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'Millie' and 'Goat' win top Tony Awards

June 3, 2002 at 1:47 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, June 3 (UPI) -- "Thoroughly Modern Millie," a jazz-era musical adaptation of a 1967 movie of the same title, won the 2002 Tony Award for best new musical on Broadway on Sunday, and Edward Albee's controversial play, "The Goat, or Who is

Sylvia?" won the Tony for best new play.

"Millie," with a book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan and music by Jeanine Tesori, had received 11 nominations for the 56th annual Antoinette Perry Awards and was expected to win big. But "The Goat" was something of a surprise winner because of its subject matter. It deals with bestiality, which had been Broadway's last taboo.

"I want to thank my producers who had the outrageous faith that Broadway was ready for a play about love," Albee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, said in accepting his award Sunday night. He previously had said he wrote the play to see "just how much audiences are willing to take."

Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," a dark interpretation of Grimms' fairy tales, won the Tony for best revival of a musical, and Noel Coward's romantic comedy, "Private Lives," won for best revival of a play.

The awards to "Millie" included a Tony for best leading actress in a musical for Sutton Foster, who started off in the show in its California tryout as an understudy and became a star overnight in the title role when it opened on Broadway. In accepting the award she said, "To say this is a dream come true is an understatement."

The Tony voters were kinder to "Millie" than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gave the movie version one Oscar out of the seven categories for which it was nominated in 1967. Elmer Bernstein won the Oscar for the film's original music score.

The Tonys were presented at a nationally televised ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. The Tonys are sponsored by the American Theater Wing and the League of American Theaters and Producers and are voted on by more than 700 theater professionals and journalists, 30 percent of whom are from outside New York.

The ceremony brought an official end to a Broadway season that was threatened Sept. 11 by the terrorist attacks that destroyed the twin towers of the World Financial Center. Broadway attendance is reportedly back to normal after a post-tragedy slump, but Off-Broadway productions are still suffering.

Gregory Hines, who emceed the ceremony with Bernadette Peters, quoted a Sondheim song when he pointed out to the audience, "We got through all of last year, and we're still here."

There were five multiple Tony award winners: "Thoroughly Modern Millie" with five; "Private Lives" and "Urinetown The Musical" with three awards each; and "Into the Woods" and "Fortune's Fool" with two awards each. Two popular musicals, a British revival production of "Oklahoma!" and "Sweet Smell of Success" adapted from a 1968 film, got one Tony each.

"Topdog/Underdog," a play by Suzan-Lori Parks that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for drama, was closed out of the awards, although it had been nominated for best play.

The biggest close-out of the season was, however, the stage adaptation of the film, "The Graduate," starring Kathleen Turner. It received no nominations although it opened with a Broadway record for advance ticket sales for a play -- $5.2 million -- and was the first show of the season to recoup its original investment.

A phenomenon of the 2002 Tonys was the nomination of Ivan Turgenev's 154-year-old drama, "Fortune's Fool," for best new play honors because it had never before been produced on Broadway. It lost out to "The Goat" but won best leading actor and best featured actor in a play awards for Alan Bates and Frank Langella respectively.

The Tony voters gave the best leading actor in a musical to John Lithgow for his role as the despicable Broadway columnist in "Sweet Smell of Success" and the award for best leading actress in a play to Lindsay Duncan for playing "Amanda" in "Private Lives."

Katie Finneran won the Tony for best featured actress in a play for her performance in a revival of Michael Frayn's farce, "Noises Off."

Other acting awards went to Harriet Harris for best featured actress in a musical for "Thoroughly Modern Millie," playing the comic role originally played in the film by Bea Lillie, and to Shuler Hensley for best performance by a featured actor in a musical for playing "Jud" in "Oklahoma!"

Elaine Stritch got a Tony in the special theatrical event category for her one-woman show, "Elaine Stritch at Liberty."

"Urinetown The Musical," an unconventional spoof of unbridled capitalism, won a Tony for best original score for Mark Hollomann, another for Greg Kotis for best book of a musical, and a third for John Rando for best direction of a musical.

Mary Zimmerman, a prominent figure in the Chicago theater community, won for best direction of her play, "Metamorphoses," based on stories by the Roman poet Ovid. Rob Ashford won for best choreography for "Millie," unexpectedly beating out veteran choreographer Susan Stroman who was nominated for "Oklahoma!"

Tim Hatley won for best scenic design for "Private Lives," Brian MacDevitt for best lighting design for "Into the Woods," and Martin Pakledinaz for best costume design for "Millie." Doug Besterman and Ralph Burns shared a Tony for best orchestration for "Millie."

The Williamstown Theater Festival of Williamstown, Mass., won a Tony for excellence in regional theater, and actress Julie Harris and producer Robert Whitehead won lifetime achievement awards. It was Harris' sixth Tony and Whitehead's fifth.

The ceremony was low-key and unlikely to raise the low TV viewer ratings it has had for the past several years. There was almost no light banter between hosts Hines and Peters no fashion statements on the part of female winners and presenters, and no unusually quotable acceptance speeches except for Mary Zimmerman's thanks to "everyone I have ever known in my life, including my ex-boyfriend."

The special pleasures of the evening were limited to Savion Glover dancing to "Puttin' On The Ritz" and a musical medley of Richard Rodgers' songs celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth sung by Harry Connick Jr., Michelle Lee, Mos Def, Lea Salonga, and Peter Gallagher, followed by a stirring rendition of the title song of "Oklahoma!" by the full cast of the show.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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