NEW YORK - "The Drowsy Chaperone" took two of the three top design prizes, sets and costumes for a musical, while "The History Boys" did double duty with its wins for the sets and lighting of a play as the 2006 Tony Awards handed out preshow prizes Sunday.
"Jersey Boys" won the prize for lighting design of a musical, while "Awake and Sing!" picked up the award for costumes of a play. The orchestration prize went to "Sweeney Todd" for its reimagining of the music of "Sweeney Todd." All the technical prizes were given before the start of the three-hour CBS telecast.
No single host shepherded the presenters and winners through the telecast, although a parade of stars, including Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey (a producer of the Tony-nominated "Color Purple"), were on hand to entice viewers.
As she entered Radio City Music Hall, Winfrey talked to AP Radio about why she was lured by Broadway.
"My love for 'The Color Purple,'" she said. "You know it's been a major influence in my life. I felt that it was... not only necessary but I wanted to participate, I wanted to be a part of it."
Yet the competition for the big musical prize most likely was between "Jersey Boys," an exuberant autobiography of pop icons Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and "The Drowsy Chaperone," a fizzy, Canadian-born celebration of Broadway's musical past.
"The History Boys," Alan Bennett's affectionate look at the pursuit of higher education was the heavy favorite to take the best-play award.
Among the actors up for Tonys this year at Radio City Music Hall were Harry Connick Jr., Ralph Fiennes, Patti LuPone, Cynthia Nixon, Oliver Platt, Tyne Daly, Lynn Redgrave and Chita Rivera.
"Jersey Boys," "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "The History Boys" are among the shows doing potent business at the box office, underscoring the fact that the 2005-2006 season has been a good year on Broadway.
For the first time, Broadway attendance topped the 12 million mark, jumping past the 11.9 million reached in the season before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Grosses have been robust, too, with the season total climbing to $861.6 million, a 12 percent hike from the $768.5 million of the year before.
Those money figures were helped by the appearance of big names on Broadway, most prominently Julia Roberts. The Hollywood star may not have won over the critics for her performance in Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain," but her marquee value was undeniable, pretty much selling out the play's three-month run.
If Roberts was snubbed by the Tony nominating committee, so were other box-office champs such as Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for their audience friendly revival of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple." Both "Rain" and "The Odd Couple" benefited from the sale of expensive premium tickets, the deluxe price charged for a theater's best seats that can cost over $200 a seat.
Tony nominations were made by a committee of nearly two dozen theater professionals. Winners were chosen by 754 theater professionals including actors, producers, writers, stagehands and theater owners.
The Antoinette Perry - or Tony Awards - were founded in 1947 by the American Theatre Wing and are administered by the Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers.
List of winners of 2006 Tony Awards
Partial list of 2006 Tony winners announced Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York:
Orchestrations: Sarah Travis, "Sweeney Todd."
Scenic Design-Play: Bob Crowley, "The History Boys."
Scenic Design-Musical: David Gallo, "The Drowsy Chaperone."
Costume Design-Play: Catherine Zuber, "Awake and Sing!"
Costume Design-Musical: Gregg Barnes, "The Drowsy Chaperone."
Lighting Design-Play: Mark Henderson, "The History Boys."
Lighting Design-Musical: Howell Binkley, "Jersey Boys."
Regional Theater Tony Award: Intiman Theatre, Seattle.
Special Tony Award: Sarah Jones, "Bridge and Tunnel."
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater: Harold Prince.
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