'Once' wins big at Tonys; Borle takes his first

Fox Chapel native thanks his teachers after capturing award for featured actor in a play

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Christian Borle didn't forget his hometown when he won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a play last night. The Fox Chapel native who attended St. Edmund's and Shady Side academies and Carnegie Mellon University thanked "the incredible teachers in Pittsburgh" for giving him a boost to the stage at New York's Beacon Theatre to accept the award for his role as the Black Stache -- a pre-hook Captain Hook -- in "Peter and the Starcatcher."

Best musical winner "Once," a folksy show about an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their love of music, came to the awards ceremony with a leading 11 nominations and left its closest competition, the splashy "Newsies," in the dust by winning eight Tonys. "Newsies," like "Once" based on a movie, won for choreographer Christopher Gatelli and for original score, giving long-time Disney and Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken his first Tony.

"Peter and the Starcatcher," a colorful, inventive play that meshes music with storytelling, captured five Tonys. The role in the Peter Pan prequel was the second nomination and first win for Mr. Borle, whose previous nod was for a featured role in the musical "Legally Blonde." He was best known for his Broadway roles until this year, when he became a member of the cast of NBC's "Smash," a show about the making of a musical.

Best play went to Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Clybourne Park," about gentrification and racial tensions in a Chicago neighborhood. The play, which riffs off Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama "A Raisin in the Sun," comes here next year as part of the Pittsburgh Public Theater season.

Mike Nichols received a standing ovation when he won his record sixth Tony as director of "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman," which also won best revival of a play.

Steve Kazee, best musical actor winner for "Once," talked of his mother's passing on Easter Sunday and how his cast and leading lady, Cristin Milioti, have been supporting him every since. Brit James Corden beat out such leading men as Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Frank Langella and John Lithgow for best actor in a play, the "ridiculously silly" UK play, "One Man, Two Govnors."

Leading actress in a musical went to the favorite, Audra McDonald, for "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," adding to her Tonys' trove; she has four in the supporting actress category. An exited Nina Arianda, as best actress in a play, told presenter Christopher Plummer, "You were my first crush" while accepting her award for David Ives' "Venus in Fur."

A producer of best musical revival "Porgy and Bess" thanked the Gershwin estate for supporting the mission to bring the show into the 21st century, perhaps a nod to Stephen Sondheim's criticism of the changes made in the new production.

Judith Light, a CMU alum, was a winner for best featured actress in "Other Desert Cities." She adds a Tony to her two Emmy Awards for playing Karen Wolek on "One Life to Live." The former "Who's the Boss?" and "Ugly Betty" star was also nominated last year for her performance as Vince Lombardi long-suffering wife in "Lombardi." Best featured actor and actress in a musical, Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye, won for Kathleen Marshall's "Nice Work If You Can Get It."

Winners of best direction in a musical and choreography went to "Once" and "Newsies," respectively. Local nominees in those categories included Ms. Marshall, who went into the night as a three-time Tony winner and nine-time nominee. Jeff Calhoun, previously nominated as the choreographer of "Grease" in 1994, was back with a best director nomination for "Newsies," which garnered eight nominations. Mr. Calhoun attended what is now Pine-Richland High School. Point Park alumnus Rob Ashford was nominated as choreographer for the musical revival "Evita."

The telecast, with Neil Patrick Harris performing hosting duties for the third time, included a live feed to the Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and a scene from the ship's production of "Hairspray." Hugh Jackman was given a special Tony for the millions of dollars he has raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; the award was presented to him by his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness.

theater - region

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. The Associated Press contributed to this report. First Published June 11, 2012 4:00 AM


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