NEW YORK • The underdog showed it had bite, despite being a small musical with little name recognition and no razzle dazzle.
On Sunday, The Band's Visit, a gentle show about longing, loneliness and the Middle East, upstaged three much better known top dogs to win the Tony Award for best new musical at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
But the event also honoured one of the biggest brands in pop culture, giving Harry Potter And The Cursed Child the nod for best new play.
The wins by the two productions spoke to the tension in the duelling priorities on Broadway these days, between riskier artistic endeavours and brand-name products.
The Band's Visit was also adapted, but the source was a little-known Israeli movie about an Egyptian military band ending up in the wrong Israeli town.
Tony voters rewarded it for offering a vision of a world in which people can overcome suspicion and fear to find a common humanity.
The British import Harry Potter, on the other hand, performs at the box office more like a hit musical than a play, and in no way advances the cause of plays and playwriting on Broadway.
Best musical - The Band's Visit
Best play - Harry Potter And The Cursed Child
Best Actor in Play - Andrew Garfield (Angels In America)
Best Actress in Play - Glenda Jackson (Three Tall Women)
Best Actor in Musical - Tony Shalhoub (The Band's Visit)
Best Actress in Musical - Katrina Lenk (The Band's Visit)
Lifetime Achievement - Andrew Lloyd Webber
But it was spared much of the criticism directed at other moneyed ventures because of widespread admiration for its high level of stagecraft.
The Band's Visit picked up 10 awards, including key prizes for its stars - Katrina Lenk, playing an Israeli cafe owner, and Tony Shalhoub, as the commander of an Egyptian police orchestra.
British actress Glenda Jackson, returning to Broadway after 30 years, was named best actress for her performance in Three Tall Women.
Pointedly alluding to some exclusionist White House policies, she said: "You, as always, are welcoming and kind and generous - and America has never needed that more."
The ceremony, hosted by singers Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, was filled with emotional moments.
A choir of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which had suffered a mass shooting in February, sang a moving rendition of Seasons Of Love, the anthem of survival from Rent.
A starry revival of Angels In America, which transferred to Broadway from the National Theatre in London, was named best play revival.
Andrew Garfield, who said the play was about "the agony and the ecstasy of living and dying", was honoured as best actor for his role as a gay man whose battle with Aids brings him prophetic powers and an encounter with the celestial.
Bruce Springsteen got a special Tony Award in recognition of his show Springsteen On Broadway, in which he sings stripped-down versions of his songs and tells stories from his memoir.
Ms Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was given an award for excellence in theatre education. She hid 65 students during the shooting on Feb 14 and later helped some of them use theatre and song to express their feelings.
"I remember on Feb 7, in a circle with my students, encouraging them to be good to each other," she said. "And I remember only a week later, on Feb 14, when all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called into action."
The Tonys capped another record year on Broadway with US$1.7 billion (S$2.3 billion) in box-office receipts, despite the smallest number of new productions in 20 years.
NYTIMES, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST