ROCK RULES AT TONY THEATER AWARDSPhoto:13289181,left;Photo:13289181,left;Photo:13289181,left; |

ROCK RULES AT TONY THEATER AWARDSPhoto:13289181,left;Photo:13289181,left;Photo:13289181,left;

Rock and revolution dominate Tonys as ‘The Coast of Utopia’ and ‘Spring Awakening’ win big

NEW YORK (AP) – Musical theater rocks, says Duncan Sheik.

And the Tonys agreed Sunday, giving “Spring Awakening,” a musical about adolescent sexuality, eight awards, including best musical and best score by Sheik and Steven Sater.

“Steven and I definitely set out to make a new kind of musical,” Sheik said of the pounding piece that delves into premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality, autoerotism, sadomasochism and incest.

“We were trying to forge our own path. I think we got lucky timing-wise – what’s happening politically. People were ready to deal with something that had teeth.”

Tony voters also gave the top drama award to another tale of 19th-century rebellion – “The Coast of Utopia,” Tom Stoppard’s three-part, sprawling examination of Russian intellectuals.

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Together, “Spring Awakening” and “The Coast of Utopia” received 15 of the evening’s 25 competitive Tonys handed out during the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall.

“It’s betrayal, marriage, families, the DNA of social change,” said “Coast” director Jack O’Brien. “I never imagined that the city, the community would ever embrace this.”

Clocking in at almost nine hours and featuring 41 actors, Stoppard’s trilogy swept the play technical awards for sets, costumes and lighting, as well as earning awards for O’Brien and two featured actors: Billy Crudup and Jennifer Ehle.

It was a Tony record for plays, topping six won in previous years by both Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys.”

As expected, Frank Langella won his third Tony for his sympathetic portrait of Richard M. Nixon in Peter Morgan’s docudrama, “Frost/Nixon.”

“I am very proud to work among you splendid people,” a gracious Langella said.

“Grey Gardens” proved lucky for the two women who play mother and daughter – known as Big Edie and Little Edie Beale – in the musical about eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Christine Ebersole took the top musical performance prize in what many critics called the performance of the season.

“The Edies really inspire me and I think I’m part of a great work of art – that’s really what makes me able to explore the depth of these characters,” said Ebersole, wearing a flowing red silk gown designed by William Ivey Long, who won the best costume Tony for “Grey Gardens.” Ebersole also wore huge, dangling diamond cluster earrings from Harry Winston that kept slipping off. “I can’t lose this,” she said anxiously. “It will put me in pauper’s prison.”

There were a few surprises, most notably in David Hyde Pierce’s win as a musical-theater-loving detective in the Kander and Ebb musical, “Curtains.”

Backstage, Pierce was moved to tears. “I’ve been to so many Emmy Awards and other stuff – I expected to be more together. This meant more to me than I realized – I guess because it’s the theater.”

Also in something of an upset, an ebullient Julie White received the actress-play award for her portrayal of a conniving agent in Douglas Carter Beane’s satiric “The Little Dog Laughed.”

White talked backstage about being nominated against such actresses as Vanessa Redgrave, who starred in “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

“I felt like a piece of gum on that gal’s shoes,” she quipped. “Here she was doing a play about losing your husband and daughter and I was doing a play about keeping my gay client in the movies. It was like apples and Buicks.”

Other stunned award winners included John Gallagher Jr., just 22, who won as featured actor in a musical for “Spring Awakening,” the most honored rock musical since “Rent” in 1996.

“I can’t feel anything right now, not even my arms,” said Gallagher. “It’s an honor and a thrill that never in a million years would I dream for myself.”

Bill T. Jones’ work on the musical also earned him the choreography Tony. “Life still has surprises,” Jones said later backstage. “I didn’t expect to be standing here at 55. Middle age for some artists – some part of you becomes numb.”

Other Tonys went to “Company” for best musical revival and “Journey’s End” for best play revival. “Mary Poppins” earned Bob Crowley an award for best musical scenic design.

Within hours of its final curtain Sunday, “Journey’s End,” R.C. Sherriff’s anti-war drama won the revival play award as producer Bill Haber came on stage with the entire cast to accept the award. Despite enthusiastic reviews, the production struggled at the box office and closed after a disappointing four-month run.

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