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'Red,' 'Memphis' win top Tonys

The cast of Memphis performs during the 2010 Tony Awards on Sunday in New York. The play won best musical, best book, best original score and best orchestration.

Associated Press

The cast of Memphis performs during the 2010 Tony Awards on Sunday in New York. The play won best musical, best book, best original score and best orchestration.

NEW YORK — Red, the anguished two-man drama about painter Mark Rothko and the timeless tug of war between art and commerce, was a big winner Sunday at the 2010 Tony Awards, receiving the best play prize and five other honors.

"This to me is the moment of my lifetime," said Red playwright John Logan.

The play picked up prizes for Michael Grandage, who won for best director of a play, and Eddie Redmayne, who won featured performance by an actor in a play as the increasingly disillusioned assistant to Rothko, the abstract expressionist who agonizes over whether to accept a lucrative commission for the Four Seasons restaurant.

Red, starring Alfred Molina as Rothko, was also awarded a Tony for best lighting design of a play, best sound design and best scenic design.

Memphis, an interracial romance set against the backdrop of the 1950s rhythm and blues explosion, has won the award for best musical.

The show of soulful sounds and a parade of engaging characters beat out Fela! — the innovative Afro-beat biography of Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo-Kuti; Green Day's rock musical American Idiot; and Million Dollar Quartet, a fictional re-creation of a jam session of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis in a Memphis recording studio.

The play also was cited for best orchestration, original score and best book of a musical.

Fences, a revival of August Wilson's deeply personal drama about family, won for best revival of a play and its two stars, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, won for best actors in a play. Even their acceptance speeches seemed to complement each other.

"My mother always says, 'Man gives the award, God gives the reward.' I guess I got both tonight," Washington said after winning for his performance as the sanitation man who might have been a baseball star. It was his first Tony Award and nomination.

"I don't believe in luck or happenstance. I absolutely believe in the presence of God in my life," said Davis, honored for playing Washington's all-sacrificing wife. "It feels like such a divine experience eight times a week."

Fela! won for Bill T. Jones' choreography, best costume design of a musical and best sound design of a musical.

Best direction for a musical went to first-time nominee Terry Johnson of La Cage Aux Folles. Scarlett Johansson won for best featured performance as an actress in a play for her Broadway debut, the object of her uncle's lust in Arthur Miller's A View From a Bridge.

"Every since I was a little girl I wanted to be on Broadway and here I am," said Johansson, the Hollywood star best known for such films as Matchpoint and Lost in Translation.

The ceremony, from Radio City Music Hall and telecast on CBS, was hosted by Sean Hayes, who didn't win as lead actor in a musical for Promises, Promises, but did put on a memorable show of song, jokes and costumes, dressing up as everyone from Spider-Man to Little Orphan Annie.

"I have actually managed to combine a good chance of losing with a good chance of bombing," he joked during his opening monologue, which was widely applauded.

One of Hayes' co-stars, scene-stealing Katie Finneran, won for best featured actress in a musical. Best featured actor in a musical went to Levi Kreis as rock 'n' roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet.

Five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury, a nominee Sunday, was named the first honorary chairman of the American Theatre Wing. Special Tony Awards for lifetime achievement were given to playwright Alan Ayckbourn (The Norman Conquests, a trilogy that won the play-revival Tony last year), and actress Marian Seldes (A Delicate Balance, Equus, Deathtrap, Three Tall Women).

'Red,' 'Memphis' win top Tonys 06/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 6:47am]
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