NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Elaine May and dark musical Hadestown were among early winners on Sunday (June 9) as Broadway presented its annual Tony Awards, capping a season in which shows about race, sexual politics and a trip to the underworld stood out.
May, 87, was named best actress in a play for her performance as a mentally declining woman in The Waverly Gallery.
May, a director, writer and actress also known for her comic partnership dating to the 1950s with late film director Mike Nichols, noted the role resulted in her first-ever acting nomination, and credited playwright Kenneth Lonergan with abetting her win.
It was a record season for Broadway, both in ticket sales and box office receipts.
Attendance records followed a host of shows mining topical material, such as the dark trip to the underworld at the centre of the folk opera Hadestown, which dominated the early running on Sunday with six awards, including best musical director for Rachel Chavkin.
Chavkin noted she was the only woman currently directing a musical on Broadway, and called for the theatre world to step up.
"It is a failure of imagination," she told the audience.
Andre De Shields, 73, won best supporting actor in a musical for Hadestown, while the supporting musical actress Tony went to Ali Stroker for a reinvented staging of the classic musical Oklahoma!.
Stroker became the first actor performing in a wheelchair to win a Tony.
"This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation or a challenge who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena," said an emotional Stroker.
Supporting actress in a play went to Celia Keenan-Bolger, 41, as the child Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Actor Bertie Carvel won his first Tony as media mogul Rupert Murdoch making his foray into newspaper publishing in Ink.
The Boys In The Band, a comic drama about a group of gay men at a birthday party, won best revival of a play.
Host James Corden kicked things off with a splashy opening number about the magic of live theatre, backed by scores of cast members from a host of current Broadway shows.