History Boys Is Best Play, Jersey Boys Best Musical in 2006 Tony Awards

By Kenneth Jones
June 11, 2006

The History Boys, Jersey Boys, Awake and Sing! and The Pajama Game won 2006 Tony Awards in production categories June 11.



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The 60th annual awards, representing excellence in Broadway theatre for the 2005-06 season, were presented at Radio City Music Hall. In lieu of a single host, multiple presenters introduced portions of the show and handed out the awards.

Jersey Boys, the pop-hit-filled backstage tale of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons snagged the Best Musical Tony Award, one design award and two acting nods.

The History Boys, Alan Bennett's comic and dramatic rumination on education, history and ambition, won a record six Tonys. Nicholas Hytner earned the Tony for Best Direction of Play for his work with the ensemble of History Boys. The play freely shifts time and place, includes film sequences, a scene in French, a couple of cabaret numbers and soliloquies from its main characters.

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Richard Griffiths, the British actor whose career has included classics, films and new works, was named Best Leading Actor in a Play for essaying Hector, an inspirational yet emotionally-closeted high school teacher in The History Boys. He created the role at the National Theatre in England (as did the entire company). The cast reunited for the world tour that culminated in the current Broadway run. They will also appear in the film version, due out later this year.

The one Tony for The Color Purple went to LaChanze, as Best Leading Actress in a Musical, for playing Celie in the musical inspired by the novel by Alice Walker.

The Roundabout Theatre Company revival of The Pajama Game, which boasted a revised script and included songs not in the original run 50 years ago, won as Revival of a Musical.

Kathleen Marshall's choreography for The Pajama Game was also embraced by Tony voters (many fans of the show regard "Hernando's Hideaway," with Harry Connick Jr. playing jazz piano in a nightclub, as the cast struts around him, as one of the season's musical high points).

Cynthia Nixon, a New York theatre actress since her childhood, won her first Tony this year, for Best Leading Actress in a Play for playing a grieving mother in Rabbit Hole. Beth Leavel, who plays the delicious, and often drunk, title character in The Drowsy Chaperone snagged the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Leavel previously told Playbill.com she never played ingénue roles, not even when she was in school. Blowsy, been-around and jaded suited her just fine from the beginning of her career, she said.

Christian Hoff was rewarded in the category of Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his muscular, tough turn at mob-linked Tommy DeVito in The Jersey Boys. Playing falsetto-happy Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.

Lincoln Center Theater's production of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing!, a rarely-performed naturalistic slice of Depression life that was a product of the famed Group Theatre in the 1930s, was named Best Revival of a Play. The staging is currently playing the Belasco Theatre, where the work was first performed 70 years ago.

LCT producer Andre Bishop called the play "not only worth reviving, but in need of reviving…"

John Doyle, the British director known for creating musical productions in which actors create characters and play their own instruments on stage, won the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for Sweeney Todd. His work for the revival of the Sondheim classic is widely considered to be a directorial masterstroke. (His version of Sondheim's Company, with the cast playing its own accompaniment, is due on Broadway this coming fall.)

The Drowsy Chaperone, the only nominated Best Musical this year that is not based on history or existing source material (like a book or film) was rewarded for its ambition to be fresh: Bob Martin and Don McKellar won the Best Book of a Musical Tony, and Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison won for Best Original Score (they share music and lyric credit).

The musical has its roots in an evening of entertainment created by Lambert, Morrison, McKellar and others to celebrate the wedding of Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf, their friends in the Toronto comedy and theatre community. They wrote a spoof of a '20s show, with characters named Bob and Janet. The idea was too good to not expand into a full, commercial evening. The Drowsy Chaperone, with a choice leading role added for Martin, was the result.

Drowsy won five 2006 Tony Awards.

In the design categories, Howell Binkley won the Lighting Design of a Musical Tony for his potent work on The Jersey Boys, which shows dimly lit back rooms and flashy concert appearances in the lives and times of the pop group The Four Seasons. The Best Lighting (Play) Tony went to Mark Henderson, whose work included fluorescent fixtures for the institutional British high school setting (Bob Crowley won for Best Scenic Design of a Play for History Boys).

The 1920s-set The Drowsy Chaperone earned musical design awards for costumes (Gregg Barnes) and scenic design (David Gallo).

The Depression era, working-class costumes of Awake and Sing! won Catherine Zuber a Tony for Best Costume Design of a Play.

Sarah Travis, who created the unique, intimate orchestrations for the chamber-sized Sweeney Todd, won the Best Orchestrations Tony.

Sarah Jones, Harold Prince and The Intiman Theatre in Seattle were among the early recipients of 2006 Tony Awards. Their awards were announced in early May. Their three respective non-competitive categories are Special Tony Award, Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement and Regional Theatre Award.

Actress-writer Jones created Bride & Tunnel, a collection of solo pieces in which she portrays immigrant characters who are performing at an open-mike night at a venue in Queens, NY. The lauded Off-Broadway staging jumped to Broadway in 2005-06, and performances continue to Aug. 6 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Legendary Broadway producer-director Prince, whose career includes producing The Pajama Game, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof, and directing Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd and Evita, was not at the Tony ceremony in Manhattan. He was too busy overseeing final rehearsals for a new Las Vegas version of his triumph, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Re-dubbed Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular, the production begins June 12 in Nevada.

