War Horse, Book of Mormon, Anything Goes, Normal Heart Win 2011 Tony Awards
By Kenneth Jones
The Book of Mormon, the profane, comic, heartfelt musical about earnest religious missionaries, and War Horse, a puppet-driven tale of an English boy following his beloved horse into World War I, were named Best Musical and Best Play, respectively at the 2011 Tony Awards ceremony on June 12.
The celebration of excellence in the 2010-11 Broadway season also included awards to Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (Revival of a Play) and Anything Goes (Revival of a Musical). Kathleen Marshall's Choreography of Anything Goes won a Tony, and Sutton Foster won her second Tony as Best Actress in a Musical (after Thoroughly Modern Millie) for playing the evangelist-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in the Cole Porter musical.
The one Tony for David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, an acclaimed play about an out-of-work single mother in Boston, went to Frances McDormand, who played the hardscrabble heroine of the comic drama.
Kramer's prescient play about fear, love and activism in the early days of the AIDS first surfaced in the mid-1980s — in time in which it was set. Back then, some called it a rant rather than a play, but the years have been kind to the work — audiences, critics and the Tony voters have embraced the drama about (as director George C. Wolfe has put it) a monster stalking a community.
Kramer, whose anti-hero Ned Weeks is inspired by his own history as an AIDS activist, said in an acceptance speech, "To gay people everywhere, whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people and that our day will come."
Mark Rylance, already a Tony Award winner for Boeing-Boeing, was named Best Actor in a Play for his sweaty, brash performance as former daredevil who spins tall tales in the celebrated three-hour character study Jerusalem by English playwright Jez Butterworth.
The Tonys, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, were held at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
By 9 PM Sunday, The Book of Mormon had already won Tonys in five categories, including Best Score, a category buried in the pre-telecast ceremony, allowing only incidental national airtime to the songwriters Robert Lopez, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. (Memo to Tony organizers: without the work of dramatists who write new music and lyrics for the theatre, Broadway wouldn't have original musicals.) By the end of the ceremony (which ran four minutes beyond 11 PM on CBS-TV), The Book of Mormon won nine Tony Awards out of its 14 nominations — for Musical, Score, Book (Lopez, Stone and Parker), Sound (Brian Ronan), Lighting (Brian MacDevitt), Direction (Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker), Orchestrations (Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus), Actress in a Featured Role (Nikki M. James) and Scenic Design (Scott Pask).
John Larroquette, in his Broadway debut, won a Featured Actor (Musical) Tony for playing a corporate boss J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey took home Tonys for their Featured performances in The Normal Heart — he for playing the AIDS-stricken lover of the play's hero, she for playing the polio-stricken doctor with cautionary words for a community in fear.
Following their earlier Academy Award win for costumes of the original film "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner won the Costume Design (Musical) Tony for their outlandish work on the new stage musical version of that property. The show charts the journey of a trio of drag performers making their way across Australia.
Costume designer Desmond Heeley was the only artist from The Importance of Being Earnest to win a 2011 Tony Award. (He last won in 1968 for his costumes and sets for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.) His Victorian frocks designed for Brian Bedford (who plays Lady Bracknell in the Oscar Wilde classic) were first seen in the Bedford-directed 2009 revival of Earnest at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, which inspired this Roundabout Theatre Company staging.
Norbert Leo Butz won a second Tony (after Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) for his turn as an FBI agent in the musical Catch Me If You Can. "This award doesn't mean that I'm the best at anything, but it does mean that I might be the most grateful man in this room tonight," he said in his acceptance speech. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have to be honest with you, this was not an easy one. It was not easy for me."
In addition to the professional workout Butz is giving nightly in a knockout number ("Don't Break the Rules," seen on the Tony telecast), the time was personally hard for the actor. During the show's 2009 tryout in Seattle, Butz's sister, Teresa, was murdered by a home intruder in the same city. The producers canceled several performances due to the family emergency. "This is for my father…" Butz said. "And for my sister. I love you, Teresa, we remember you every night."
The Book of Mormon — written by the creators of TV's "South Park" (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and the Tony-winning co-songwriter of Avenue Q (Robert Lopez) — is a groundbreaking musical for its mix of intense profanity, social satire, buoyant optimism and tunefulness. Wildly critical of organized religion, it nevertheless pushes the idea of faith being a necessary and useful part of the human experience (and the writers have said as much in interviews). Even the show's most corrupt characters end up being humanized by the bible stories that are conjured in the musical comedy.
Accepting the Best Musical Tony, Parker thanked his late, great co-librettist, the prophet Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon faith, in the 19th century. Smith wrote "The Book of Mormon," the bedrock text of the church, which Mormons say is the testament of Jesus Christ's days in ancient North America.
War Horse, a hit at the National Theatre of Great Britain, is inspired by a children's novel about a horse drafted into the British cavalry for active duty in Europe during World War I. Scenes of tranquil life in the English countryside and violence behind enemy lines punctuate the work, as do live music, animated projections and the breathtaking creations of the Handspring Puppet Company, which won a Special Tony this year for the life-size equine puppets that evoke tears and laughter at every performance at Lincoln Center Theater's vast Vivian Beaumont Theater. The company is made up of American performers, directed by the original creative team. Original directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris won the Tony for Direction of a Play. A North American tour of the play has already been announced. Nick Stafford penned the stage adaptation of the novel; the property is also the source of a separate film version directed by Steven Spielberg for a late 2011 release.
Here's the tally of 2011 Tony winners:
The Book of Mormon: 9
Nominees and recipients of the 65th Annual Tony Awards follow, with recipients marked in bold and with an asterisk.
2011 TONY AWARD NOMINEES AND RECIPIENTS
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Best Revival of a Musical
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Best Revival of a Play
Best Book of a Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Best Costume Design of a Play
Best Direction of a Play
Best Direction of a Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
*The Book of Mormon
Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Send questions and comments to the Webmaster
Copyright © 2014 Playbill, Inc. All Rights Reserved.