NEW YORK — The bittersweet musical “Once” captured eight Tony Awards on Sunday, including best musical direction, best lead actor in a musical and the top musical prize itself.
The inventive play “Peter and the Starcatcher” was next with five awards. Audra McDonald was named best lead actress in a musical and her “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” was named best musical revival.
Nina Arianda, a rising star, won best leading actress in a play, beating stiff competition from Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Cynthia Nixon.
In perhaps the biggest shock of the night, James Corden nabbed the lead acting Tony Award in a play for his clownish turn in the British import “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
He beat out the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman.”
The producers of the Tony Award telecast clearly believed that more is more.
Sunday night’s three-hour telecast from the Beacon Theater was packed with so many stars and performances — a record 16 musical numbers featured moments from musicals, plays and revivals — that cynics might call it kitchen sink programming. “Every year we’ve added more and more entertainment,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of The Broadway League, which jointly presents the Tonys with the American Theatre Wing.
The explosion of performances was an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible and also an implicit admission that there’s no clear, dying-to-see-it front-running musical like last year’s juggernaut, “The Book of Mormon.”
In fact, the producers invited the cast of “The Book of Mormon” to perform again this year. There also were cameos by a little orphan Annie and Mary Poppins.
And, to top it all off, one performance wasn’t nearby — the song from “Hairspray” was performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea. “It’s got that energy of any production,” said Heather A. Hitchens, the executive director of the American Theatre Wing. “The excitement and the anxiety hand in hand — that’s what makes it work.”
Last year’s Tonys was seen by 6.9 million viewers, roughly the same number as the year before. But the program, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, posted a 9 percent year-to-year gain in the ratings for the 18-to-49 demographic.
The popular Harris was back this year with several songs and skits. He was tasked with trying to emcee between performances from the four best musical nominees — “Leap of Faith,” “Newsies,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Once.” The four musical revival nominees got a turn on stage.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (left) and Andrew Garfield star in “Death of a Salesman,” which was nominated for best revival of a play at Sunday’s Tony Awards.×
Cristin Milioti (left) and Steve Kazee perform in a scene from “Once” at the 66th annual Tony Awards on Sunday in New York.×
Audra McDonald, left, and Norm Lewis perform in a scene from "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" at the 66th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday June 10, 2012, in New York. The production wona Tony Award for best revival of a musical. (Photo by Charles Sykes /Invision/AP)×