in South Pacific. It is Szot's Broadway debut.

Stew, the self-proclaimed rock club rat, won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical for his poetry-kissed, intensely personal autobiographical musical, Passing Strange, about a young middle-class African-American man who goes abroad in search of himself.

Patti LuPone won as Best Actress in a Musical for playing Rose in Gypsy; it was a long time dream role for the actress. Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti won as Best Featured Actor and Featured Actress in a Musical for Gypsy.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who conceived and began writing In the Heights when he was in college more than five years ago, rapped his way through his acceptance speech for Best Score for the musical about a Latino neighborhood in upper Manhattan. Addressing Stephen Sondheim (who was not in the house), he added a famous Sondheim lyric about art into the rap: "Look, I made a hat where there never was a hat — it's a Latin hat at that."

He called the musical "a little show about home"; he was raised in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, a few blocks from Washington Heights, where In the Heights is set. Miranda, who also stars in the show as the charismatic narrator and chronicler of his people, pulled a Puerto Rican flag from his pocket and held it up next to his Tony statue.

Jim Norton, a veteran U.K. actor who starred in McPherson's The Weir in London and on Broadway, won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his salty, earthy role as a blind, drunken older brother in McPherson's The Seafarer. The role was written for Norton, a favorite actor of the Irish playwright. Norton is currently starring in McPherson's Port Authority Off-Broadway.

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The nominees and recipients of the 62nd Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards follow. Winners are listed in boldface, with an asterisk.

Best Musical:
Cry-Baby
*In the Heights
Passing Strange
Xanadu

Tony winners Paulo Szot and Patti LuPone.
photo by Aubrey Reuben
Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
*Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park With George

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park With George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
*Paulo Szot, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

Best Revival of a Musical
Grease
Gypsy
*Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
Sunday in the Park With George

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Stephen Sondheim

Best Play:
*August: Osage County
Rock 'n' Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

Tony winners Deanna Dunagan and Mark Rylance.
photo by Aubrey Reuben
Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, The Homecoming
*Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
*Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'n' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Best Direction of a Play
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
*Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
*Boyd Gaines, Gypsy

Tony winners Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines
photo by Aubrey Reuben
Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
*Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Original Score
Cry-Baby, Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
*In The Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid, Music: Alan Menken and Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange, Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald Lyrics: Stew

Best Direction of a Musical
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
*Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Tony winners Jim Norton and Rondi Reed
photo by Aubrey Reuben
Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raúl Esparza, The Homecoming
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
*Jim Norton, The Seafarer
David Pittu, Is He Dead?

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
*Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday in the Park with George
Anna Louizos, In the Heights
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
*Michael Yeargan, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
*Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County
Anthony Ward, Macbeth

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
*Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

Best Sound Design of a Play
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork, Macbeth
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
*Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

Best Costume Design of a Musical
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In the Heights
*Catherine Zuber, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Best Costume Design of a Play
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell, Boeing-Boeing
*Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Howell Binkley, In the Heights
*Donald Holder, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid

Best Lighting Design of a Play
*Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison, Macbeth
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County

Best Revival of a Play
*Boeing-Boeing
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereueses
Macbeth

Best Book of a Musical
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In the Heights, Quiara Alegria Hudes
*Passing Strange, Stew
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
*Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
*Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In the Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Special Tony Award
Robert Russell Bennett (1894-1981), in recognition of his historic contribution to American musical theatre in the field of orchestrations, as represented on Broadway this season by Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Here is the tally of 2008 Tony Winners:

South Pacific: 7
August: Osage County: 5
In the Heights: 4
Gypsy: 3
Boeing-Boeing: 2
The 39 Steps: 2
Les Liaisons Dangereuses: 1
Passing Strange: 1
The Seafarer: 1
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The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. CBS has broadcast the annual event since 1978.

For more information visit www.TonyAwards.com.