At a star-studded ceremony last night, Sunday 12 June 2011, at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the American Theatre Wing’s 65th annual Tony Awards were announced. British play War Horse triumphed at the awards winning 5 gongs, including Best Play. British actor Mark Rylance won a Best Actor awards for his performance in the Royal Court’s Jerusalem.
The Book of Mormon, which has proved an unlikely smash-hit on Broadway, swept the awards with 9 wins out of its 14 nominations, including Best New Musical, and Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score for its authors Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, and Robert Lopez.
Neil Patrick Harris hosted a fun and unusually irreverent night, which opened with a tongue-in-cheek “did they really say that?” song-and-dance number, arguing that the range of Broadway shows on offer meant that the Great White Way was no longer “just for gays”.
The National Theatre’s production of War Horse, which is currently running at the New London Theatre in London and also at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York, won 5 awards including Best Play for author Nick Stafford, Best Direction of a Play for Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, Best Scenic Design of a Play for Rae Smith, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Paule Constable and Best Sound Design of a Play for Christopher Shutt. A special Tony Award was also given to the Handspring Puppet Company, who have produced the life-size horse puppets for the show.
Other big winners last night included two revivals, Anything Goes, which won 3 awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Larry Kramer’s 1985 hit The Normal Heart, which also won 3 awards including Best Revival of a Play.
Big name stars who brought home awards included our very own Mark Rylance, who beat Al Pacino for the Best Actor in a Play award for his bravado performance in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, his second Tony awards following his 2008 win for Boeing-Boeing, Ellen Barkin in The Normal Heart, and Frances McDormand winning Best Actress in a Play for Good People.
The most impassioned acceptance speech of the night came from AIDS activist Larry Kramer, whose play The Normal Heart scooped 3 awards and who said: “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.”
Brits who were nominated but missed out on awards this year included Jerusalem author Jez Butterworth, Joanna Lumley and costume designer Mark Thompson for La Bete, Kneehigh’s production of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter and its leading lady Hannah Yelland, Vanessa Redgrave for Driving Miss Daisy, Adam Godley for Anything Goes, Brian Bedford for The Importance of Being Earnest and Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia.
The awards were broadcast live by CBS in the States.