NEW YORK — “An American in Paris” and “Fun Home” were each leading the Tony Award race Sunday night for most-decorated musical as the telecast reached its halfway mark, with “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” pulling ahead with the most play trophies.
Also, New Orleans resident Michael Cerveris won the Tony Award for best leading actor in a musical during the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“Wow, you have made a lot of people in New Orleans really happy right now,” Cerveris said. “Who dat!”
In “Fun Home,” Cerveris plays the father in a family whose family business is the Bechdel Funeral Home. It’s his second Tony award.
“Our show is about home,” he said. “It’s about finding who you are.”
Former New Orleans resident Helen Mirren won the first Tony Award of the night for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience.” Mirren’s Broadway and London performances as Elizabeth II follow her Oscar-winning portrayal of the British monarch in the 2006 film “The Queen.”
“Your majesty, you did it again,” Mirren said after accepting the award. “Thank you so much. A massive, massive honor. The foundation upon which I stand is beautifully built by an elegant and fleet play by Peter Morgan,” she added.
Morgan, a British writer of plays and films, wrote both “The Queen” and “The Audience.” The play’s title refers to the private meetings the queen has with British prime ministers, from World War II hero Winston Churchill to the recently re-elected David Cameron.
“An American in Paris” had four technical awards, while “Fun Home” won for best score, book and direction. Its songwriters Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron became the first female writing team to nab a Tony for musical score.
At the top of Sunday’s broadcast, the cast of “Something Rotten!” — the 10-time Tony-nominated musical composed by former Baton Rouge residents Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick — performed the musical’s big production number, “A Musical!”
“Something Rotten!” cast member Christian Borle later won the Tony for best featured actor in a musical for his portrayal as a sexy William Shakespeare. It was his second Tony award. His thanks included Baton Rouge Magnet High School graduates the Kirkpatrick brothers.
“Our writers Karey and Wayne and John (O’Farrell),” Borle said, “thank you for writing something completely original, kindhearted and uproariously funny.”
Set in the 1590s, “Something Rotten!” is about a pair of brothers who desperately want to write a hit play. But the brothers constantly find themselves stuck in the shadow of a popular playwright known as “The Bard.”
Later in the ceremony, New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. presented the Tony Award for best revival of a musical to “The King and I.” No stranger to Broadway, singer, pianist and actor Connick earned Tony nominations for writing the score for the 2001 musical “Thou Shalt Not” and playing the lead in the 2006 revival of “The Pajama Game.” Connick returned to Broadway in the 2011 revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.”
Co-hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming opened 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.
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 admitted 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.
Broadway favorite Annaleigh Ashford won for best featured actress in a musical as an incompetent ballet dancer in “You Can’t Take It With You.” It was her first Tony award.
“I can’t believe I am standing here right now for the worst dancing that ever happened on Broadway,” Ashford said.
Ruthie Ann Miles won in her Broadway debut as best featured actress in a musical for “The King and I.” She read her speech off her phone and thanked her husband and mom, among others.
Before the telecast, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” won for best lighting design of a play, while “An American in Paris” won the best lighting award for a musical. Tommy Tune also accepted a special Tony with a high-kick step.
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.
For the record, there were 11 musical performances and 24 competitive Tonys handed out. The broadcast showcased best play nominees in video clips.
Songs were performed from the nominated musicals “On the Twentieth Century,” “Something Rotten!” “The Visit,” “The King and I,” “On the Town,” “Fun Home” and “An American in Paris.” A few other non-nominated shows, including Vanessa Hudgens’ “Gigi” and Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer with “Finding Neverland,” also were spotlighted. The cast of “Jersey Boys” ended the show with “Oh What a Night.”
Tony Awards producers hoped to beat last year’s average of 7.02 million viewers. But as happened last year, the Tonys were competing against Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which started at the same time.
A total of 37 shows opened during the season and box offices reported a record total gross of $1.36 billion — up from $1.27 billion from the previous season.
Advocate staff writer John Wirt contributed to this report.