Tony Awards 2015: Michael Cerveris, Annaleigh Ashford Among Surprise Winners
'King and I' star Kelli O'Hara also somewhat unexpectedly beat out Tonys co-host Kristin Chenoweth for the best actress in a musical prize.
While Tony favorites like Helen Mirren, Fun Home, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The King and I took home awards Sunday night, there were a few unexpected winners this year.
Kelli O'Hara, after six Tony nominations, finally took home her first award, winning for best performance by a leading actress in a musical. The King and I star beat Tonys co-host Kristin Chenoweth, whom The Hollywood Reporter's awards analyst Scott Feinberg said was likely to win, noting that the Broadway community often gives nominees who are also hosts bonus points. Chenoweth also won the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards for her role in On the Twentieth Century.
Still, THR theater critic David Rooney said ahead of Sunday night's show that O'Hara should win, raving about her performance in the revival, which took home four Tonys, calling O'Hara's work, "musical-theater acting at its finest, combining heavenly vocals with shattering emotional authenticity. Just hearing her breathe new life into a song like “Hello, Young Lovers” peels away any quaintness associated with the material and provides direct access to the heart of the widowed British schoolteacher in 19th century Siam." O'Hara seemed ecstatic at her win and even danced offstage, at which point Chenoweth, appearing on camera with Tonys co-host Alan Cumming, pretended to be furious at the outcome.
Michael Cerveris' win for best performance by a leading actor in a musical was also somewhat of a surprise; Rooney and Feinberg said Brian d'Arcy James should and would win for his role in Something Rotten! Still, with five Tonys including best musical, Fun Home was dominant Sunday night, so Cerveris' best actor prize for his role in the musical isn't too much of a shocker.
The categories of best featured actor in a play and musical both surprised Sunday night with their wins, but THR's experts noted that both categories were without clear frontrunners. Richard McCabe and Christian Borle took home the Tonys for their work in The Audience and Something Rotten!, respectively. McCabe joined Mirren in winning a Tony for the play about Queen Elizabeth II. The featured actor in a musical category featured two nominees from Rotten! and two from An American in Paris, in addition to On the Twentieth Century's Andy Karl. Borle's award was also Something Rotten!'s only win, even though the show received 10 nominations.
Annaleigh Ashford also defied Feinberg and Rooney's predictions, winning the Tony for best featured actress in a play. Veteran actress Patricia Clarkson, back on Broadway after 25 years, was THR's experts' pick to take home the trophy for her role alongside Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man, which went home empty-handed despite four nominations.
Still Rooney noted that Ashford, who won for her role in You Can't Take It With You "has become a theater favorite in the past decade, and her nutjob balletomane ... was a delight." Ashford also won the Drama Desk award for her role. Featured actress in a musical had been widely expected to go to either Broadway veteran Judy Kuhn or 11-year-old Sydney Lucas from Fun Home, but went instead to Ruthie Ann Miles for her role in The King and I, one of four wins for that revival.