Tony Awards present a ‘Woolf’ pack to Steppenwolf revival
BY Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2013 10:36PM
Actor Tracy Letts, winner of Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his role in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,' poses with his prize Sunday in the winners' room after Sunday's ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. | Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Updated: June 9, 2013 11:21PM
The 67th annual Tony Awards, presented Sunday night at Radio City Musical Hall, had prizes for everyone. But for Chicago audiences, it was Steppenwolf Theatre that brought home the goods.
The company’s much-heralded 50th anniversary production of Edward Albee’s fearsome “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was named best revival of a play for the season. Pam MacKinnon, an Albee protege, was named best director. And an exceptionally emotional Tracy Letts was awarded the prize for best leading actor in a play for his searing, often revelatory portrayal of George. It was his second Tony. (The first, in 2008, was as playwright, for “August: Osage County.”)
Accepting the best revival award was Martha Lavey, artistic director of Steppenwolf, who made a point of saluting her colleagues in theaters across the country, with a special nod “to the Chicago community where Steppenwolf has had its home for 37 years ... a great, great theater town.”
Letts, who made it clear he was not competing with the other formidable nominees in his category (including Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane), admitted to being overwhelmed. He thanked his parents “and all the actors in Chicago and storefronts everywhere ...who have a unique responsibility.”
Steppenwolf ensemble members Amy Morton (“Virginia Woolf”) and Laurie Metcalf (“The Other Place”) were bested by 79-year-old Cicely Tyson, who came back to the stage after 30 years in ‘The Trip to Bountiful.” Carrie Coon, whose engagement to Letts was announced last week, also failed to win for best featured actress.
For most audiences the big 2013 Tony Awards question was: Who will win the prize for best musical? It was “Kinky Boots,” the new show (which had its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago) inspired by the 2005 British film. The show marked the impressive debut of pop icon Cyndi Lauper as a Broadway composer and lyricist. Lauper won, as did leading actor Billy Porter, who plays Lola, the drag queen who helps transform an old British shoe factory into a manufacturer of “specialty boots.” Jerry Mitchell got the nod for choreography.
“Matilda, The Musical,” the British-bred show inspired by Roald Dahl’s dark children’s novel, won the award for best book (by Dennis Kelly) and a special award for the four young girls who alternate in the title role. The revival of “Pippin” earned major awards for director (Diane Paulus) and leading actress in a musical (Patina Miller).
Lauper, with a flaming red pouf hairdo, enjoyed an early triumph, offering emotional thank yous to Broadway for welcoming her, to her mother for introducing her to Broadway by way of original cast albums and, to her family, her cast and her creative team.
“I can’t say I wasn’t practicing in front of the shower curtain for a couple of days for this speech,” Lauper confessed in her thickest Noo Yawk accent.
Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a contemporary riff on Chekhovian themes, came up the winner as best play of the season.
The telecast’s opening spectacle — led by Neil Patrick Harris (who learned more lyrics for one song than most leading actors sing in an entire musical) — outdid any Academy Awards ceremony in memory, with the costumed casts of a slew of musicals in a feverish, altogether eye-popping extravaganza that clearly required a logistical genius to direct and choreograph. There was even a cameo by Mike Tyson.
As always, the show was filled with ticket-selling excerpts from the nominated new musicals, revivals and long-runs. Showing their finest stuff were “Matilda,” “Kinky Boots,” “Motown,” “Pippin,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Bring It On,” “Annie,” and “A Christmas Story” (which played in Chicago before reaching Broadway). In one of the many good quips of the evening, Harris wondered if there were a Tony day care center for the dozens of kids now performing on Broadway.
Following is a complete list of the 2013 Tony Award winners:
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” by Christopher Durang
“Kinky Boots, The Musical”
BOOK OF MUSICAL:
“Matilda, The Musical” Dennis Kelly
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
ORIGINAL SCORE (music and/or lyrics):
“Kinky Boots” (Cyndi Lauper)
Pam MacKinnon, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Diane Paulus, “Pippin”
LEADING ROLE ACTOR, PLAY:
Tracy Letts, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
LEADING ROLE ACTRESS, PLAY:
Cicely Tyson, “The Trip to Bountiful”
LEADING ROLE ACTOR, MUSICAL:
Billy Porter, “Kinky Boots”
LEADING ROLE ACTRESS, MUSICAL:
Patina Miller, “Pippin”
FEATURED ACTOR, PLAY:
Courtney B. Vance, “Lucky Guy”
FEATURED ACTRESS, PLAY:
Judith Light, “The Assembled Parties”
FEATURED ACTOR, MUSICAL:
Gabriel Ebert, “Matilda, The Musical”
FEATURED ACTRESS, MUSICAL:
Andrea Martin, “Pippin”
SCENIC DESIGN, PLAY:
John Lee Beatty, “The Nance”
SCENIC DESIGN, MUSICAL:
Rob Howell, “Matilda, The Musical”
COSTUME DESIGN, PLAY:
Ann Roth, “The Nance”
COSTUME DESIGN, MUSICAL:
William Ivey Long, “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella”
LIGHTING DESIGN, PLAY:
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, “Lucky Guy”
LIGHTING DESIGN, MUSICAL:
Hugh Vanstone, “Matilda, The Musical”
SOUND DESIGN, PLAY:
Leon Rothenberg, “The Nance”
SOUND DESIGN, MUSICAL:
John Shivers, “Kinky Boots”
Jerry Mitchell, “Kinky Boots”
Stephen Oremus, “Kinky Boots”
± Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (Bernard Gersten, Paul Libin and Ming Cho Lee).
± Special Tony for Excellence in Theater: N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg
± Regional Theatre Award: Huntington Theatre Company, Boston
± Isabelle Stevenson Award: Playwright Larry Kramer
± Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre: Career Transition for Dancers; William Craver; Peter Lawrence; The Lost Colony; and the four actresses who created the title role of “Matilda, The Musical” on Broadway (Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro).