‘Hadestown,’ veteran Elaine May score early wins at Tony awards

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Elaine May and dark musical “Hadestown” were among early winners on Sunday as Broadway presented its annual Tony Awards, capping a season in which shows about race, sexual politics and a trip to the underworld stood front and center.

73rd Annual Tony Awards – Show – New York, U.S., 09/06/2019 – Anais Mitchell accepts the Best Score award for “Hadestown.” REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

May, 87, was named best actress in a play for her moving performance as a mentally declining woman in “The Waverly Gallery.”

May, a director, writer and actress also known for her comic partnership dating to the 1950s with late film director Mike Nichols, noted the role resulted in her first-ever acting nomination, and credited playwright Kenneth Lonergan with abetting her win.

It was a record season for Broadway, both in ticket sales and box office receipts, which exceeded $1.8 billion.

Attendance records followed a host of shows mining topical material, such as the dark trip to the underworld at the center of the folk opera “Hadestown,” which dominated the early running on Sunday with six awards, including best musical director for Rachel Chavkin.

Chavkin noted she was the only woman currently directing a musical on Broadway, and called for the theater world to step up. “It is a failure of imagination,” she told the audience.

Andre De Shields, 73, won best supporting actor in a musical for “Hadestown,” while the supporting musical actress Tony went to Ali Stroker for a reinvented staging of the classic musical, “Oklahoma!”

Stroker, who plays the “girl who can’t say no,” Ado Annie, became the first actor performing in a wheelchair to win a Tony.

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” said an emotional Stroker.

Supporting actress in a play went to Celia Keenan-Bolger, 41, as the child Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” while English actor Bertie Carvel won his first Tony as media mogul Rupert Murdoch making his foray into newspaper publishing in “Ink.”

“The Boys in the Band,” a comic drama about a group of gay men at a birthday party, won best revival of a play.

Host James Corden kicked things off with a splashy opening number about the magic of live theater, backed up by scores of cast members from a host of current Broadway shows.

Designer Bob Mackie, perhaps best known for looks he created for Cher going back decades, won for musical costume design for “The Cher Show,” about the legendary singer, which was also expected to bring Tony gold later on Sunday for lead actress Stephanie J. Block.

Veteran stage actress Rosemary Harris and playwright Terrence McNally were presented with special Tony Awards for lifetime achievement in theater. Two-time Tony winner Judith Light was the recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award for her work on humanitarian and social issues.

Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Peter Cooney

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