Once dominates Tony Awards


President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to the production team behind the Broadway musical Once, which picked up eight Tony Awards out of a possible 11 at a ceremony in New York last night.

Written by Dubliner Enda Walsh, Once beat off the big-budget Disney production Newsies the Musical to win the much-coveted prize for Best Musical.

“Having seen the show last month, I am not surprised that it has received such critical acclaim,” said Mr Higgins.

“This is yet another example of how Irish artists are doing us proud in the international arena. I send my warmest congratulations to all concerned, especially to Glen, Enda and the fantastic cast.”

Producer Frederick Zollo accepted the award on behalf of the cast and crew.

Gesturing to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who together wrote most of the soundtrack for the original film, Zollo said: “We thank Glen Hansard and Marketa for their incredible score, John Carney for the film… and how about that company, led by Steve Kazee and Crisin Milioti?”

Walsh looked shocked as he took to the stage to accept the award for Best Book of a Musical.

“Holy shit!” he exclaimed, as he kicked off his speech.

“I’m completely made up. Thank you to the cast, you’re ‘effing’ extraordinary! And Holy God – our producers of course!”

Walsh generated several laughs during his acceptance speech, quipping “If I wasn’t talking to you now I’d be wearing my intestines on my head!”

“Good luck, see ya!,” he said, as he left the stage.

An emotional Kazee accepted the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

“I wanna say thank you to my cast and my beautiful leading lady who has held me up through the past two months. My mother passed on Easter Sunday and this cast has carried me around and made me feel alive,” he said.

During an earlier, live performance, Kazee – a native of Kentucky who says he is “three quarters Irish” – proved he had mastered the Irish pronunciation of ‘th’.

“I’m proud to be sort of indirectly Irish eight times a week and to feel like I’m an honorary citizen, I hope. I talked to the President of Ireland to see if I could maybe get dual-citizenship!” he said.

Cristin Milioti missed out on the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, which went to Audra McDonald for her role in The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said it was encouraging to see a work created by an Irish playwright achieve success at such a prestigious ceremony.

“I understand that the show is booked for a year-long run off Times Square and I’m hopeful that during this run it will encourage its audience to consider visiting Ireland and Dublin in particular,” he said.

“This was a great night for the Irish at the Tonys, yet again, emphasizing that our cultural ambassadors have few peers internationally.”

Once, which is based on the 2006 film of the same name by John Carney, which starred Hansard and Irglova, was among 14 musicals that debuted on Broadway this season, and one of four to be nominated for Best Musical.

Other wins came in the categories of Best Direction of a Musical for John Tiffany on his Broadway directorial debut, Best Orchestration (Martin Lowe), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Clive Goodwin) and Best Lighting Design (Natasha Katz).

And, of course, if there was a win for Dublin there had to be a win for Cork.

Cork man and veteran Broadway designer Bob Crowley won his sixth Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical.

Speaking to assembled media after he received his award Crowley said the pub scene he created for the show seemed like the right place for it.

“Growing up in Ireland I nearly spent more time in a pub than I did at home… It’s a natural environment for people to fall in love, fall out of love – ya know, births, marriages and funerals were arranged in these places – and sometimes conducted in them.”

Crowley last won a Tony Award for his design of Mary Poppins in 2007.

The Tony Awards are the biggest night of honours for the Broadway industry, celebrating the most recent season. This year’s show was presented by Broadway star Neil Patrick Harris. Candice Bergman, Nick Jonas, Sheryl Crow and Paul Rudd were also on hand to present awards.

Brisith actor and comedian James Corden beat off stiff competition from John Lithgow, James Earl Jones, Frank Langella and Philip Seymour Hoffman to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in One Man, Two Guvnors.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman, my favourite actor in the world – to be on a list with you was enough. It just reminds me that there is no such thing as best,” he said, clearly shocked, as he accepted his award.

Crying, Corden also gushed about his girlfriend Julia Carey. “She’s my baby mamma and I can’t wait to marry her,” he wept.

Speaking to the press after receiving his award he said: “It’s kind of ridiculous that I would win this and [Philip Seymour Hoffman] would be sat there watching me”.

He also predicted that England would beat France today in their opening match of Euro 2012. “Steven Gerrard both goals,” he joked. “I’ve got a great feeling,” he added.

Other notable wins included director Mike Nichols (Oscar-winning director of The Graduate and Working Girl) for his production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, in which Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman starred alongside the new Spiderman, and Social Network star, Andrew Garfield.

“This play does the rarest thing a play can do – it gets truer as time goes by,” he said, accepting the award. “There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman, being way out there… and as we know a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory.”

According to the Tony Award’s organisers, Broadway productions contribute $11.2 billion (€8.8 billion) to the economy of New York city.

Several musical numbers interspersed through the show, including a performance by Ferris Bueller actor Matthew Broderick who is currently starring in Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Viewers of the awards were also treated to a number from the Tony-winning production of Hairspray – live from a cruise ship in the Caribbean.