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Tony Award Winners Audra McDonald, Hugh Jackman Dazzle at Beacon Theatre

UPPER WEST SIDE — It was a "Once"-in-a-lifetime night at the Tony Awards Sunday.

The downbeat Broadway musical "Once", about an unlucky-in-love Irish street musician and his Czech guardian angel, won eight Tonys, including Best Musical, best Direction of a Musical and Best Lead Actor, nearly shutting out its competition at the Beacon Theatre for the 66th annual awards show.

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” the fantastical play that is a prequel to “Peter Pan,” followed closely behind, winning five Tonys. "Clybourne Park," a play about race and real estate, won the award for Best Play.

Top acting awards went to Audra McDonald for her leading role in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," as well as Steve Kazee for "Once," Nina Arianda for "Venus in Fur" and James Corden for "One Man, Two Guvnors." 

McDonad's win marked her fifth Tony — and her first for a leading role.

Hugh Jackman was given a special award for his contributions to the Broadway community, presented by wife Deborra-Lee Furness, who is not known for her public speaking.

“Really, it means the world to me,” Jackman said of his wife's efforts.

Furness played a red-carpet widow earlier in the evening, as Jackman, known for speaking to as many reporters as he can, worked the floor.


“Where’s your husband?” one reporter asked her.

“If you see him, let me know,” she joked. “I want to go to bed.”

There was a heavy Hollywood contigent at the awards, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting and actors including as Ellen Barkin, Amanda Seyfried, John Stamos and Paul Rudd in attendance. Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, wearing a dress by Marios Schwab, is making the leap from screen to stage in the upcoming show “The Heiress,” which she said scared her.

Jessica Chastain at the Tony Awards at the Upper West Side's Beacon Theatre on Sun., June 10, 2012.
Jessica Chastain at the Tony Awards at the Upper West Side's Beacon Theatre on Sun., June 10, 2012.
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“I'm really nervous. I have big shoes to fill — great actresses have played this part,” she told DNAinfo. “I've wanted to be on Broadway my whole life. I read the play and sobbed the whole time I was reading it on the airplane. When I landed, I thought, 'OK, we've got to make this work.'”

Crowds lining Amsterdam Avenue at the rear of the Beacon Theatre were treated to glimpses of heartthrob Nick Jonas, while Matthew Morrison of "Glee" fame took it a step further.

The actor crossed to the east side of the street and ran on the outside of the police barricades, high-fiving people in the crowd to great cheers.

He knows who loves him, and we’re pretty sure it’s not the police officer who had to tail him.

Photographs courtesy of PatrickMcMullan.com.