Awards Season

'The Book Of Mormon' And 'War Horse' Clean Up At The Tony Awards

Host Neil Patrick Harris is held aloft by some helpful sailors in the opening number of the 2011 Tony Awards telecast. i i

Host Neil Patrick Harris is held aloft by some helpful sailors in the opening number of the 2011 Tony Awards telecast. Jeff Christensen/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Christensen/AP
Host Neil Patrick Harris is held aloft by some helpful sailors in the opening number of the 2011 Tony Awards telecast.

Host Neil Patrick Harris is held aloft by some helpful sailors in the opening number of the 2011 Tony Awards telecast.

Jeff Christensen/AP

If Sunday night's Tony Awards are any indication, Broadway loves its Mormons, its Larry Kramer plays, and its really big horse puppets.

The Book Of Mormon, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, received nine awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book Of A Musical. The drama War Horse, which features innovative use of horse puppets (one of which appeared on stage ridden by host Neil Patrick Harris) won for Best Play. And Kramer's AIDS drama The Normal Heart was named Best Revival Of A Play, and it won awards for actress Ellen Barkin and actor John Benjamin Hickey.

Other winners included Frances McDormand for her work in the play Good People, Sutton Foster for her lead performance in the revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, and Norbert Leo Butz, playing what you may know as the "Tom Hanks character" in the musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can. (A complete list of winners is here.)

It's also very much worth noting that the Tonys gave out a handful of important statues off the televised broadcast, including a Lifetime Achievement Award to South African playwright Athol Fugard and a special award to Eve Ensler, best-known as the writer behind The Vagina Monologues.

As for the show itself, what tends to set a Tonys telecast apart from other awards shows is that unlike every show except the Grammys, it's an award for live performances, which – logically enough – often means that the performances during the show itself are better. There were musical numbers from How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Anything Goes, Sister Act, The Scottsboro Boys, and Catch Me If You Can – oh, and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which is finally about to officially complete a very difficult journey to its official opening night.

The Spider-Man number, a love ballad introduced by the show's composers, U2's Bono and the Edge, was surprisingly staid for something that's supposed to be a rock-tinged show, and its tame staging in a simple box suspended above the crowd may not persuade anyone that it's a show to run out and see. But — and we say this because we must — at least no one was hurt.

The performances from Harris as host were strong as well. He faced off with former host Hugh Jackman, who's presumably getting all the goodwill he can from big-time actors before the opening of his new film about robot boxers, Real Steel. The opening number was a very funny and very ambitious bit called "It's Not Just for Gays Anymore," which reassured straight people that the theater is ready to welcome them. (It's hard to make anything fresh out of that particular joke, but they made it work with a tremendous amount of commitment, which is a very theater thing to do.) Yes, there were undoubtedly people who were put off by that particular number and its references to sodomy and liberal intellectuals, but it may make sense for the Tonys to embrace the fact that they're never going to be as broadly popular as the Oscars, so they might as well be more fun.

Harris was also central to a number from Company, recently performed by an all-star cast for a production that was filmed and will soon be sent out to movie theaters nationwide. Appearing on stage for the performance were Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, Martha Plimpton, Patti LuPone, and many more.

Best of all, though, was a rap to close the show written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won a Tony in 2008 for writing the musical In The Heights, and Heights director Tommy Kail. It ran through the events of the evening (obviously having been written at least largely on the fly) and ended with a vibrant salute to Broadway and its performers and a command to those watching at home to see some live theater already. Good advice.

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