NEW YORK - Actress Helen Mirren won her first Tony on Sunday for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience," and her co-star Richard McCabe picked up the best featured actor prize at the 2015 Tony Awards.
Edgy new productions are up against more classic shows, and newcomers are in tight races with veteran stars for the 69th Annual Tony Awards, theatre's highest honors. "This is an unbelievable honour. I am so thrilled," said Mirren as she accepted the prize.
The lesbian coming-of-age musical "Fun Home" won the best musical score.
Co-hosts and past Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming opened the three-hour show broadcast live from Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall on CBS television and began with a medley of songs.
The awards cap a record-breaking season on Broadway in which audience numbers topped 13.1 million and ticket grosses rose to $1.36 billion.
Actor Bradley Cooper, nominated for his role as a physically deformed male in "The Elephant Man," and rock star Sting, who earned a nod for his "The Last Ship" score, are among the presenters along with last year's Tony winners Neil Patrick Harris and Bryan Cranston.
Broadway legend Tommy Tune received his 10th Tony, a special lifetime achievement award, during the show, which began with a musical number from "Something Rotten!" ABUNDANCE OF RICHES "An American in Paris," the breezy, beautiful romantic hit based on the 1951 film starring Gene Kelly, and "Fun Home" led the Tony nominations with 12 each, including best musical, book, actor, actress and director. "Something Rotten!" is also a contender for the top musical awards. A bawdy parody of Broadway musicals set in 1590s Tudor England, it earned 10 nominations and has been packing in audiences.
Actor Michael Cerveris, up for his second Tony as the closeted homosexual father in "Fun Home," and newcomer Robert Fairchild, a ballet dancer making his Broadway debut in "An American in Paris," are the ones to beat for best actor in a musical.
The best musical actress category appears to be a three-way race between Chenoweth, up for her second Tony as a Hollywood star in "On the Twentieth Century"; Kelli O'Hara, a six-time nominee as the governess in "The King and I"; and Broadway veteran and two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera as a revenge-seeking woman in "The Visit." Alex Sharp, a recent Juilliard School graduate who made his Broadway debut as a teenage math whiz with Asperger syndrome in"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," could dash the hopes of Hollywood star Cooper and veteran actor Bill Nighy in "Skylight" for the best actor accolade.
In a season with an abundance of riches, "Skylight" and "The Elephant Man" are vying with "This Is Our Youth" and "You Can't Take it With You" for best revival of a play.
Going into the final stretch, "The King and I" seems to have an edge over "On the Town" and "On the Twentieth Century" for best musical revival.
The Tony Awards are presented by theatre industry association The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, a not-for-profit organisation.