By Michael Avila
Special to DNAinfo
MANHATTAN — Hollywood interlopers overran the 64th annual Tony Awards Sunday at Radio City Musical Hall, walking off with several of the night’s biggest honors.
"Memphis" won the top award of the night, Best Musical, but was ultimately upstaged by "Red," a two-man play about art and its place in a commercial society. In a somewhat rare occurrence for the Tonys, a play won more awards than any musical.
"Red" won six trophies, including Best Play and Featured Performance by an Actor in a Play for actor Eddie Redmayne. "Memphis," a musical about race and rhythm & blues in the segregated South of the 1950s, won four categories, including Best Original Score and Orchestrations for David Bryan, a Broadway rookie better known for being the keyboardist for Bon Jovi. Bryan missed his first show with the band in 32 years to attend the Tonys.
"Fela!" and "La Cage aux Folles," who led nominees with 11 nods apiece, each earned three Tony awards, with "La Cage" winning Best Revival of a Musical and Douglas Hodge beating out co-star Kelsey Grammer for Leading Actor in a Musical.
The Tonys telecast highlighted the increasing dependence Broadway has on film and television stars to boost ticket sales. Will Smith and fellow "Fela!" producer Jay-Z were there in the front row with wives Jada Pinkett-Smith and Beyonce. Cate Blanchett, Antonio Banderas and Paula Abdul served as presenters, and Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele, two Broadway vets now starring in the TV smash hit "Glee," showed up to perform. Oh, and Mark Sanchez, the New York Jets quarterback, invaded Broadway Joe Namath’s turf to present "Memphis."
Scarlett Johansson won the night’s first major award, for Featured Actress in a Play for "A View From the Bridge." The actress, born and raised here in Manhattan, was clearly stunned to win for her Broadway debut. She gave credit to her agent for encouraging her to do the play, even though she was working on the summer blockbuster "Iron Man 2."
Johansson also thanked her husband, actor Ryan Reynolds, "for becoming a theater widower for me."
Denzel Washington, another first-time nominee, won for Leading Actor in a Play for the revival of August Wilson’s play "Fences."
"I knew I should’ve written something down, doggone it," the two-time Oscar winner said upon receiving the award, which he earned by beating out fellow Hollywood stars Jude Law and Liev Schreiber.
Washington’s co-star Viola Davis won Leading Actress in a Play (her second Tony victory), and gave an emotional speech in which she proclaimed, "I don’t believe in luck or happenstance. I absolutely believe in the presence of God in my life."
Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won the Leading Actress in a Musical Tony for "A Little Night Music," asked "How does Cinderella do it, running down those steps with glass slippers?" A bit hoarse after an earlier performance, Zeta-Jones added, "I really do feel like Cinderella."
She paid tribute to her co-star Angela Lansbury, thanked her fellow nominees and gave a shout-out to her husband Michael Douglas. "That man there, who’s a movie star and I get to sleep with him every night!"
Audio issues plagued the telecast, most notably during the opening mash up of songs from each of the Best Musical nominees. The mics dropped out during the "Fela!" portion, and again during the "Memphis" section.
The audio recovered just in time for Green Day to nearly blow a hole in the roof of the venerable Music Hall with a sledgehammer medley from "American Idiot," the musical based on the group’s landmark album. The sight of the gown-and-tuxedo crowd banging their head in somewhat civilized fashion was the night’s most surreal moment.
Host Sean Hayes more than lived up to the high standards set by recent hosts Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman, especially during a year without a high-profile show like "Wicked" or "The Producers" to maintain television audience interest.
Hayes kicked off the show playing a piano number before tag teaming with the cast of "Million Dollar Quartet" for "Blue Suede Shoes." Hayes, who lost out for Lead Actor in a Musical for "Promises, Promises," also dished out some winning zingers.
Introducing Antonio Banderas, he said, "Our next presenter has uncanny instincts. He got a Tony nomination for the Broadway production of "Nine" and he avoided the film version of "Nine."
He also referred to stage icon Bernadette Peters as "the BP that isn’t ruining the planet." Hayes later dressed up as Little Orphan Annie, Billy Eliot and wore a Spider-Man costume in an ‘inside Broadway’ jab at the well-publicized troubles that production has endured.