The Intiman Theatre is the respected resident theatre in Seattle. Under the leadership of artistic director Bartlett Sher (The Light in the Piazza) and managing director Laura Penn, the company is committed to reinterpreting the classics, staging contemporary plays and developing new works. Founded by Margaret Booker in 1972, Intiman takes its name from a playhouse started by August Strindberg in Stockholm. The name translates as "the intimate."

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The televised Tony ceremony aired 8-11 PM (ET) on CBS-TV, with winners from seven categories presented on a webcast at tonys.org 7:15-8 PM.

Nominees and winners are listed below, with winners indicated by boldface type and an asterisk.

Best Musical
The Color Purple
The Drowsy Chaperone
*Jersey Boys
The Wedding Singer

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Sutton Foster, The Drowsy Chaperone
*La Chanze, The Color Purple
Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd
Kelli O'Hara, The Pajama Game
Chita Rivera, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Sweeney Todd
Harry Connick, Jr., The Pajama Game
Stephen Lynch, The Wedding Singer
Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone
*John Lloyd Young, Jersey Boys

Best Play
*The History Boys
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Rabbit Hole
Shining City

Best Revival of a Musical
*The Pajama Game
Sweeney Todd
The Threepenny Opera

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Ralph Fiennes, Faith Healer
*Richard Griffiths, The History Boys
Zeljko Ivanek, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
Oliver Platt, Shining City
David Wilmot, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Kate Burton, The Constant Wife
Judy Kaye, Souvenir
Lisa Kron, Well
*Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole
Lynn Redgrave, The Constant Wife

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Danny Burstein, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jim Dale, The Threepenny Opera
Brandon Victor Dixon, The Color Purple
Manoel Felciano, Sweeney Todd
*Christian Hoff, Jersey Boys

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, Lestat
Felicia P. Fields, The Color Purple
Megan Lawrence, The Pajama Game
*Beth Leavel, The Drowsy Chaperone
Elisabeth Withers-Mendes, The Color Purple

Best Revival of a Play
*Awake and Sing!
The Constant Wife
Edward Albee's Seascape
Faith Healer

Best Direction of a Musical
*John Doyle, Sweeney Todd
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
The Color Purple
Music & Lyrics: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray

*The Drowsy Chaperone
Music & Lyrics: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

The Wedding Singer
Music: Matthew Sklar; Lyrics: Chad Beguelin

The Woman in White
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics: David Zippel

Best Book of a Musical
Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy, The Wedding Singer
Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Jersey Boys
*Bob Martin and Don McKellar, The Drowsy Chaperone
Marsha Norman, The Color Purple

Best Direction of a Play
*Nicholas Hytner, History Boys
Wilson Milam, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Bartlett Sher, Awake and Sing!
Daniel Sullivan, Rabbit Hole

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, The Wedding Singer
Donald Byrd, The Color Purple
*Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Tyne Daly, Rabbit Hole
*Frances de la Tour, History Boys
Jayne Houdyshell, Well
Alison Pill, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Zoë Wanamaker, Awake and Sing!

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Samuel Barnett, The History Boys
Domhnall Gleeson, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
*Ian McDiarmid, Faith Healer
Mark Ruffalo, Awake and Sing!
Pablo Schreiber, Awake and Sing!

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
John Lee Beatty, The Color Purple
*David Gallo, The Drowsy Chaperone
Derek McLane, The Pajama Game
Klara Zieglerova, Jersey Boys

Best Scenic Design of a Play
John Lee Beatty, Rabbit Hole
*Bob Crowley, The History Boys
Santo Loquasto, Three Days of Rain
Michael Yeargan, Awake and Sing!

Best Costume Design of a Musical
*Gregg Barnes, The Drowsy Chaperone
Susan Hilferty, Lestat
Martin Pakledinaz, The Pajama Game
Paul Tazewell, The Color Purple

Best Costume Design of a Play
Michael Krass, The Constant Wife
Santo Loquasto, A Touch of the Poet
*Catherine Zuber, Awake and Sing!
Catherine Zuber, Seascape

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington and Brian Monahan, The Drowsy Chaperone
*Howell Binkley, Jersey Boys
Natasha Katz, Tarzan
Brian MacDevitt, The Color Purple

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Awake and Sing!
Paul Gallo, Three Days of Rain
Mark Henderson, Faith Healer
*Mark Henderson, The History Boys

Best Orchestrations
Larry Blank, The Drowsy Chaperone
Dick Lieb and Danny Troob, The Pajama Game
Steve Orich, Jersey Boys
*Sarah Travis, Sweeney Todd

Special Tony Award
*Sarah Jones (writer and star of Bridge & Tunnel)

Regional Theatre Tony Award
*Intiman Theatre in Seattle, WA

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
*Harold Prince

The total number of awards received by each production follows:
The History Boys - 6
The Drowsy Chaperone - 5
Jersey Boys - 4
The Pajama Game - 2
Sweeney Todd - 2
Awake and Sing! - 2
Faith Healer - 1
Rabbit Hole - 1
The Color Purple - 1

For more information visit www.tonyawards.com.