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'Memphis' wins just four Tony Awards as musical prizes spread around

June 14, 2010 | 10:30 am

Memphiscover "Memphis" won best musical at Sunday's Tony Awards and three of its seven other bids -- score (Joe DiPietro, David Bryan), book (DiPietro) and orchestrations (Daryl Waters, Bryan). This tuner about the segregated south of the 1950s was the only traditional book musical in the top race this year. The other three contenders -- "American Idiot," "Fela" and "Million Dollar Quartet" -- all used existing songs to tell their stories. Each of those shows won at least one award as did several of the musical revivals in a season that failed to produce a juggernaut like last year's "Billy Elliot," which danced off with 10 Tonys.

"Fela" won choreography (Bill T. Jones), costume design (Marina Draghici) and sound design (Robert Kaplowitz), while "American Idiot" took lighting design (Kevin Adams) and scenic design (Christine Jones). Levi Kreis won the featured actor Tony Award for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in "Million Dollar Quartet."

The second rialto remounting of the 1984 Tony-winning tuner "La Cage aux Folles" won the revival race just as the first had in 2005. "La Cage" was tied with "Fela" at a leading 11 nominations apiece but managed just two other wins besides this -- lead actor (Douglas Hodge) and director (Terry Johnson).

Hodge was widely expected to win a Tony to go along with the Olivier he has for this same performance, as rival nominee Sean Hayes ("Promises, Promises") acknowledged during his stellar turn as host of the Tonycast. However, Catherine Zeta-Jones was less of a sure thing to win lead actress, as evidenced by her shocked reaction. The Oscar champ ("Chicago") won for her work in the first rialto revival of the 1973 top tuner "A Little Night Music." On Friday, the Welsh actress was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (one step down from a Dame) by Queen Elizabeth II in her birthday honors list.

Front-runner Katie Finneran won the featured actress race for her show-stealing performance as a barfly on the prowl in the first revival of "Promises, Promises." Among those she edged out was five-time Tony champ Angela Lansbury, who would have set a record had she prevailed for "A Little Night Music." Finneran added her own winsome ways to a part that won its originator, Marian Mercer, this same award back in 1969. In 2002, the versatile Finneran won the featured actress in a play Tony Award for "Noises Off."

Photo: "Memphis" playbill. Credit: Shubert Theatre

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