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"The Lion King"

Women, 'Lion King' rule at 1998 Tonys

Web posted on: Monday, June 08, 1998 3:40:50 PM

NEW YORK (CNN) -- As "The Lion King" edged out "Ragtime" for best musical, female directors triumphed -- finally -- at the 1998 Tony Awards on Sunday night.

In fact, three of the top honors went to women. Julie Taymor won for best direction of a musical with her adaptation of "The Lion King." The musical took home a total of six Tonys, leading all entrants; "Ragtime" took four honors, along with "The Beauty Queen of Leenane."

Minutes before Taymor's win, Garry Hynes won for best direction of a play. Neither of the director awards had previously been won by a woman.


"I'm so happy to be following in the long line of awards for women as directors," Taymor quipped. Backstage, she told reporters she hoped she would be the first of many female directors to be so honored.

"If I can inspire young women, then I'm very happy," Taymor said.

Meanwhile, Yasmina Reza's play "Art" won for best play, upsetting "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"'s bid.

"The Beauty Queen of Leenane"

'Beauty Queen,' 'Cabaret' make impressive showing

Nonetheless, "Beauty Queen," the Irish story of a despairing daughter trapped in a fierce struggle against her controlling mother, dominated the acting prizes. Marie Mullen, who plays the daughter, and Anna Manahan, the tyrannical mother, both won. So did Tom Murphy, who portrays a dim-witted neighbor in the play.

Anthony LaPaglia was named best actor for his portrayal of a tormented Brooklyn longshoreman in Arthur Miller's "A View From The Bridge," which also was named best revival of a play.

"Arthur has written this role that is like King Lear in a way, where it's a great American classic," LaPaglia said.

"Cabaret" carried off the prize for best musical revival as well as several musical performance awards. Natasha Richardson won the best-actress musical prize for her work as the decidedly lost Sally Bowles.

"A View From the Bridge"

"This is for you, Poppa. It is a Tony, after all," said the actress, referring to her late father, director Tony Richardson. "It is so humbling to be given this award in this category, given (that) I have virtually no musical theater experience."

Alan Cumming, who plays the lascivious master of ceremonies in "Cabaret," walked off with the top actor-musical award. Cumming said he would celebrate by getting "roaring drunk."

Ron Rifkin, who portrays a Jewish shopkeeper in the show, won the featured actor-musical prize.


McNally: 'You came together'

Terence McNally won his third Tony, winning best book for "Ragtime." It was a sweet victory for McNally, who has been at the center of a controversy concerning another of his plays. "Corpus Christi," which depicts a gay Christ-like figure, was dropped by the Manhattan Theatre Club after the company received death threats. Shortly after, the theater decided to produce the play after all.

"You came together when I was in trouble," he told the star-studded audience at Radio City Music Hall. "Our voices were heard and we won."

Rosie O'Donnell, who served as the master of ceremonies for a second year in a row, has been instrumental in helping publicize Broadway.


A record year

"I am a cheerleader for theater," she said. "I hope (others) will fall in love with the theater and then they'll plan a trip to New York and come and see some of the great shows."

Last year, O'Donnell presided over a re-energized Tony Awards show, which reversed its decline in the national television ratings. The three-hour program was split between PBS and CBS, with public television showing the first hour and the network, with O'Donnell as host, the last two.

The awards draw to a close the most successful Broadway season in history. Producers estimate more than 11 million people saw a Broadway show and ticket sales topped nearly $550 million, both records.

The Tony winners in 21 categories were chosen by 782 theater professionals and journalists. The Tonys, which were first given in 1947, are administered by the American Theater Wing, a theater service organization, and the League of American Theaters and Producers.

Reuters and Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist contributed to this report.

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