NEW YORK – The poignant and groundbreaking coming-of-age show “Fun Home” was named best musical at the Tony Awards on Sunday, one of five big trophies it won on the way to making history for its composing team.
The show, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir about growing up with a closeted dad in a funeral home and the first musical to have a lesbian as its main character, nominated for 12 awards, also won for best book, best lead actor in Michael Cerveris and best direction from Sam Gold.
Its songwriters, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, became the first female writing team to nab a Tony for musical score.
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Two veteran Broadway stars – Cerveris and Kelli O’Hara of “The King and I” – took lead acting Tonys, while a young man who just last year graduated from drama school won the Tony for best actor in a play.
Cerveris won his second Tony for playing the closeted and suicidal father at the heart of “Fun Home,” while O’Hara got her first Tony after six nominations, winning for her role as the English schoolteacher in a revival of the classic musical “The King and I.”
“I love what I do and I don’t need this, but now that I have it, I’ve some things to say,” she said. “My parents who are sitting next to me for the sixth time, you don’t have to pretend it’s OK this time.”
London-born actor Alex Sharp won for the best lead actor in a play for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” beating out Bradley Cooper and Bill Nighy.
“This time last year I was picking up my diploma graduating from Julliard, so to be holding this is insane. Thank you so, so much for this,” he said.
His win was part of a huge five-trophy haul for the adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel. It also won best play, lighting, scenic design and earned its director Marianne Elliott a Tony.
The British had a big night, with “Skylight” winning for best revival and Helen Mirren nabbing her first Tony for playing Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s “The Audience.” She already has won an Oscar for playing the monarch in the movie “The Queen.”
“An American in Paris” won four technical awards, including best scenic design and one for Christopher Wheeldon for best choreographer.
Co-hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming infused the show with a low-key medley of jokes and songs that displayed their playful, daffy chemistry. Their costume quick-changes included Cumming in a hoop skirt and Chenoweth as E.T., her co-host joking: “I said ‘Fun Home.’ ”
One of the show’s highlights was watching Joel Grey, who recently announced he was gay, introducing “Fun Home” with his daughter Jennifer Grey. She joked that the show was about a “brilliant and complicated father.” Joel Grey acknowledged that was something his daughter “knew something about.”
The telecast on CBS at Radio City Music Hall featured appearances by Jennifer Lopez, Sting, Jim Parsons, Amanda Seyfried, Kiefer Sutherland, Bryan Cranston, Sutton Foster, Jennifer Nettles, Taye Diggs and Ashley Tisdale, among many others.
Two Broadway favorites – Annaleigh Ashford and Christian Borle – won for best featured roles. He plays a sexy William Shakespeare in “Something Rotten!” and she played an incompetent ballet dancer in “You Can’t Take It With You.” It was her first and his second Tony.
“The King and I” was crowned the best musical revival, and it won for best actress in O’Hara and best musical costumes. One of its stars, Ruthie Ann Miles, won in her Broadway debut as best featured actress in a musical.
Josh Groban led a moving “In Memoriam” section when he sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel,” backed by the casts of all the shows appearing on the telecast, some 175 people.
Best Musical: “Fun Home”
Best Play: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
Best Book of a Musical: “Fun Home”
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater: “Fun Home”
Best Revival of a Play: “Skylight”
Best Revival of a Musical: “The King and I”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Alex Sharp, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Helen Mirren, “The Audience”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Michael Cerveris, “Fun Home”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Kelli O’Hara, “The King and I”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Richard McCabe, “The Audience”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Annaleigh Ashford, “You Can’t Take It With You”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Christian Borle, “Something Rotten!”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Ruthie Ann Miles, “The King and I”