At the Beacon Theater last night, the Great White Way celebrated the 65th edition of its Tony Awards with irreverence, eye-rolling, and out-and-out weirdness — possibly even more than usual. Master of ceremonies Neil Patrick Harris, who announced that the diverse spread of nominees this year proved that Broadway is "not just for gays anymore" (and who closed his act with a rap), seemed positively giddy as awards went to "The Book of Mormon," "Jerusalem," and an array of revivals and adaptations.
"Mormon," the filthy-mouthed and high-minded pasquinade of religious piety by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was overwhelmingly the night's big winner, coming away with nine statuettes, including Best Musical. Best Play and Best Direction, meanwhile, went to "War Horse," the British World War I cavalry drama with ingeniously devised puppet horses that Steven Spielberg is poised to release as a feature film later this year (with real horses).
The most memorable award, however, may have been that of Best Actor, which went to Mark Rylance for his role as larger-than-life fabulist Johnny "Rooster" Byron in "Jerusalem," the British countryside romp by Jez Butterworth. In accepting his award from Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Van Dyke-sporting actor launched into a befuddling speech that left the audience perplexed with lines like "Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot-making or driftwood lamps." The words turned out to be a poem by Louis Jenkins — the same poet whose verse Rylance spouted in accepting his 2008 top-actor Tony for "Boeing-Boeing," confusing audiences then as now.
But then, Broadway loves to repeat whatever works, and this could be seen as well in the plethora of reheated productions that took home awards. These included "The Normal Heart" (Best Revival, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Ellen Barkin, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for John Benjamin Hickey), "Anything Goes" (Best Revival of a Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for Sutton Foster), "Catch Me If You Can" (Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Norbert Leo Butz), "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for John Larroquette), and other awards for "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Priscilla Queen of the Desert."
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Sadly, the much-nominated Chris Rock recovering-addict comedy "The Motherfucker With the Hat" did not take home any awards.