The 2011 Tony Awards

The 65th Tony Awards were held on Sunday, June 12th at the Beacon Theater in New York. The big winners of the night were The Normal Heart, War Horse and The Book of Mormon.

The Normal Heart won Best Revival of a Play as well as Best Featured Actress and Best Featured Actor.

Best Featured Actress in a Play went to Ellen Barkin. “Performing in The Normal Heart…has transformed me, not just as an actor but as a human being,” she said. “The most challenging part was we only had 12 days of rehearsal. That was grueling but the good part about that was we didn’t have time to be frightened. We just kind of threw ourselves into it.

“I think the words are so strong and powerful,” she said of the script. “It’s just about you and the words. Doing a play like this and doing anything – I think there’s a big difference. You only get the luxury of experiencing something this important maybe once in a career if you’re lucky.”

John Benjamin Hickey won his first Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in The Normal Heart. In an emotional speech, he thanked playwright Larry Kramer for creating a play that, thirty years after its premiere, is still relevant.

“It’s been surreal,” he said of his experience with the play. “The experience of rehearsing this play and getting it out so fast…is very much like the trajectory of the play, minus the tragedy of the play. Such a rush of adrenaline, such a roller coaster ride filled with so much terror. [Directors] Joe and George made us embrace the terror – your terror is part of the whole thing.”

Hickey, who plays Felix Turner, said of his role, “It’s exhausting. It takes a physical and emotional toll. I think though that the play is so electric and so alive and filled with so much love and pain and strangely enough joy – because Larry’s voice is so articulate, so expressive. It’s exhilarating to do this play. One of the shocking things about this play is its ability to remain shocking – gay marriage, health care, democracy.”

Another political show that was recognized the by the Tony Awards was War Horse, which received Best Play, Director of a Play and Best Sound Design. Directors Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris said they were surprised by the success and popularity of the play, which transferred from England.  “We didn’t imagine that this would happen,” Morris said. “The creative team constantly comes up with things that you didn’t imagine in your wildest team.”

When asked about the success War Horse received both in England and in the United States, Nick Stafford said, “It feels like we really pushed the envelope in terms of what you can do onstage in terms of how you tell a story and what story you choose to tell. People see us taking risks. Nothing was safe. We didn’t know what we were doing or if it would work.”

Best Actress in a Play went to Francis McDormand for her role as Margie Walsh in Good People and Best Costumes went to Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner for the flashy, gaudy outfits in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

“The whole thing about theater that’s so different from film is this genuine warm feeling of family,” Chappel said.

“The performances here are so wonderful,” Gardiner added. “The actors are incredible. I cry every time I see the duet between father and son and I’ve seen it like 90 times.”

Best Actor in a play went to Mark Rylance for his role as Johnny “Rooster” Byron in Jerusalem. He recited the poem “Walking Through Walls” by Louis Jenkins as his acceptance speech.

Norbert Leo Butz won Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can.

John Laroquette won Best Featured Actor as his role as J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He thanked his co-star Daniel Radcliffe in his acceptance speech, saying, In his acceptance speech, Laroquette thanked Radcliffe, “without whom I would be sitting at home watching this in my underwear.

“It is mind boggling,” he said of winning the award for his Broadway musical debut. “It is emotional to be accepted into the community so fully for my first show. I’ve got a lot of awards for acting which I’ve been fortunate to receive. But walking up to the stage tonight I actually felt emotional which is not usual for me. I really had no saliva in my mouth at the top of the stairs.”

Laroquette, who never formally studied acting, said, “I really like being on stage. I find that it suits my personality really well. I look forward to being onstage because every night is different, as clichéd as that sounds.”

Best Revival of a Musical went to Anything Goes as well as Best Actress in a Musical to Sutton Foster for her role as Reno Sweeney. “All I ever wanted to be as a little girl was to be a performer and I get to do it every night, eight times a week!” she said in her acceptance speech.

Kathleen Marshall won her third Tony Award for choreography in Anything Goes. “This is huge – for a revival to get this kind of recognition in this season is amazing,” she said. “I’ll have to wake up and pinch myself. This is incredible.”

Nikki M. James received Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Nabalungi in The Book of Mormon. Giving an emotional acceptance speech, she said, “Tony come on over and live with me!…They’re saying wrap it up but I will not leave this stage!

“I was floored,” James said of receiving the award. “I didn’t win the Drama Desk and I didn’t win the OCC. And I know how stiff the competition is. I stopped – I said if it happens I’ll speak from my heart and hope that I won’t forget people. And I did forget some people. I never in my life expected to get one of these thing. I feel like I have to move to a new apartment that’s worthy of the award!”

“The very first preview [aware that something was special],” James said. “We knew the pressure was on us and that first audience – we had to hold during, ‘Hasa Diga Ebowi’ – it felt like 5 minutes. The audience was dying laughing. We knew we could get them at that moment. And then the twitter universe let us know that people were liking it.”

Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical went to The Book of Mormon. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who dressed up as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez when they attended the Oscars, did not wear dresses to the Tony Awards.

“It wouldn’t have the same effect on Broadway,” Parker said.

Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker received Best Direction of a Musical for The Book of Mormon. “I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life!” Nicholaw said.

“This has been really, really cool,” Trey Parker said when accepting the award.

Robert Lopez, who collaborated with Parker and Stone on the music and lyrics, said, “We were worried about people throwing bricks at our windows, but we didn’t dare to hope that people would as warmly embrace it on this scale.”

When asked about their next career move, Parker said, “I guess we’re going to start drinking a lot, then write musicals that aren’t as good.”

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