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‘All the Way’ wins Tony Award for best play

Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson during a performance of "All the Way."

AP Photo/Jeffrey Richards Associates, Evgenia Eliseeva

Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson during a performance of "All the Way."

NEW YORK — “All the Way,” which premiered at the American Repertory Theater in September, 2013, won the Tony Award for best play on Sunday. Former ‘‘Breaking Bad’’ star Bryan Cranston, making his Broadway debut, also nabbed a Tony for his starring role in the play.

Cranston — playing a character far from TV’s chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White — won the best lead actor in a play award for playing former President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s ‘‘All the Way,” which premiered at the American Repertory Theater in 2013.

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Cranston plays Johnson during his first year in office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and explores both his fight for re-election and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

He beat out Samuel Barnett from ‘‘Twelfth Night,’’ Chris O'Dowd from ‘‘Of Mice and Men,’’ Mark Rylance of ‘‘Richard III’’ and Tony Shalhoub with ‘‘Act One.’’

Cranston, a three-time Emmy Award-winner, has also done goofy comedy in ‘‘Malcolm in the Middle.’’

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Meanwhile, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” won the 2014 Tony Award for best musical, and after years of helping hand out Tony Awards to others, Neil Patrick Harris finally won one of his own.

The Emmy Award-winning ‘‘How I Met Your Mother’’ star won his first Tony for playing a German male transsexual rock singer in ‘‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch,’’ a tale of obsession, glam rock and a botched sex-change operation.

He beat Ramin Karimloo from ‘‘Les Miserables,’’ Andy Karl of ‘‘Rocky,’’ and Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, both from ‘‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.’’

Harris, the onetime star of ‘‘Doogie Howser, M.D.,’’ has featured previously in three Broadway productions: ‘‘Assassins,’’ ‘'Proof’’ and as the exuberant master of ceremonies in ‘‘Cabaret.’’ He also has appeared in the ‘‘Harold & Kumar’’ and ‘‘The Smurfs’’ movies.

Audra McDonald became the Tony Awards’ most decorated actress.

The singer and actress won her sixth Tony for portraying Billie Holiday in ‘‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,’’ putting her ahead of five-time winners Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris for the most competitive wins by an actress.

The latest win — for best lead actress in a play — also makes McDonald the first grand-slam performance winner. She previously won as best featured actress in a play ("A Raisin in the Sun’’ and ‘‘Master Class"), best lead actress in a musical ("The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess") and best featured actress in a musical ("Ragtime’’ and ‘‘Carousel"). She also has two Grammys.

She beat Tyne Daly, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Cherry Jones and Estelle Parsons.

Earlier in the night, Hugh Jackman kicked off the Tonys with a bounce, hopping up and down like a kangaroo during his opening number as he made his way to the Radio City Music Hall stage.

The bearded Australian, back as host Sunday after a nine-year absence, greeted many of the night’s featured performers as he bounded past them backstage. He then joined the cast of the musical ‘‘After Midnight’’ for a rousing rendition of ‘‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got that Swing).’’

The first award of the night was for best featured actor in a play and it went to Mark Rylance, who won his third Tony for playing the countess Olivia in ‘‘Twelfth Night.’’ Rylance, who previously won for ‘‘Jerusalem’’ and ‘‘Boeing-Boeing,’’ is also nominated for best lead actor honors for his evil title character in ‘‘Richard III.’’

Jackman has lost none of his style, affability and humor since he last hosted. He will be singing several songs — including all the parts from the first song in ‘‘The Music Man’’ — and will tease the nominees goodheartedly.

Stars helping present awards include Bradley Cooper, Kevin Bacon, Clint Eastwood, Leighton Meester, Kenneth Branagh, Kate Mara, Emmy Rossum, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Zachary Quinto.

Some Hollywood royalty who showed up onstage this season like Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, James Franco and Rachel Weisz didn’t win nominations and may skip the show. Viewership may also be tested by Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Some 870 Tony voters — members of professional groups such as the Wing, the League, Actors’ Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society — decided the final 26 competitive awards. Only Broadway shows that opened in the 12 months ending April 24 are eligible.

A music-heavy lineup includes all the best new musical nominees — ‘‘Aladdin,’’ ‘’After Midnight,’’ ‘’Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’’ and ‘‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’’ — and some overlooked ones, including ‘‘Rocky,’’ ‘’Bullets Over Broadway,’’ and Menzel’s show ‘‘If/Then.’’

‘‘After Midnight,’’ a musical celebrating Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club nightclub, was the first to be featured with Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Fantasia singing ‘‘On Sunny Side of the Street’’ and then the group number.

Three revivals — ‘‘Les Miserables,’’ ‘’Violet’’ and ‘‘Cabaret’’ — will also be featured. ‘‘Wicked,’’ which is celebrating a decade on Broadway, will have its current Glinda and Elphaba sing ‘‘For Good,’’ and there will be songs from two shows that have yet to arrive: Sting will perform from his musical ‘‘The Last Ship’’ and Jennifer Hudson sings from ‘‘Finding Neverland,’’ the musical about Peter Pan.

For best play candidates, the playwrights of ‘‘Act One,’’ ‘’All The Way,’’ ‘’Casa Valentina,’’ ‘’Mothers and Sons’’ and ‘‘Outside Mullingar’’ will each take turns introducing video snippets of their works.

This year, Broadway producers have a reason to party. The season’s box offices hit a record total gross of $1.27 billion — up from $1.13 billion the previous season — and attendance was up 5.6 percent to 12.2 million.

Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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