"Amadeus," an ornate tale about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a murderously jealous rival, won five Tony awards last night including those for best play, director and actor, making the British import the overall high scorer in the Broadway prize sweep.
"42nd Street" won the prize for best musical at the 35th annual award ceremony, and producer David Merrick took the cake for most graceless thank-you speech of the evening. "Think of what it would have been without Gower Champion," he said, praising the show's director-choreographer, who died just before opening night. But then he added, "But what would the musical season have been without '42nd Street'?"
Champion was awarded the prize for choreography, which was accepted by his two sons, Greg and Blake.
Lauren Bacall won the prize for best actress in a musical, her second in that category (the first was for "Applause" in 1970) and the fourth for her show, "Woman of the Year," which also won the best score, best book and best featured actress awards. Kevin Kline won the corresponding actor's award for "Pirates of Penzance," which also won Tonys for best musical direction and best revival.
Jane Lapotaire, another Britisher, won the best actress award for the title role in "Piaf," beating such formidable competition as Elizabeth Taylor, Glenda Jackson and Eva Le Gallienne. Ian McKellan won for his role as Mozart's rival, Antonio Salieri, in "Amadeus," a play which started its U.S. run at Washington's National Theatre. The play also won the directing award for Peter Hall, and the playwriting award for Peter Shaffer.
Swoosie Kurtz, a young actress who has carved out an admirable career in New York off and on Broadway, won the featured actress award for Lanford Wilson's "Fifth of July," over veterans Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy and Zoe Wanamaker. "I now know what I've always suspected -- there is a God," she said. The companion award to the best featured actor went to an unknown, Brian Backer, for his role in Woody Allen's play "The Floating Light Bulb."
Marilyn Cooper, who has one scene in "Women of the Year," won the prize for featured actress in a musical, and Hinton Battle of "Sophisticated Ladies" won the actor's award in that category. Battle, one of the most surprised winners, thanked his colleagues and "just everyone . . . for helping me keep myself together."
The theme of this year's award ceremonies, which were broadcast live from the Mark Hellinger Theater, was "Women in the Theater," and in keeping with that idea all the awards presenters were women, except Jose Ferrer who appeared in drag, in his role of yesteryear in "Charley's Aunt." Hostess Ellen Burstyn even managed to get in a pitch for the Equal Rights Amendment. John Bury, the Englishman who won Tonys for both set and lighting design for "Amadeus," seemed almost apologetic at first "I'm so sorry I'm not a woman,' he said in accepting his first Tony. "I would have liked to have been."
By his second he was more confident. "To be a good lighting designer you have to have a very good set to light," he set. "In my case it was quite easy."
Two special awards were given -- one to the Trinity Repertory Company of Rhode Island, which was chosen the outstanding regional theater of the year by the American Theater Critics Association. And Lena Horne, whose one-woman show opened after the nominations for the Tony awards had closed, accepted hers with her usual sexy style. "Sometimes you have to wait 50 years . . ." she said, with a leer. ". . . but I'm just so happy I'm getting all these flowers before I lose my teeth."
The show, presented on Broadway's night off, moved along with dispatch, unlike the theater's Hollywood cousins who sprawl over their Oscar Award ceremonies with such abandon that the show usually drags on past everybody's bedtime. The Tony awards were much neater, running only about a half-hour over schedule. Most of the presenters gave short, informational speeches ("Trinity Square Repertory started in 1964 with six actors. . . Now it has 85 actors and technicians and plays 12 months a year . . ." reported Meryl Streep).
The main divertissement, aside from the usual excerpts from past and current musicals, was an unusual chorus line of a dozen gents including Jason Robards, Tony Randall, Richard Chamberlain, Ben Vereen, Billy Dee Williams and Christopher Reeve. Their voices ranged from frog-like (Jack Klugman) to lovely (Robert Goulet).
Taylor, although she failed to win the best actress award, appeared as a presenter for the best musical prize, and seemed to be caught in a fit of giggles. "This is a very serious moment," she said, bursting into laughter, and then stumbling through a long list of producers' names, pronounced Nederlander "Nedlehimer," and apologize. "I can't read very well," she said.