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What happened behind the stage

TONY AWARDS BLOG

June 16, 2008|TOM O'NEIL

Tom O'Neil blogged the Tony Awards live from backstage. Here are some of the highlights from his blog, the Gold Derby, at TheEnvelope.com

Here's what gets my vote: When Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted the Tony for best musical score for "In the Heights," rapping madly with joy. Backstage, he revealed to us that he'd made up most of it as he went along. If true, this chap is a Broadway genius, as proved when he sang to the composer of "Sunday in the Park with George": "Mr. Sondheim, I made a hat . . . where there never was a hat . . . and it's a Latin hat at that!" Hurrah!

"I had several couplets in my head, was too superstitious to write them down, and halfway through the speech, they went out of my head," he confessed. "I am in a hip-hop group and have had four years of practice of making up rhymes." And now his show, first written in his sophomore year of college, has four Tony Awards, including best musical.

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Hold your applause: Anna Shapiro ("August: Osage County") became only the fourth woman to win an award for directing during the 61 years of Tony history.

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Now you can applaud: The first Rialto remounting of "South Pacific" won the Tony Award for best revival. Back in 1950, the original run of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical won 10 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The musical, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Tales of the South Pacific" by James Michener, is as relevant today as it was then since it addresses the issue of racism against the backdrop of war.

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Um, OK: No, Mark Rylance didn't go bonkers. He was the surprise winner of lead actor in a play for his performance in the farce "Boeing-Boeing." Even more of a surprise was his rambling speech that made Tony watchers wonder: Is this star of a comedy losing it? Was he joking? Backstage, he explained that his words were from a prose poem by Lewis Jenkins of Duluth, Minn.

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'You lookin' at me?': Julie Harris was the biggest winner among all performers at the Tonys, now having five, but Boyd Gaines just emerged as the biggest champ among men (with four) with his victory for "Gypsy." But those statuettes are not crowding his mantel at home. "My mother has them in California," he revealed backstage, explaining, "I don't like them around the house because when you walk by them they say, 'Hey, whatcha done lately?' "

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Step aside, mama! Finally, it's Gypsy's turn. Laura Benanti broke the Tony Awards losing streak of women to play the title role in "Gypsy." Four times the actress who must go from ugly duckling to swan who sheds her feather boa over the course of 2 1/2 hours has competed for the Tony Award for featured actress in a musical only to lose. Perhaps the fact that this was the third nod for Benanti was the charm she needed to win.

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Don't mess with this mama: If you haven't seen "August: Osage County," let me explain to you why the Tonys audience exploded with approval when Deanna Dunagan won best actress. We all knew that victory was coming. It was one of the big gimmes of the night. Her performance as a pill-popping, chain-smoking, wise-cracking monstrous mama is what makes the best new play on Broadway so dazzling. But Dunagan also infuses the role with heartfelt humanity and a mama's real love.

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