June 11, 2006

“History Boys” and “Jersey Boys” win Tonys

By Claudia Parsons and Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Alan Bennett's "The History Boys" won
six Tony Awards, including best play on Sunday, while "Jersey
Boys," a sing-along show about Frankie Valli and the Four
Seasons, won the award for best musical.

"The History Boys" dominated the drama category, winning
best director, actor and supporting actress, as well as best
play, adding to a clutch of awards it picked up in London where
it started life at the National Theater.

The honors for musicals were more evenly spread between
various shows, with "Jersey Boys" winning four, including best
actor and supporting actor.

Its main rival "The Drowsy Chaperone," a parody of 1920s
musicals, won five awards, including best book and best score.

Best actress in a musical went to LaChanze, the star of
"The Color Purple," a show based on Alice Walker's novel and
produced by Oprah Winfrey that ended up with just one award
despite 11 nominations.

A new production of "Sweeney Todd" first seen in London
took the award for best director of a musical, for John Doyle.

On the dramatic side, it was a good night for the British.

Set in a boys' school, "The History Boys" stars Richard
Griffiths as an eccentric teacher preparing a group of
teen-agers for university entrance exams, and Bennett admitted
he had been unsure if American audiences would appreciate it.

"When we were told we were coming to Broadway we were a bit
nervous about the response and whether the play would mean
anything really over here," Bennett said, accepting the award.

"But the audiences have been so generous and open hearted,
they've surpassed anything we could have hoped for," he said.


Griffiths won the award for best actor, Frances de la Tour
won for best supporting actress and Nicholas Hytner won best
director. It also won awards for lighting and scenery.

Another Briton, Ian McDiarmid, won the award for best
supporting actor in a play for "Faith Healer."

Cynthia Nixon, who won the Tony for best actress in a play
for her role as a bereaved mother in "Rabbit Hole," paid
tribute to the British imports on Broadway this season.

"I just feel other countries, particularly Britain, invest
in their theatres in the way our government doesn't," Nixon
told reporters after picking up her award.

Two classic American shows won the awards for best revivals
-- Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing!" in the play category and
"The Pajama Game" on the musical side.

"The Drowsy Chaperone" won five awards, capping a fairytale
success story for its creators who first wrote it as a skit to
be performed at lead actor Bob Martin's bachelor party.

"This started as such a small thing and has grown to this
marvelous creation," Martin said, adding that the musical had
retained its "quirky" Canadian character through various
incarnations, from fringe theaters to Broadway.