‘Memphis’ and ‘Red’ Dominate Tony Awards


“Memphis,” a show about American rock ‘n’ roll, was named best musical at the Tony Awards on Sunday night. “Red,” about the artist Mark Rothko, won best play and five other Tonys, one of the highest totals for a play in recent years.

Yet all but eclipsing those shows was the unusually powerful star wattage in Radio City Music Hall, full of well-known figures from film, television and music who became dominant forces on Broadway during the 2009-10 season. In nearly every acting category in which a Hollywood star was nominated, that star won. Among them was Catherine Zeta-Jones, who added a Tony to the Oscar already on her mantel, this one for best actress in a musical for “A Little Night Music.” And the film actors Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won best actor and actress in a play for their galvanizing portrayals of a troubled 1950s married couple in August Wilson’s “Fences,” which also won for best play revival.

It was the first time in Tony history that black performers won best actor and best actress in a play for the same theater season.

“You know, I don’t believe in luck or happenstance — I absolutely believe in the presence of God in my life,” said Ms. Davis, a previous Tony winner and Academy Award nominee, choking back tears. “I was born into circumstances where I couldn’t see it in my eyes, I couldn’t touch it in my hands — I had to believe it in my heart.”

Mr. Washington, a two-time Academy Award winner, is also the first black actor to win for a leading role in a play since James Earl Jones won in 1987 — for the original “Fences,” playing the same role, Troy Maxson.

“My mother always says, ‘Man gives the award, God gives the reward,’ ” he said. “I guess I’ve been given both tonight.”

A visibly surprised Scarlett Johansson won the first acting award of the evening, best featured actress in a play, for her Broadway debut in the revival of Arthur Miller’s “View From the Bridge.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Ms. Johansson said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be on Broadway. Here I am. Unbelievable.”

“Red,” which began at the Donmar Warehouse in London, won for Michael Grandage’s direction, as well as for lighting, scenic design and sound design in a play. The young British stage and film actorEddie Redmayne also won as featured actor for that drama, portraying an assistant to Rothko (played by the nominee Alfred Molina).

The Tonys are Broadway’s highest industry honor and one of the most insider-driven awards competitions in American entertainment. The 769 eligible Tony voters are mostly Broadway producers, directors, designers, actors, writers and presenters of shows on national tours, and many of them happen to work on Tony-nominated shows or have friends (or rivals) attached to productions up for awards. The Tonys are overseen by two industry groups, the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing.

Still, in a season without a runaway critical and commercial hit, like “Billy Elliot: The Musical” last year, the Tonys spread the wealth on Sunday. The actress Katie Finneran won her second Tony, for featured actress in a musical, for her brief, scene-stealing Act II turn in “Promises, Promises.” Levi Kreis won best featured actor in a musical as the flamboyant Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet.”