Amid glorious musical numbers and jokes from host Neil Patrick Harris, the Tony Awards acknowledged an unexpected victor when The Gershwins‘ Porgy and Bess won for best musical revival. In addition, according to the Hollywood Reporter, that show’s Audra McDonald also won for lead actress in a musical for the role of Bess, her first Tony for that category. Clybourne Park, a play about race relations, garnered a Tony for best new play, and Once, drawn from the film of the same name, snapped up the biggest accolade of the night, best musical.
Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s 1971 show, Follies, had been widely expected to take the prize for musical revival. But in one of the ceremony’s genuine surprises, that nod went instead to The Gershwins‘ Porgy and Bess. The divisive production was considered the underdog in the race, despite amassing ten nominations. Given that Sondheim’s vocal criticism of radical early plans for the Gershwin revival sparked controversy, the unexpected awards upset might be interpreted as a slap to the Follies composer.
Also honored for Porgy and Bess was perennial Broadway favorite Audra McDonald, winning lead actress in a musical for her lusciously sung and devastatingly acted turn as drug-addled Bess, the Catfish Row floozy attempting to turn her life around in the classic American folk opera.
McDonald had previously won four featured actress Tonys, for the plays Master Class (1996) and A Raisin in the Sun (2004), and musicals Carousel (1994) and Ragtime (1998). But this marked her first in a lead category. Returning to Broadway after a few years’ absence while appearing as a series regular on ABC’s Private Practice, she joins the privileged circle of performers with five Tonys, alongside veterans Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury. (Harris maintains the edge, however, having added a special lifetime achievement award to her haul.)
Read more at the Hollywood Reporter.