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The biggest surprises at the Tony Awards

By David Cote
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As we noted before, this was one of the most unpredictable Tony Awards in recent memory (and yet, predict we did). It was an unusually strong season, full of diverse, exciting play and musicals brimful of stage veterans (Kristin Chenoweth, Chita Rivera, Michael Cerveris, Kelli O’Hara) and newcomers to the Great White Way (Alex Sharp, Steven Boyer, Sydney Lucas). We found ourselves uncommonly divided in terms of who we hoped would win or believed should win (witness the epic battle of the blogs between Adam Feldman’s lobbying for Kristin and my plea for Team Kelli).

RECOMMENDED: See complete Tony Awards coverage

But the speeches haven been spoken and the tears have dried. What upsets upset us most?

In the acting categories, the night started out with unexpected wins: Richard McCabe for supporting actor in a play (The Audience) and Christian Borle for supporting actor in a musical (Something Rotten). Mind you, both are totally deserving, it’s just that we predicted Nathaniel Parker and Brad Oscar, respectively. Then Helen Mirren won for leading actress in a play for The Audience and Annaleigh Ashford for supporting actress in You Can’t Take It With You, and our clairvoyant powers were restored. Same goes for Alex Sharp’s impressive turn in Curious Incident (even though we rooted equally for Hand to God’s brilliant Steven Boyer).

An American in Paris did not sweep. It started with director Sam Gold’s win for Fun Home, and continued with Michael Cerveris for best actor in a musical, also for Fun Home. Director Christopher Wheeldon was honored for his choreographic acumen on An American, but otherwise, the gold went to that production’s scenic and lighting design, and orchestrations (all superb, by the way). And Best Musical? Read on.

Acting races continued to startle us. Ruthie Ann Miles is terrific in The King and I, but most pundits expected supporting actress in a musical to go precocious delight Sydney Lucas or Judy Kuhn of Fun Home. Just goes to show what a high-quality season it was.

Kelli or Kristin? Whichever glorious diva won, there was bound to be controversy and broken hearts. We’ve already had our say, and Tony voters had theirs. The night belonged to Kelli. We view it as a win of substance over flash.

The big ones were… not so surprising, really. The King and I won for best revival of a musical and Skylight for best revival of a play. And best play, as many predicted, was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. 

Except for Best Musical! This race was the biggest nail-biter. Because An American in Paris is a big-tent musical doing boffo box office and planning a major national tour, the conventional thinking was that Tony voters would go with a classy, popular winner. Instead, they awarded small, artsy, dark and quirky Fun Home, which has developed a passionate fan base among those who support serious, complex new musicals. Added joy: Fun Home's Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron made history as the first female composer-lyricist team to win the Tony for book and score. They plan to collaborate more, which is sweet music to our ears.

So we correctly predicted 17 out of 24. Not bad, but there were plenty we didn’t see coming. I guess that’s why they call it drama.

Here is the complete list of 2015 Tony Award winners:

BEST PLAY
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

BEST MUSICAL
Fun Home

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL
The King and I

BEST PLAY REVIVAL
Skylight

BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kelli O’Hara, The King and I

BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home

BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren, The Audience

BEST LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Alex Sharp, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Ruthie Ann Miles, The King and I

BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Annaleigh Ashford, You Can’t Take It with You

BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Christian Borle, Something Rotten!

BEST FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Richard McCabe, The Audience

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Sam Gold, Fun Home

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
Fun Home, Lisa Kron

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS)
Fun Home, Music: Jeanine Tesori, Lyrics: Lisa Kron

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, Bill Elliott, An American in Paris

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Catherine Zuber, The King and I

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Christopher Oram, Wolf Hall: Parts 1 and 2

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions, An American in Paris

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Natasha Katz, An American in Paris

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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