NEW YORK — Kentuckians played parts in several of the big winners at Sunday night's Tony Awards, the top honors in Broadway theater.
Best musical Once, best revival of a musical The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and multiple winner Peter and the Starcatcher all involved Kentuckians at the ceremony in New York's Beacon Theatre.
Ashland native Steve Kazee won the Tony for best lead actor in a musical for his heartfelt and touching performance in Once.
Elizabethtown native Darron West won for best sound design for his work with Peter and the Starcatcher.
Kazee plays an Irish street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman in Dublin who falls in love with a Czech flower seller. It's based on the 2007 film that featured the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly.
A 36-year-old rising star and guitar player with matinee idol looks, Kazee has gone from replacement parts in Spamalot to an understudy role in Seascape to starring in 110 in the Shade. He also starred on CMT's series Working Class.
In accepting the award, Kazee paid tribute to his cast, his Tony nominated co-star Cristin Milioti and his mother, who died after a long battle with cancer on April 8.
"My mother passed on Easter Sunday, and I came back to this show, and this cast has carried me around and made me feel alive, and I will never be able to fully repay them," Kazee said in his speech.
Looking at the award and choking up, he said, "My mother told me once, she always told me before shows to get up there and show them whose little boy you are. And I'm showing today that I am the son of Kathy Withrow Kazee, who lost a fight on Easter Sunday with cancer. And I miss you every day, and I feel you with me tonight."
James Corden, who first made his name on stage in The History Boys, won the lead acting award in a play for his clownish turn in the British import One Man, Two Guvnors, a slapstick farce about a simpleminded guy who juggles errands for two underworld bosses in an English seaside town in the 1960s. Nina Arianda, a rising star who has won over audiences for two seasons in Tony-nominated parts, won for best leading actress in a play as a preternaturally talented actress determined to land the lead in a new play in Venus in Fur. And Audra McDonald won for best leading actress in a musical for her powerful portrayal of Bess in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.
The reworked version of the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess opened in January starring McDonald, David Alan Grier and Norm Lewis. University of Kentucky graduates Phumzile Sojola and Andrea Jones-Sojola play several roles in the show. Fort Knox native Suzan-Lori Parks co-adapted the book.
Once and Peter and the Starcatcher were dominant award winners for the night.
John Tiffany, the British director of Once, won with his Broadway debut. Among its wins, the musical also won best orchestration and best sound design, and Enda Walsh took home the award for best book of a musical.
Peter and the Starcatcher won for costume design, scenic design and lighting design for a play. Christian Borle, who plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who will be Captain Hook in the Peter Pan prequel, was named best featured actor in a play. But it was beat out for best play by Clybourne Park, the remarkably perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate,.
Mike Nichols, one of those rare people who have won a Tony, Grammy, Oscar and Emmy, won his ninth Tony, for directing Death of a Salesman, which also won for best revival.
With no clear, dying-to-see-it front-running musical like last year's juggernaut, The Book of Mormon, the awards show Sunday at the Beacon Theatre actually began with a nod to the past, with host Neil Patrick Harris joining with the cast of Mormon for their opening number of Hello! from the 2011 musical winner.
He then was surrounded by dancers in tuxes and shimmering dresses for a rousing original number in which he wished that real life was more like theater, complete with backup dancers, rhymes and quick costume changes. He had cameo help from Patti LuPone, the little red-headed orphan from Annie and a flying Mary Poppins.
The three-hour telecast was packed with stars and performances from musicals, plays and revivals. The explosion of performances was an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible.
Staff writer Rich Copley contributed to this report.