It was a memorable night for the Boston area’s two leading theater companies Sunday, as the American Repertory Theater’s circus-themed revival of “Pippin’’ won four Tony Awards while the Huntington Theatre Company was presented the 2013 Tony for regional theater during the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“Pippin’’ won the Tony for best revival of a musical, while ART artistic director Diane Paulus won for best direction of a musical. Paulus was nominated for best direction in 2009 for “Hair’’ and again last year for “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,’’ but she lost both times, although each of those shows won for best musical revival.
Patina Miller, who portrayed the mysterious Leading Player in “Pippin,’’ was a Tony winner for best lead actress in a musical, and Andrea Martin won for best featured actress in a musical for her performance as Berthe, the quite literally swinging grandmother of the title character in “Pippin.’’
The victor in the heated competition for best musical was “Kinky Boots’’ — one of six Tonys the show won — beating out “Matilda the Musical.’’ A buoyant celebration of individuality wrapped around the story of a struggling shoe factory that begins producing footwear for cross-dressers, “Kinky Boots’’ features music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, who won a Tony Award for best original score in her Broadway debut as a composer.
Veteran playwright Christopher Durang went home with a Tony Award for best play for “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,’’ a Chekhov-flavored comedy of midlife ennui.
Cicely Tyson won the Tony for best lead actress in a play for her quietly devastating performance as an elderly woman struggling to get back to her long-ago hometown in “The Trip to Bountiful.’’
In an upset, Tracy Letts was named best lead actor in a play for his scorching, unforgettable portrayal of George in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’’
Letts prevailed over, among others, Tom Hanks (in “Lucky Guy’’) and Nathan Lane (“The Nance’’). “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’’ won for best revival of a play, and its director, Pam MacKinnon, was the winner for best direction of a play.
In her acceptance speech, Paulus saluted “Pippin’’ composer Stephen Schwartz, calling him “a treasure to the American musical theater,’’ and Roger O. Hirson, who wrote the show’s book. She also thanked “the incredible Boston audiences that embraced this production when we first started’’ (“Pippin’’ opened in January at the ART’s Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge before transferring to Broadway), the show’s cast, and her “brilliant creative team, who selflessly went back to the drawing board every time we wanted to make this show better.’’
Accepting the Tony for regional theater, Huntington managing director Michael Maso told the crowd that “together we celebrate our extraordinary audiences, and with you tonight we celebrate the proud, passionate, and resilient people of the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.’’ Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois gave a shout-out to his predecessors, Nicholas Martin and Peter Altman, and said of the award: “This puts wind in our sails, thank you!’’
For the second consecutive year, Judith Light got the Tony for best featured actress, this time for her portrayal of the irrepressible Faye in Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties.’’
Last year Light won for her performance in “Other Desert Cities.’’
Billy Porter won for best lead actor in a musical for his portrayal of Lola, a drag performer turned boot designer in “Kinky Boots.’’
The first award of the evening, for best featured actor in a play, went to Courtney B. Vance, who plays a newspaper editor in “Lucky Guy.’’ Gabriel Ebert won for best featured actor in a musical for his over-the-top performance as Mr. Wormwood, the dim-bulb father of the title character in “Matilda the Musical.’’
The creative team for the “Pippin” revival includes choreographer Chet Walker, who performed in the original Broadway production and who created choreography “in the style of Bob Fosse,’’ and Gypsy Snider, of Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a Montreal-based contemporary circus troupe, who devised the show’s acrobatics.
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the awards, which were presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.Don Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org