Audra McDonald makes Tony history, Cranston wins acting prize

Mon Jun 9, 2014 12:13am EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Audra McDonald made Broadway history on Sunday, winning her sixth Tony as Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" and Bryan Cranston and Neil Patrick Harris nabbed the top acting prizes at the 68th annual Tony Awards.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," took home the top musical prize and Jessie Mueller was named best actress for her starring role in "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical".

McDonald, with her best actress prize in a play, became the only woman to win a Tony in all four acting categories. She also tied with the late actress Julie Harris, who had six wins, including a special lifetime achievement award.

With tears streaming down her face, a trembling McDonald acknowledged her parents, family and the women who came before her.

"I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and courageous women that I am standing on," she said. "And most of all Billie Holiday. You deserve so much more than you were given when you were on this earth."

With four awards including Darko Tresnjak's statuette for best director, the musical satire "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" tied with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" with the most Tonys.

Cranston had been a favorite to win in his Broadway debut as U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way," Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan's acclaimed play.

"When you can effect emotional change in the audience it's like a powerful drug. It's as strong as blue crystal meth," he said, referring to his Emmy-winning role as a teacher turned ruthless drug kingpin in TV's "Breaking Bad".   Continued...

Audra McDonald accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" during the American Theatre Wing's 68th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York, June 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri