| NEW YORK, June 8
NEW YORK, June 8 Broadway crowned one its
favorite female stars and embraced a bevy of newcomers at the
Tony Awards on Sunday in some of the most closely contested
actress races for years.
An emotional Audra McDonald, 43, made Tony Awards history
with a record sixth performance win for her heartbreaking turn
as jazz singer Billie Holiday in the play, "Lady Day at
Emerson's Bar & Grill".
And Jessie Mueller, the fresh face who has captivated
audiences with her uncanny portrayal of young songstress Carole
King in the musical "Beautiful", won her first Tony.
McDonald, a classically trained singer and actress, has now
won Tonys in all four play and musical categories. She tied with
the late actress Julie Harris at six, but one of Harris's
statuettes was for lifetime achievement.
McDonald, who also won a Tony for her last Broadway show,
"Porgy and Bess" in 2012, won a lengthy standing ovation from
the audience of actors, producers and directors at the Radio
City Music Hall that left her shaking and in tears.
"I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave
and courageous women that I am standing on," she said. "And most
of all Billie Holiday. You deserve so much more than you were
given when you were on this earth."
McDonald also thanked her late parents for "not medicating
their hyperactive girl" but channeling her energy into theater.
As for entering into Tony record books, McDonald appeared
lost for words. "I am just completely overwhelmed and grateful
and I don't believe it," she told reporters backstage.
Mueller, 31, who made her Broadway debut in 2012, emerged
the winner in one of the closest Tony races - lead actress in a
King, whose 1971 album "Tapestry" remains one of the biggest
sellers of all time, poured praise on Mueller's performance.
"At that age, I had no idea who I was and what was good
about me and not good about me," King said backstage. "It is a
gift to see myself as the woman I was then and to actually like
But Mueller's win meant another disappointing night for
Kelli O'Hara, who had hoped her fifth Tony nomination might
prove a charm when it came to taking home the award.
O'Hara, 38, was nominated as best actress in a musical for
her role in the stage version of the best-selling romance and
movie, "The Bridges of Madison County."
The show, which closed early last month, won Tonys for best
original score and orchestration for composer Jason Robert
"Every composer in this room should be blessed to have Kelli
perform their music," said Brown.
Other first time female Tony winners included featured play
actress Sophie Okonedo of Britain in her Broadway debut in the
revival of the 1959 play, "A Raisin in the Sun", about a
struggling African-American family.
A delighted Lena Hall, 34, won her first Tony on Sunday for
her supporting role as a man in the gender-bending musical,
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Patricia Reaney and