NEW YORK (Reuters) - “Memphis,” a romp that discovers the roots of rock’n’roll and “Red,” a play about artist Mark Rothko, took American theater’s top honors at the Tony Awards held on Sunday.
“Memphis” an original musical loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips that features a rock, soul and gospel score, won best musical at the star-studded ceremony held at Radio City Music Hall that featured many Hollywood stars winning the stage’s most prestigious honors.
“Red,” a production that stars British actor Alfred Molina as an intense, frustrated Rothko, won best play and won a total of six awards, the highest of the night.
But Hollywood star Denzel Washington beat Molina to win best actor in a play for his role in a revival of the August Wilson play “Fences.”
“My mother always says, man gives the award, God gives the reward. I guess I got both tonight,” Washington, 55, said in his acceptance speech in his first Tony Award after winning praise in a host of films.
Viola Davis won best actress for “Fences” for her role opposite Washington playing a long married couple. “Fences” also won for best play revival after it originally won best new play in 1987.
“La Cage aux Folles,” won the award for best musical revival while British actor Douglas Hodge who starred opposite Kelsey Grammer in the production that was transferred from London won the best performance by a leading actor in a musical.
Catherine Zeta-Jones won best actress in a musical for her Broadway debut in the musical “A Little Night Music.” “I really do feel like Cinderella,” Zeta-Jones said on stage.
Outside, hundreds of fans lined the streets in the rain to catch glimpses of Hollywood names for the 64th Tony Awards.
Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson won for best featured actress in a play for her performance in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge.”
“Being welcomed in this community has been an absolute dream come true,” she said.
“Red” also won best scenic design and best director of a play. “This to me, is the moment of my lifetime,” said “Red” playwright John Logan in accepting the award for best play, that also was a London transfer. English actor Eddie Redmayne won the best featured actor opposite Molina.
“Memphis,” which addresses U.S. race relations in the 1950s, won a total of four awards. Winning lyricist Joe DiPietro said backstage of the show’s seven years in development, “even when it seems like it’s not going to happen, you have to always believe or it’s dead.”
“Will & Grace” actor Sean Hayes hosted the awards and shared the stage with punk rock band Green Day who performed songs from their album turned musical “American Idiot” in front of well-known figures who attended, including Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, Antonio Banderas and Jay-Z.
The Tony Awards, which do not consider off-Broadway productions, are voted on by about 700 producers, actors and writers. They were established in 1947 and are named for actress, stage director and philanthropist Antoinette Perry, whose nickname was Toni.
Other award winners included Katie Finneran for best performance for a featured actress in a musical for “Promises, Promises” in which she stars opposite Hayes. Levi Kreis won for best performance by a featured actor in a musical for “Million Dollar Quartet.”
Choreographer for “Fela!” Bill T. Jones took the award for best choreography. After tying for the most Tony nominations, “Fela!” had a disappointing night winning three awards from a possible 11 nominations.
Additional reporting by Kati Wiessner and Dean Goodman, Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Simao