The Tony Awards recognize
Luminous LGBT fare and Boston stages stepped their diverse ways into theater history at Sunday night’s 67th annual Tony Awards. Billy Porter, accepting well-deserved honors for his impassioned portrayal of drag impersonator Lola in “Kinky Boots,” seemed to champion the diversity of the 2012-2013 season, saying, “willingness to embrace that which you don’t understand with unconditional love is a template that the world could benefit from employing.” The Tony’s seemed to bestow unconditional love on the high-kicking musical “Kinky Boots,” an acclaimed revival of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the acrobatics- rich American Repertory Theatre revival of “Pippin”-all big winners.
“Kinky Boots,” the top winner of the night, took home six Tony’s- best musical, best lead actor in a musical-Porter, best score-Cyndi Lauper, best choreography-out talent Jerry Mitchell (also a director nominee), best orchestration-out music supervisor and arranger Stephen Oremus and best sound design-John Shivers.
Based on the movie of the same name- with book by out nominee Harvey Fierstein, “Kinky Boots” tells two inspiring true stories- the rescue of the financially struggling British Price Shoe Company with the eye-catching title footwear and the striking friendship between straight company heir Charlie Price and gay cross-dresser Lola. Cyndi Lauper’s vibrant score and director Jerry Mitchell’s varied choreography work together to demonstrate how perfect both the boots and male bonding are as Charlie learns to diversify both his product and his point of view about the inherent beauty of human beings from all orientations.
Billy Porter as Lola and Stark Sands as Charlie share a moving first act duet that points to their common difficulties with clueless parents. Porter electrifies in a second act solo “Hold Me in Your Heart” that has the kind of show-stopping power that Jennifer Holliday brought to Effie’s anthem-like number “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going” in “Dreamgirls” (Porter strikingly referred to the influence of Holliday’s powerhouse performance in his own Tony acceptance speech). There are also standout ensemble sequences as Mitchell cleverly choreographs the making of the boots and the presentation of the new line on a Milan runway. “Kinky Boots” combines the soulfulness of “La Cage Aux Folles” and the catchy beat of “Hairspray” in a feel-good musical embracing love and understanding.
Tony love embraced out playwright Christopher Durang, who won the best play award for his satiric Chekhovian take-off “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” Three major honors were given to gay dramatist Edward Albee’s masterwork “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”-best revival, best direction-Pam MacKinnon and best lead actor in a play-Tracy Letts, who previously won the best play Tony for his strong family drama “August: Osage County.” He called Albee’s play an “enduring work of art.” “The Nance,” a portrait of a burlesque queen by out author Douglas Carter Beame, won three technical awards-scenic design, costumes and sound. Judith Light won the featured actress award for her work in the Tony- nominated play “The Assembled Parties” by out author Richard Greenberg.
The American Repertory Theatre revival of the Stephen Schwartz musical “Pippin” earned four major awards- revival, director-Diane Paulus, lead actress-Patina Miller and featured actress Andrea Martin. “Pippin” became the third recent Tony-winning revival shepherded by Paulus, following “Hair” and last year’s A.R.T. originating revival “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.” In accepting, Paulus called Schwartz “a treasure to musical theater.” “Pippin”- with soaring ensemble numbers and sharp Chet Walker choreography, honors dance genius Bob Fosse as well as Schwartz.
Boston also shone in the special awards realm as Huntington Theatre Company received the Regional Theatre Award. Huntington Theatre Company has also been originating New York fare- notably a revival of gay playwright Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” on Broadway and the award-winning (IRNE and Obie Awards) “Sons of the Prophet” by out writer Stephen Karam Off-Broadway, among others.
“Kinky Boots" main competition, the Roald Dahl –based musical “Matilda,” took home four awards-book -Dennis Kelly, featured actor- out talent Gabriel Ebert, scenic design-Rob Howell and lighting-Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.
African –American actors made historic wins at the Tony’s-with half of the acting honors going to black performers. In addition to Porter and Miller, Cicely Tyson won best actress in a play honors as the heroine in “The Trip to Bountiful” and Courtney B. Vance from late writer Nora Ephron’s play “Lucky Guy” took the featured actor prize.
For a complete list of winners, go to tonyawards.com
Kinky Boots, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York (Broadway). Open-ended run.212-239-6200 or kinkybootsthemusical.com
Pippin, American Repertory Theatre production now at Music Box Theatre, New York (Broadway). Open-ended run. 212-239-6200 or pippinthemusical.com.