An emotional Audra McDonald, 43, made Tony Awards history
with a record sixth performance win for her heartbreaking turn
as jazz singer Billie Holiday in the play, "Lady Day at
Emerson's Bar & Grill".
And Jessie Mueller, the fresh face who has captivated audiences
with her uncanny portrayal of young songstress Carole King in
the musical "Beautiful", won her first Tony.
McDonald, a classically trained singer and actress, has now won
Tonys in all four play and musical categories. She tied with the
late actress Julie Harris at six, but one of Harris's statuettes
was for lifetime achievement.
McDonald, who also won a Tony for her last Broadway show, "Porgy
and Bess" in 2012, won a lengthy standing ovation from the
audience of actors, producers and directors at the Radio City
Music Hall that left her shaking and in tears.
"I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and
courageous women that I am standing on," she said. "And most of
all Billie Holiday. You deserve so much more than you were given
when you were on this earth."
McDonald also thanked her late parents for "not medicating their
hyperactive girl" but channeling her energy into theater.
As for entering into Tony record books, McDonald appeared lost
for words. "I am just completely overwhelmed and grateful and I
don't believe it," she told reporters backstage.
Mueller, 31, who made her Broadway debut in 2012, emerged the
winner in one of the closest Tony races - lead actress in a
King, whose 1971 album "Tapestry" remains one of the biggest
sellers of all time, poured praise on Mueller's performance.
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"At that age, I had no idea who I was and what was good about me and
not good about me," King said backstage. "It is a gift to see myself
as the woman I was then and to actually like myself."
But Mueller's win meant another disappointing night for Kelli
O'Hara, who had hoped her fifth Tony nomination might prove a charm
when it came to taking home the award.
O'Hara, 38, was nominated as best actress in a musical for her role
in the stage version of the best-selling romance and movie, "The
Bridges of Madison County."
The show, which closed early last month, won Tonys for best original
score and orchestration for composer Jason Robert Brown.
"Every composer in this room should be blessed to have Kelli perform
their music," said Brown.
Other first time female Tony winners included featured play actress
Sophie Okonedo of Britain in her Broadway debut in the revival of
the 1959 play, "A Raisin in the Sun", about a struggling
A delighted Lena Hall, 34, won her first Tony on Sunday for her
supporting role as a man in the gender-bending musical, "Hedwig and
the Angry Inch."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Clarence
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