NEW YORK — New Orleans resident Michael Cerveris won the Tony Award for best leading actor in a musical during Sunday’s Tony Awards 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 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.”
Cerveris previously won a Tony for his portrayal of John Wilkes Booth in the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.” His film and television roles include Cook County State’s Attorney James Castro in the Julianna Margulies-starring “The Good Wife” and Marvin Frey, manager of Lucia Micarelli’s Annie in HBO’s “Treme.”
The Tony Awards kicked off Sunday night with Helen Mirren winning for a familiar role and the songwriters of “Fun Home” making history — but during a commercial break.
Former New Orleans resident 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.
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.”
Also at the top of the Tony Awards 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. 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.”
During a commercial break, “Fun Home” songwriters Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron became the first female writing team to nab a Tony for a musical score. Kron also won for best book of a musical.
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. He dressed in shorts and a suit and she in a black tuxedo jacket minidress, and they sang snippets from “It Takes Two,” “There’s Nothing Like a Dame” and “Willkommen” from “Cabaret,” in which Cumming recently finished a year on Broadway.
“This is the last time I’ll ever sing this song,” he crooned. She replied: “‘Till a revival paycheck comes along.” Later he mocked “The King and I” by wearing a huge hoop skirt.
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.
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 Tine also accepted his special Tony with a high-kick step.
Josh Groban led a moving “In Memoriam” section, singing “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. New Orleans singer, actress and Tony nominee B.J. Crosby, who died March 27, was among those memorialized.
For the record, there were 11 musical performances and 24 competitive Tonys handed out, some tucked in during commercial breaks. The best play nominees were showcased in video clips.
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” had songs performed. A few other non-nominated shows, including Vanessa Hudgens’ “Gigi” and Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer with “Finding Neverland,” also got spots. The cast of “Jersey Boys” ended the show with “Oh What a Night.”
Producers were hoping to beat last year’s average of 7.02 million viewers. But as happened last year, the Tonys had to compete 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.