Oh 'Boys'

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"Jersey Boys," the fast-moving musical biography of pop icons Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, won best musical Sunday at the 2006 Tony Awards, while "The History Boys," Alan Bennett's wise, witty and warmhearted dissection of British education, was named best play.

"The History Boys" received six Tonys, more than any other production, also taking home prizes for actor, Richard Griffiths; director, Nicholas Hytner; featured actress, Frances de la Tour; and two design prizes, sets and lighting.

While "Jersey Boys," picked up the top musical prize and received four Tonys, its main competitor, "The Drowsy Chaperone," the Canadian-born musical that affectionately celebrates Broadway's past, won more awards -- five -- including best book and score.

"You are insanely talented people," said Julia Roberts before giving the best-actor prize to Griffiths for his portrayal of an unorthodox yet beloved teacher in "The History Boys."

In his Broadway debut, John Lloyd Young, who plays Valli in "Jersey Boys," took the top actor-musical award and dedicated the prize to his father. LaChanze won for her portrayal of the courageous Celie in "The Color Purple" in the actress-musical category.

"Thank you, America," exulted "Drowsy" star Bob Martin, who co-wrote the book with Don McKellar.

The Canadian winners said they were proud that the show originated in Toronto.

"It's the longest-running show in Canadian history -- 12 performances -- we celebrated that," Martin said with a laugh.

Their Canadian cohorts, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, received the prize for music and lyrics. And an exuberant Beth Leavel, who portrays the show's inebriated title character, scooped up the featured-actress musical prizes.

Cynthia Nixon playing a distraught mother who loses a young son in an auto accident, won the best actress-play prize for her performance in "Rabbit Hole."

Ian McDiarmid who plays Ralph Fiennes' fey, funny manager in "Faith Healer," yelped out a "fantastic" as he ended his speech thanking voters for his featured-actor prize.

John Doyle received the prize for direction of a musical for his work on "Sweeney Todd," in which the cast plays the show's instruments. The revival also grabbed an award for its new, spare orchestrations.

Christian Hoff, who plays tough, wise-guy Tommy DeVito in "Jersey Boys," won the featured actor-musical prize.

The Lincoln Center Theater production of Clifford Odets' stirring 1935 drama "Awake and Sing!" received the prize for play-revival as well as a costume design prize.

The Roundabout Theatre Company production of "The Pajama Game" took home the musical revival prize and the award for choreography to Kathleen Marshall.

No single host shepherded the presenters and winners through the telecast, although a parade of stars, including Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey (a producer of the Tony-nominated "Color Purple"), were on hand to entice viewers to the CBS telecast.

"Jersey Boys," "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "The History Boys" are among the shows doing potent business at the box office, underscoring the fact that the 2005-2006 season has been a good year on Broadway.

For the first time, Broadway attendance topped the 12 million mark, jumping past the 11.9 million reached in the season before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Grosses have been robust, too, with the season total climbing to $861.6 million, a 12 percent hike from the $768.5 million of the year before.

Those money figures were helped by the appearance of big names on Broadway, most prominently Roberts. The Hollywood star may not have won over the critics for her performance in Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain," but her marquee value was undeniable, pretty much selling out the play's three-month run.

Tony winners were chosen by 754 theater professionals including actors, producers, writers, stagehands and theater owners. The Antoinette Perry -- or Tony -- Awards were founded in 1947 by the American Theatre Wing and are administered by the Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers.

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