The Times West Virginian

Entertainment Today

June 8, 2009

'Billy Elliot' wins 10 Tonys; 'Carnage' best play

NEW YORK — Broadway's Tonys seemed a family affair this year, with an outpouring of generosity from winners to losers despite the domination of the evening by "Billy Eliot," which won 10 awards, and one actor bringing his wife to the stage to stand by him while he accepted his prize.

"I'd like to congratulate the writers of 'Next to Normal,'" said a gracious Elton John, standing in the middle of cast members and producers after his show, "Billy Eliot," won the best musical prize. "Thank you for accepting us on Broadway. ... We came here at a hard time economically. You opened your hearts and you opened your wallets."

In one of the evening's rare upsets, John lost the award for score to "Next to Normal."

He wasn't the only winner to acknowledge those who left empty-handed. Winners such as Angela Lansbury, Marcia Gay Harden and Geoffrey Rush each honored their competitors in their acceptance speeches.

"I send my love and congratulations to the other nominees in this category. It wasn't fair," said Lansbury, who took home her fifth Tony, this time for her performance as the dotty medium Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit." Her win in the featured-actress category tied the record for acting prizes held by Julie Harris, who has five plus a special lifetime achievement award given in 2002.

Rush, who took the top actor prize for his extravagant portrait of a dying monarch in "Exit the King," wittily mentioned the other best actor nominees by pronouncing their names and plays with a French accent. He also thanked audiences "for proving that French existential absurdist tragicomedy rocks."

The "Billy" triumph included a rare sharing of the best actor prize by the young leading men — David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish — who play the title role. In the past, other actors have shared Tonys, although not for playing the same role. John Kani and Winston Ntshona took home the actor-play prize for the double bill of "Sizwe Banzi Is Dead" and "The Island" in 1975.

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