Once the Musical is Gold at the Tony Awards

June 11, 2012

It was an Irish night at the 66th annual Tony Awards. Once, the musical adaptation of the much beloved 2006 Irish film that made stars of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, was the star of last night’s Tony Awards, winning eight out of the eleven awards it was nominated for – including best musical.

Soulful leading man Steve Kazee took home the award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical, while playwright Enda Walsh received the Tony for best book of a musical and John Tiffany won for best direction. The musical, which opened off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop in November and made its Broadway premiere at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater in February, also snagged the awards for best scenic, lighting and sound design, and for best orchestrations.

In a year that saw many big budget, big spectacle musicals come to Broadway (most notably the Bono/Julie Taymor collaboration Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which cost a record-breaking $75 million), Once stands out for its understated and deeply moving production. Before a simple set of a pub interior, a cast of less than 20 actors (who also double as the orchestra) tell the story of Guy, a frustrated but talented Irish musician living in Dublin, and Girl, the quietly powerful Czech immigrant who encourages and inspires him.

The musical, which had a budget of around $5 million – small by Broadway standards – mirrors the humble beginnings and enduring success of the film that inspired it.

Kazee gave a moving acceptance speech, in which he thanked the cast for supporting him throughout his mother’s struggle with cancer and recent death. “My mother passed on Easter Sunday and I came back to the show and this cast has carried me around and made me alive and I will never be able to repay them,” he said. “They haven’t been mentioned enough here tonight and I’m telling you that this ensemble and [Cristin Milioti] are some of the most talented people I have ever worked with in my life.”

Walsh acknowledged the apparent disparity between his soaring adaptation of John Carney’s screenplay and his original works as a playwright, which include the darkly insightful plays Misterman and Dsico Pigs, comparing it to “getting the rights to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and then getting Charles Manson to write it.”

The Tonys were hosted by the always-charming Neil Patrick Harris, one of Irish America’s Top 100 of 2011. Other big winners included Clybourne Park for best play, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman for best revival of a play, and Porgy and Bess for best revival of a musical.

Click here to read music editor Tara Dougherty’s review of Once

Watch a montage of Once the Musical here:

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