NEW YORK (Reuters) - Irreverent musical "The Book of Mormon," an affectionate spoof about Mormons from the creators of the TV show, "South Park," scooped the major honors at the Tony Awards held on Sunday, winning nine awards.
The hit show about two young present-day Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda won some of the night's top awards including best musical, original score, best book, best direction and best actress in a featured role in a musical at the awards for Broadway's best musicals and plays.
"We did this because we all secretly wanted to have a big, happy Mormon family and now we do," said co-creator Trey Parker on stage, before jokingly thanking their "co-writer," the late Joseph Smith Jr., who founded the Latter Day Saint movement, saying, "You did it Joseph, you got the Tony!"
The British import to Broadway, "War Horse," adapted by Nick Stafford from the 1982 novel of the same name, which uses puppets to tell the story of World War I and a soldier's quest to find his horse and bring him home, won a total of five awards, including best play.
Actress Frances McDormand won best actress in a leading role in a play for her turn as a tough single mother in the play, "Good People," and in accepting her first Tony predicted her current role would become "an American classic," before adding emphatically, "I love my job."
Mark Rylance beat out Al Pacino to win the top acting award in a play for his turn in "Jerusalem," and rather than giving a traditional speech, recited an excerpt from an obscure Midwestern poet -- as he did when he won a Tony in 2008.
The awards were handed out at New York's Beacon Theater in a live televised event hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris.
Other major winners included best play revival winner, "The Normal Heart," a semi-autobiographical play that focuses on the AIDS crisis, which premiered in 1985. It won three awards, including for actors Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey.
In accepting her Tony, Barkin, 57, said, "it's the proudest moment in my career. It has transformed me, not just as an actor but as a human being," while Hickey backstage called the revival "extraordinary" that "so many young, gay people and so many young, straight people are coming to see this play."
Its playwright Larry Kramer said on stage, "I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died."
A revival of the musical, "Anything Goes," won three awards, led by best actress in a musical winner Sutton Foster, while John Larroquette won best featured role in a musical for "How to Success in Business Without Really Trying."
But it was "The Book of Mormon" that dominated the night, winning nine of 14 nominations but falling short of beating the record of the Mel Brooks musical comedy, "The Producers," which won 12 Tony Awards after it opened in 2001.
"The Book of Mormon" also won for best lighting, scenery and sound design and orchestrations. Nikki M. James, who won a Tony for her role as a member of an African village, said backstage, "I knew when I read the script this was going to get a lot of attention."
The four Tony Awards won by Parker for "The Book of Mormon," -- which he co-created with Matt Stone from "South Park" and composer Robert Lopez -- tied the record for the most Tony awards in one night set by Joshua Logan for the original 1949 production of "South Pacific."
"I want to thank the 'South Park' fans. If it weren't for you guys, we wouldn't be here," Parker said on stage in sharing the award for best direction with Casey Nicholaw.
But the show's two lead actors lost the best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical to Norbert Leo Butz, who called his FBI agent role modeled on his own father in "Catch Me If You Can" his greatest role but "not easy."
The short-lived musical "The Scottsboro Boys" was shut out of the awards after receiving 12 nominations, as was "The Merchant of Venice" which starred Pacino.
The show featured sprinklings of jokes about the current beleaguered and injury-prone $65 million musical "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," which was panned by critics in previews before being revamped with its official opening this week. It missed the deadline for this year's awards.
Rock star Bono, who wrote the show's music along with his bandmate, The Edge, joked on stage: "WE used to be famous for being in U2."
Writing by Christine Kearney; Editing by David Lawder and Paul Simao