“Kinky Boots,” the Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper show about a struggling shoe factory that turns to fetish-wear to survive, took home six awards, including the top prize of best musical during the 67th Tony Awards Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall.
While accepting the award for score, Lauper brought a bit of working-class charm to the ceremony, intoning 'R' heavy words such as "inspired" with her trademark outer borough accent.
Later the veteran pop star told reporters back stage that this award represented the closing of a cycle. “It's funny, you go around the world looking for acceptance — you forget that all you've got to do is look in your own backyard,”
Entering the evening, the race for the top musical prize was considered too close to call between “Kinky Boots” and the dark British import “Matilda,” two springtime openings that had emerged as hits after little fanfare in the months leading up to their opening nights.
Still, “Matilda, the Musical” performed decently, winning four Tonys from its 12 nominations, including book for Dennis Kelly.
Perhaps most unexpectedly, the night was marked by a series of big wins for the revival of Edward Albee's marital drama “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” A half-century after being introduced to the American stage, the show took home Tonys for revival of a play, director of a play and, in the upset of the night, actor in a play, given to Tracy Letts over Tom Hanks, star of the late Nora Ephron's journalism tale “Lucky Guy.”
But one of the most compelling narratives Sunday night had less to do with a particular winner and a lot more to do with the tenor of the overall honorees.
As Hollywood continues to be the subject of criticism for a lack of inclusiveness, 2013 was an extraordinarily good year for both women and minorities on Broadway. African American actors won four of the eight acting Tonys: lead actor in a musical for Billy Porter (“Kinky Boots”), lead actress in a play for Cicely Tyson (“The Trip To Bountiful”) lead actress in a musical for Patina Miller (“Pippin”) and featured actor in a play for Courtney B. Vance (“Lucky Guy”).
Tyson, who made her return to Broadway after 30 years away, gave a deliberate, emotional speech that evoked the specter of dead family members. Porter was more quippy.
“I share this award with you,” he said to “Kinky Boots” costar and fellow nominee Stark Sands. “I'm going to keep it at my house, but I share it with you.”
Though “Virginia Woolf” opened in the fall and closed months ago, it has managed to emerge as a force during Tonys season even as many anticipated dramas that opened later — including “Orphans,” “Breakfast at Tiffany's” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — faltered.
Asked Sunday about the staying power of his show, Letts said that the production, an import from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, owed its resilience to the work itself.
“It's a testament to Edward Albee's play,” he said. “It sticks to the ribs.”