Springtime’ for ‘The Producers’: A record number of Tony Awards – 12
NEW YORK (AP) – ”The Producers,” led by a merry Mel Brooks, made Broadway history Sunday night, winning a record 12 Tony Awards, including best musical. The best play award went to ”Proof,” which won three.
”I’m going to have to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – act humble,” said triple-winner Brooks, who picked up prizes as one of the show’s producers as well as for best score and, along with co-author Thomas Meehan, book of a musical.
He had a hard time being humble as ”The Producers” steamrolled to the Tony record. ”I’ll see you in a couple of minutes,” he said after winning his second award of the night.
Nathan Lane, the musical’s bumbling showman Max Bialystock, won the best actor-musical prize, giving the production its record-shattering 11th Tony, surpassing the 10 won by ”Hello, Dolly!” in 1964.
A genuinely touched Lane, who previously won for ”A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” dragged his co-star and fellow nominee, Matthew Broderick, out on stage and accepted the award on behalf of both of them. ”Without him, I’m nothing,” Lane said, with his arm around Broderick.
Susan Stroman won for the musical’s direction and choreography – a prize she has won three times before. She thanked Brooks, who she said advised her ”don’t tap the bell, ring the bell” when creating the dances.
The musical took both featured performance prizes – Gary Beach for the flamboyant director, Roger DeBris, and Cady Huffman, who portrays the blond bombshell in the show.
Beach, who plays the Fuehrer in the ”Springtime for Hitler” number, yelled out ”Heil, Mel” and threw a straight-armed salute to the show’s creator.
Later, Brooks cracked: ”I want to thank Hitler for being such a funny guy on stage.”
”The Producers” swept the design honors, too – Robin Wagner, scenery; Peter Kaczorowski, lighting; and William Ivey Long, costumes. Also honored: Doug Besterman, who orchestrated Brooks’ score.
Daniel Sullivan took the direction-play award for ”Proof” and joked: ”There must be some mistake. I had nothing to do with ‘The Producers.” His leading lady, Mary-Louise Parker, picked up the best actress-play award.
The best musical revival award went to the tapping ”42nd Street,” and its star, Christine Ebersole got the top female musical prize. The play revival award went to ”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Richard Easton, who plays poet A.E. Housman in ”The Invention of Love,” took the top actor-play prize, while Robert Sean Leonard, who is the younger incarnation of the same man, won in the featured category. Viola Davis, the fiery wife in ”King Hedley II,” received the featured actress award.
In giving a gaggle of prizes to ”The Producers,” Broadway anointed its biggest hit in years.
The musical’s success dwarfed just about everything else that happened on Broadway during the 2000-2001 theater season. From its $100 ticket price – announced the same day the show’s rave reviews came out – to the desperate tactics of theatergoers trying to get into the musical to its million-dollar-plus weekly grosses, the production commanded attention.
Its arrival heralded a rebirth of old-fashioned musical comedy, full of gags, girls and political incorrectness, as the sun started setting on the long-running empire of big British musicals. Two of the biggest – ”Cats” and ”Miss Saigon” – ended their Broadway runs in the season which ended May 31.
Yet there was other news, too. The resurrection of the new American play, for example, long an endangered species on Broadway. The last year saw the opening of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ”Proof,” ”The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and Neil Simon’s ”The Dinner Party,” all of them popular hits which made money.
Financially, the Broadway season was rosy. New box office and attendance records were set. Receipts climbed to more than $665 million, according to figures released by the League of American Theaters and Producers, up by more than 10 percent from the previous year. Attendance also jumped, hitting some 11.9 million after a slight decline last season.
Network executives hoped interest in ”The Producers” would jump-start the ratings for the televised ceremony, shown on PBS for the first hour and then CBS for the final two. Last year’s CBS ratings of the show were the lowest ever on the commercial network.
The Tony Awards, which were founded by the American Theater Wing in 1947, are selected by 702 members of the theatrical profession and journalists.
Special awards this year included a regional theater prize to Victory Gardens Theater of Chicago and a lifetime achievement award to Paul Gemignani, veteran musical director of many Sondheim musicals.
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