May 18, 2009 / 4:52 AM / 9 years ago

"Billy Elliot" adds more theater prizes ahead of Tonys

NEW YORK (Reuters) - “Billy Elliot, The Musical” added to its growing awards roster on Sunday, winning the Drama Desk Award as the season’s best new musical and bolstering its frontrunner status for next month’s Tony awards, Broadway’s top honors.

Singer Elton John (C) appears onstage during the curtain call of the Australian premiere of the musical "Billy Elliot" in Capitol theatre in Sydney December 13, 2007. REUTERS/James Morgan/Pool

The hit show based on the 2000 film about a ballet dancing schoolboy in a northern England mining town earlier won several Olivier Awards in London, as well as the earlier Outer Critics Circle best musical prize. It is nominated for 15 Tonys.

“Billy Elliot” won nine other Drama Desk awards, including Elton John for outstanding music and Stephen Daldry for direction of a musical. Other honors went to Gregory Jbara for featured actor, Haydn Gwynne for featured actress, and for choreography, book, orchestrations, lighting design and sound design.

The 54th annual awards are chosen by theater critics and writers to honor Broadway, off-Broadway and off off Broadway productions.

Best actor in a play was won by Geoffrey Rush for “Exit the King” while best actor in a musical went to Brian d’Arcy James for the title role in “Shrek the Musical.”

Lead actress awards were won by Janet McTeer for the revival of “Mary Stuart” and Allison Janney for the musical “9 to 5.”

Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Ruined” won the Drama Desk award as the season’s outstanding play.

Top revival honors went to the musical hair “Hair” and “The Norman Conquests,” with Matthew Warchus winning best director of a play for “Norman Conquests.”

Veteran film and theater actress Angela Lansbury took the prize for featured actress in play for “Blithe Spirit,” while Pablo Schreiber was named outstanding featured actor for “Reasons to be Pretty.”

Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim won the best lyrics prize for “Road Show” and Liza Minelli received a special honor for her show “Liza’s at the Palace.”

Ensemble awards were won by the casts of “The Norman Conquests” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

“Forbidden Broadway,” the satire of well known shows, and the Atlantic Theater Company also received special honors.

The 54th annual Drama Desk awards ceremony was hosted by Harvey Fierstein, with presenters including Jane Fonda, Stockard Channing, Lauren Ambrose, Jim Dale and John Lithgow.

Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Patricia Zengerle

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