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Tony Awards Cap a Banner Season

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Topping off what has been widely acknowledged as one of the most competitive seasons in recent Broadway history, the big winners at Sunday’s Tony Awards were the groundbreaking musicals “Rent” and “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk,” which each took four honors.

The Pulitzer-winning “Rent,” a musical about East Village bohemians, won the top award, for best musical, over “Noise/Funk,” the explosive rap-and-tap musical tale of African American history.

The revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” won best musical revival, and in the dramatic categories, Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” won best play, and Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” won best revival of a play. Ruben Santiago-Hudson of “Seven Guitars” took home the featured actor prize. “Master Class” was performed at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum before Broadway, and “Seven Guitars” played at the Ahmanson.

The evening’s most anticipated moment came when presenters Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters announced that the winner of the best leading actress in a musical was Donna Murphy, who stars in “The King and I,” and not Julie Andrews for “Victor/Victoria,” as had been widely expected. Andrews made headlines just after the Tony nominations were announced by refusing to accept her nomination because she was the only one of the creative team of “Victor/Victoria” to be acknowledged.

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Andrews, who has never won a Tony, was not at the black-tie 50th-anniversary ceremony.

Host Nathan Lane, who won the best musical actor award for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” kept the evening fast-paced with his witty banter, some of it directed at Andrews.

The actor made his appearance draped in a version of one of the costumes from “Victor/Victoria” over his tuxedo. “Come on, you really thought she was going to show up? . . . Welcome to the tabloid Tonys,” he joked.

The most moving moments occurred when the awards for best book of a musical and best original score were presented posthumously to Jonathan Larson, the 35-year-old composer and creator of “Rent.” He died of an aortic aneurysm the day before the musical was to begin previews off-Broadway. His sister, Julie Larson-McCollum, accepted his Tonys, saying, “My brother dreamed of creating a youthful passion piece that would bring a new generation of theatergoers to the theater. That dream became ‘Rent.’ Thank you for embracing it.”

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Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played a transvestite in the show, also won in a featured category.

The success of “Rent” overshadowed another of the season’s most original musicals, “Noise/Funk.” Its star, Savion Glover, won for his inventive choreography, and the show received Tonys for director George C. Wolfe, star Ann Duquesnay and lighting creators Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.

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“Master Class” also earned Tonys for lead actress Zoe Caldwell and supporting actress Audra McDonald.

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Albee’s 1967 Pulitzer-winning drama, “A Delicate Balance,” about terrors of suburban life, was named best revival of a play, also earning awards for director Gerald Gutierrez and lead actor George Grizzard.


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