Tony Awards: Black Is Back On The Great White Way

It was the second-most diverse night in Tony Awards history, as four African-American actors won statues in major categories from the American Theatre Wing.  Not since 1982 – the year that “Dreamgirls” reigned supreme – have four Black thespians won awards in acting categories.

The three-hour telecast on CBS saluted Broadway’s best.  Among them were the legendary Cicely Tyson (“The Trip to Bountiful”), who won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play; Billy Porter (“Kinky Boots”), winner for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical; Patina Miller (“Pippin”), who won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical; and Courtney B. Vance (“Lucky Guy”), winner for Best Performance by an Actor in a featured Role in a Play.

Producer Ron Simons was the fifth African-American to win at the Tony Awards.  His show, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” won the Tony Award for Best Play. It was both Simons’ first nomination and win.

Pop superstar Cyndi Lauper also landed a Tony Award for Best Original Score (music and/or lyrics) Written for the Theater for “Kinky Boots.”

Cicely Tyson & Patina Miller

The Harvey Fierstein musical “Kinky Boots” was the night’s big winner with six awards, including Best Musical, while the revival of Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Pippin” picked up four Tonys at the 67th annual ceremony.

Theater veteran Porter, who plays a drag queen helping out a struggling shoe-factory owner in “Kinky Boots,” gave a heartfelt speech.

“Shakespeare said ‘To thine own self be true,’ ” he said.”When I was 11 years old, my journey to truth began when I discovered the Tony Awards washing dishes in my kitchen, and the performance of Jennifer Holliday and the cast of ‘Dreamgirls’ on the Tony Awards took my breath away. That moment changed my life.”

The newly engaged Miller, who was previously nominated for a Tony Award for her starring role in “Sister Act,” said during her acceptance speech “this is a childhood dream come true!”

Two-time Tony Award nominee Vance thanked his wife, Angela Bassett for “giving him the nod to do” the role in “Lucky Guy.” He dedicated the award to his mother. “Mommy, this one is for you,” he beamed.

Billy Porter

Two-time Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Tyson told the crowd that she “had a burning desire to do one more great role.”

“I didn’t want to be greedy. Just one more,” Tyson said. When the teleprompter suggested that she “wrap it up,” she quipped: “You wrapped me up in your arms after 30 years, and now I can go home with a Tony.”

Berry Gordy’s “Motown: The Musical” was nominated for four awards, but did not win any.

The Tony Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, also included appearances by Mike Tyson, Audra McDonald, New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bassett, among others.

Nominees George C. Wolfe (“Lucky Guy”), Condola Rashad (“The Trip to Bountiful”), Valisia LeKae (“Motown, The Musical”), Shalita Grant (“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”), Charl Brown (“Motown, The Musical”) and Keala Settle (“Hands on a Hardbody”) were also on-hand.

The ceremony also featured performances by the casts of “Motown: The Musical,” “Bring It On,” “Pippin,” “Annie,” “Kinky Boots” and other shows.

PHOTOS: Check out these red carpet images from the Tony Awards.

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