Posh 'Sunset Boulevard' scoops up seven Tonys McNally's drama wins BROADWAY'S BEST -- 49TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS

June 05, 1995|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Sun Theater Critic

"Sunset Boulevard," a $13 million musical extravaganza, and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" a $750,000 bargain play produced under a cost-cutting plan, took top honors at the 49th annual Tony Awards last night.

"Sunset Boulevard's" win was as predictable as the sunrise since it was the only full-fledged new musical to open on Broadway this season. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation of Billy Wilder's classic 1950 movie won more Tonys than any other show -- seven, including one for leading lady Glenn Close's portrayal of silent movie diva Norma Desmond.

The only surprise about "Sunset's" awards occurred a month ago when the nominations were announced. In a break with Tony policy, the show was declared the winner in two categories in which it was uncontested -- best original score and best book.

Terrence McNally's "Love! Valour! Compassion!" -- about a group of gay men who spend three summer holiday weekends at an upstate New York country house -- was the first Tony Award winner produced under the auspices of the Broadway Alliance, a 5-year-old cost-cutting incentive plan among the theatrical unions to initiate the creation of new plays. In accepting the award, the show's producers acknowledged the Alliance, saying, "It works!"

"Love! Valour!" won one other award. The award for best featured actor in a play went to Maryland-raised John Glover for his portrayal of identical, but diametrically opposed, twin brothers -- a role playwright McNally created specifically for him.

For the second year in a row, the revival category was split into separate musical and play awards in recognition of a season with a disproportionate number -- 11 out of 28 openings -- of oldies but goodies. "Show Boat," named best musical revival, won a total of five Tonys, including best director for Harold Prince. It was Prince's 20th Tony Award -- a record.

Best play revival went to "The Heiress" -- Ruth and Augustus Goetz' 1947 adaptation of the Henry James' novel, "Washington Square." It also chalked up three other awards, including one for lead actress Cherry Jones, who thanked the late Colleen Dewhurst in her acceptance speech. As Jones explained when she starred as Josie in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at Center Stage two seasons ago, Dewhurst's portrayal of Josie on Broadway helped inspire her to become an actress.

Ralph Fiennes, who won best actor for his portrayal of the title role in "Hamlet," was the first actor ever to win a Tony for portraying Shakespeare's moody Danish prince.

The award for best actor in a musical went to Matthew Broderick for his portrayal of ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." It was the same role that won Robert Morse the Tony in 1962.

Most of last night's deliberately truncated acceptance speeches were little more than perfunctory lists. However, the most poignant acknowledgement was a pre-recorded segment by Tony-winning scenic designer John Napier ("Sunset Boulevard"), who thanked his recently deceased associate designer.

This year's Tony Awards ceremony seemed to belong to "Sunset Boulevard" since its Tony Award-winning star, Glenn Close, was one of the hosts and since the telecast was broadcast from the musical's movie-mansion set at the Minskoff Theatre. (Close started the awards show by bidding the audience "welcome to Norma Desmond's enormously wonderful living room.")

Her co-hosts were Gregory Hines and Nathan Lane. Ironically, though Lane emceed the telecast, his widely acclaimed starring performance in "Love! Valour! Compassion!" was overlooked by the nominating committee. Lane joked about not being nominated: "It's sort of like the Nixon commemorative stamp. You can lick it, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

Several special Tony Awards were presented. Lifetime achievement awards went to Carol Channing, whose current tour of "Hello, Dolly!" brought her to Baltimore in February, and to Harvey Sabinson, retiring executive director of the League. In addition, a Tony honoring the National Endowment for the Arts was accepted by NEA director Jane Alexander. And, the annual regional theater Tony was given to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., on the recommendation of the American Theatre Critics Association.

Though only 28 Broadway shows opened this season, tying the low set four seasons ago, 9 million tickets were sold for a record $406 million -- $50 million more than last season, according to the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The Tony Awards -- named in memory of Antoinette Perry, an actress, director and producer -- were selected by 714 theater professionals and journalists. Nominations were made by a 17-member committee chosen by the League and the American Theatre Wing, which jointly administer the awards.


Here are the winners of Tony Awards for Broadway's 1994-1995 season, announced last night.

* Play: "Love! Valour! Compassion!" by Terrence McNally

* Musical: "Sunset Boulevard"

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