The feel-good musical "Kinky Boots," with songs by pop star and Broadway newcomer Cyndi Lauper, strutted away with a leading six 2013 Tony Awards on Sunday, including best musical, best original score and best leading man.
Christopher Durang's comical "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" won the best play Tony. "Matilda the Musical" and "Pippin" won four awards each and two other shows – "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Nance" – shared three awards each. Tom Hanks left empty-handed, a Broadway newcomer not fated to be a "Lucky Guy."
Neil Patrick Harris was back for his fourth turn as host and was once again crucial to keeping the show funny and smart. He opened with a razzle-dazzle bang amid dozens of dancers and singers – even getting boxer Mike Tyson to hoof – and closed it three hours later by rapping with Audra McDonald to a reworked "Empire State of Mind."
The big, opening number started with Harris simply holding a guitar in a pub like "Once" but quickly morphed into a flashy number that showcased performers from almost a dozen musicals. Harris sang "It's bigger! Tonight it's bigger," jumped through a hoop, vanished from a box and promised a "truly legendary show" before glitter guns went off.
Lauper, who popularised the hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," was part of an impressive group of women who took top honours. Diane Paulus and Pam MacKinnon both won for directing – a rare time women have won directing Tonys for both a musical and a play in the same year. (It happened most recently at the 1998 Tonys.)
It was also a night that celebrated diversity: Of the eight trophies for acting, four went to African-Americans.
"Kinky Boots" – based on a 2005 film about a failing shoe factory that turns to making drag queen boots – also won for choreography and two technical awards, and Billy Porter won for leading man in a musical.
Along the way, Porter had to beat "Kinky Boots" co-star Stark Sands and told him from the stage: "You are my rock, my sword, my shield. Your grace gives me presence. I share this award with you. I'm gonna keep it at my house! But I share it with you."
Durang's play centres on three middle-aged siblings uneasily negotiating with age and hysterically mixes in references to Lindsay Lohan, Maggie Smith and ancient Greek drama.
Paulus won her first Tony for directing the crackling, high-energy, circus-based revival of the musical "Pippin," which also earned the best revival honour and helped Patina Miller earn a best leading actress trophy.
Paulus dedicated her award to her parents, "who gave me the best gift a daughter could ever hope for, the encouragement to do what you love with your life, which for me was the theatre."
For Miller, the win caps a whirlwind few years. She was nominated for back-to-back Tonys for her first roles on Broadway and is engaged. "Honey I can't wait to marry you!" she told her fiancé.
MacKinnon won for directing the play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" a year after earning her first nomination for helming "Clybourne Park." Her revival of Edward Albee's story of marital strife won the best play revival and earned playwright and actor Tracy Letts his first acting Tony. Letts, speaking on behalf of all actors, called what he does "The greatest job on Earth."
Andrea Martin, 66, who won as featured actress in a musical, plays Pippin's grandmother and has been stunning audiences nightly by doing jaw-dropping stunts.
Courtney B. Vance won for best featured actor in a play for portraying a newspaper editor opposite Hanks in "Lucky Guy." He dedicated his award to his mother.
Judith Light won her second featured actress in a play Tony in two years, cementing the former TV star of "Who's the Boss?" as a Broadway star. In "The Assembled Parties," she ages from about 53 to 73 over the play's two acts. She beat out Judith Ivey, Condola Rashad, Shalita Grant and Carrie Coon.
"I want to thank every woman that I am in this category nominated with: you have made this a celebration, not a competition," she said.
Gabriel Ebert of "Matilda the Musical" won as best featured actor in a musical. He thanked his four Matildas and his parents, stooping down to speak into the microphone.
Cicely Tyson, 88, won the best leading actress in a play honours for the revival of "The Trip to Bountiful," the show's only award on the night. It was the actress' first time back on Broadway in three decades.
"'Please wrap it up,' it says. Well, that's exactly what you did with me: You wrapped me up in your arms after 30 years," she said.
Going into the night, "Kinky Boots" and "Matilda the Musical" were fierce rivals, but the musical adaptation of the novel by Roald Dahl managed only best book, best featured actor and a few technical awards. Shows that walked away empty-handed from Radio City Music Hall included the acrobatic "Bring It On: The Musical," the hit-heavy "Motown the Musical" and "A Christmas Story, the Musical."
Some of the telecast highlights included the stunning kids on Broadway – the orphans in "Annie," the actor Raymond Luke Jr. as a pre-teen Michael Jackson in "Motown the Musical," and the dancing tots in "A Christmas Story, the Musical" – especially the young tap dancer wizard Luke Spring – plus the four young women in "Matilda."
Harris got his face licked by the dog playing Sandy in "Annie," made fun of Tyson and Shia LaBeouf, who left a revival of "Orphans" before the show opened and then tweeted about it, and joined with "Smash" star Megan Hilty, "Go On" star Laura Benanti and former "The Book of Mormon" star Andrew Rannells to skewer theatre stars who seek fame on TV with a twisted version of "What I Did For Love" from "A Chorus Line."
The Tonys, picked by 868 theatre voters, cap a somewhat grim financial season on Broadway in which the total box office take was flat and the number of ticket buyers slipped 6 percent. Both numbers were blamed in part on Superstorm Sandy, but high ticket prices and the lack of long-term audience growth has many worried.