McDonald, Cranston Big Winners At 68th Tony Awards

Audra McDonald won a sixth Tony for portraying Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Bryan Cranston won a best actor trophy for his Broadway debut in All the Way.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The 68th annual Tony Awards were handed out last night. These are Broadway's highest honors. As Jeff Lunden reports, the biggest winner may have been Broadway itself.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Broadway is New York's number-one tourist attraction, and this season it generated close to 1.3 billion dollars in box office sales. That's according to The Broadway League, an association of producers. So the Tony awards, while ostensibly handing out prizes for excellence in the theater, are also providing a primetime commercial for Broadway. Having a huge celebrity host helps with ratings, and X-Men's Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, sang, danced and bunny-hopped as he hosted the broadcast for the fourth time.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE TONY AWARDS)

HUGH JACKMAN: (Singing) I love the the Tonys, and I'm the host of your show.

LUNDEN: Unlike previous years, where juggernauts like "The Book Of Mormon" and "The Producers" dominated the proceedings, this year the Tony voters spread the love around. The big prizes went to two small musicals.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER")

LUNDEN: "A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder," a stylish chamber musical set in Edwardian England, took home four awards including best musical. "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" also took four awards, including best revival. And Neil Patrick Harris, playing the gender-bending Hedwig, won the Tony for best actor in a musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH")

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: (Singing) You buy me the dress, I'll be the woman that a man like you can stand.

LUNDEN: "All The Way," Robert Schenkkan's period drama about LBJ and his struggles to pass the civil rights bill, was named best play. Bryan Cranston's bravura performance as the tough-talking Texan won the Emmy Award-winning actor a Tony.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "ALL THE WAY")

BRYAN CRANSTON: (As Johnson) This ain't about a Constitution. This is about those who got more wanting to hang on to what they got at the expense of those who got nothing and feel good about it.

LUNDEN: Lorraine's Hansberry's groundbreaking 1959 drama, "A Raisin In The Sun," about a working-class African-American family, took three awards, including best revival of a play. And Audra McDonald won a record sixth Tony award for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in "Lady Day At Emerson's Bar And Grill."

(SOUNDBITE OF TONY AWARDS)

CRAIG MCDONALD: I want to thank my mom, and my dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctor's orders and not medicating their hyperactive girl and finding out what she was into instead and pushing her into the theater.

LUNDEN: With the 2013, 2014 season in the books, the new season kicks off in a couple of weeks with "Holler If Ya Hear Me," a musical based on the songs of Tupac Shakur. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

GREENE: It's NPR News.

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