NEW YORK — Billy Elliot, the big British musical about a coal miner's son who dreams to dance, bowled over Broadway on Sunday, winning 10 Tonys, including best musical and a unique best actor prize for the three young performers who share the title character.
The trio — David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish — traded off thank-yous during their acceptance speech, shyly thanking people associated with the show only by their first name. They also acknowledged siblings and parents. Finally, Kulish told the cheering crowd at Radio City Music Hall: "We want to say to all the kids out there who might want to dance, 'Never give up.' "
Billy Elliot received eight other awards, including director of a musical, book of a musical and choreography, but its composer Elton John was upset for best score. That went to Next to Normal, which seemed to stun Normal composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey. Alice Ripley, who portrays battling mental illness in Normal, received the actress musical prize.
God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza's savage comedy of manners about two liberal, middle-class couples whose children get into a fight, was named best play and picked up two other major awards, one for its director, Matthew Warchus, and the other for actress Marcia Gay Harden.
Reza, who previously won a best-play Tony for Art, said: "Maybe you missed my accent; you wanted to hear it again."
The director/musical award went to Stephen Daldry of Billy Elliot. He said the award belonged to everyone connected to the show and especially to "three great gifts of Broadway, our three little Billys."
Geoffrey Rush's extravagant portrait of a dying monarch in Exit the King took top actor.
"I want to thank Manhattan audiences for proving that French existential absurdist tragicomedy rocks," Rush said.
Angela Lansbury received her fifth Tony, for her performance as the dotty medium Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Her win in the featured-actress category tied the record for acting prizes held by Julie Harris, who has five plus a special lifetime achievement award given in 2002.
"Who would have thought," the 83-year-old Lansbury began, drowned out by a standing ovation. "Who knew that (at) this time in my life that I should be presented with this lovely, lovely award. I feel deeply grateful."
An emotional Liza Minnelli accepted the prize for special theatrical event for her show Liza's at the Palace.
"This is exquisite," Minnelli said, asking for a list of people to thank because she didn't think she was going to win.
Roger Robinson's portrayal of a mystical shamanlike character in Joe Turner's Come and Gone was honored with the featured-acting prize.
"It has taken me 46 years to come from that seat, up these steps, to this microphone," Robinson said.
PLAY: "God of Carnage."
MUSICAL: "Billy Elliot, The Musical."
REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL: "Hair."
BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Lee Hall, "Billy Elliot, The Musical."
REVIVAL OF A PLAY: "The Norman Conquests."
SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT: "Liza's at The Palace."
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Geoffrey Rush, "Exit the King."
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Marcia Gay Harden, "God of Carnage."
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, "Billy Elliot, The Musical."
PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Alice Ripley, "Next to Normal."