NEW YORK (AP) -- Steve Kazee (kuh-ZEE) has won the Tony Award for best lead actor in a musical for his heartfelt and touching performance in "Once."
Kaee plays an Irish street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman in Dublin who falls in love with a Czech flower seller. It's based on the 2007 film that featured the Oscar-winning song "Falling Slowly."
A 36-year-old rising star and guitar player with matinee idol looks, Kazee has gone from replacement parts in "Spamalot" to an understudy role in "Seascape" to starring in "110 in the Shade." He also starred on CMT's series "Working Class."
He beat out Danny Burstein and Ron Raines, both from "Follies," Jeremy Jordan from "Newsies" and Norm Lewis from "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess."
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The bittersweet musical "Once" and the inventive play "Peter and the Starcatcher" emerged with the most Tony Awards on Sunday. The rest of the honors were spread out, with most shows getting to boast of at least one win.
John Tiffany, the British director of "Once," won making his Broadway debut. The musical also won best orchestration, sound design, set design, lighting, and Enda Walsh took home the award for best book of a musical.
"Peter and the Starcatcher" won for best costume design, lighting, best scenic design and best sound design for a play. Christian Borle, who plays the clumsy, overheated pirate who will be Captain Hook in the Peter Pan prequel, was named best featured actor in a play.
"Thank you for making this so much fun," said Borle, who also stars in the NBC series "Smash." He said he was even more pleased that his mother was in the crowd.
Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park," the remarkably perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate, won the best play Tony.
The play riffs off Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama "A Raisin in the Sun," is set in the same house in one Chicago neighborhood. The first act takes place in 1959 and the second is set in 2009.
"I have to thank Lorraine Hansberry, who actually built the neighborhood of Clybourne Park. We just moved in and depressed the property values," said Norris.
Arthur Miller's 63-year-old masterpiece "Death of a Salesman" won the Tony for best play revival and Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony for directing it. On winning, he said the play has a special meaning for those who work in the theater.
"There's not a person in this theater that doesn't know what it is to be a salesman — to be out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine," he said. "As we know, a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory."
A reworked version of the Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess" won for best musical revival. Diane Paulus, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater, adapted it for Broadway with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Obie Award-winning composer Diedre Murray.
The team condensed the four-hour opera into a two-and-one-half-hou r musical, eliminated a lot of the repetitiveness and tried to deepen the characters. Their effort generated headlines when purists including Stephen Sondheim complained that a musical treasure was being corrupted.
Theater audiences disagreed, with fans cheering the new work, which featured songs such as "Summertime" and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."
Composer Alan Menken, who has more Oscars than any other living person, captured his first Tony for "Newsies." The win for "Newsies" is particularly sweet since when he and lyricist Jack Feldman originally wrote the songs for the 1992 film of "Newsies," he was given another sort of award: a "Razzie."
Judy Kaye won for best actress in a featured role in a musical in "Nice Work If You Can Get It," playing a temperance worker who turns out likes to drink and hangs from a chandelier at one point. It's Kaye's second Tony — she also won for "The Phantom of the Opera."
"I guess chandeliers have been very, very good to me," she said to a burst of laughter. She dedicated the award to her father, who died last week.
Judith Light, who plays an acerbic alcoholic in "Other Desert Cities," won for for best featured actress in a play. Michael McGrath won for best actor in a featured musical role from "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
The show at the Beacon Theatre actually began with a nod to the past, with host Neil Patrick Harris joining with the cast of "The Book of Mormon" for their opening number of "Hello!" from the 2011 musical winner.
He then was surrounded by dancers in tuxes and shimmering dresses for a rousing original number in which he wished that real life was more like theater, complete with backup dancers, rhymes and quick costume changes. He had cameo help from Patti LuPone, the little red-headed orphan from "Annie" and a flying Mary Poppins.
Christopher Gattelli, who thrillingly combined ballet with bold athletic moves in "Newsies, won the best choreography Tony. It is his first award; he previously was nominated for "South Pacific" in 2008.
The three-hour telecast was packed with stars and performances from musicals, plays and revivals. The explosion of performances is an attempt to showcase as much on Broadway as possible. One performance wasn't even nearby — the song from "Hairspray" was performed from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea.
The Tony Awards show is serious business and the exposure in front of millions is priceless. Many shows that are suffering pre-summer slumps are counting on a bump from the telecast. "Godspell" producer Ken Davenport was warned that his production's future may hinge on making a splash at the ceremony.
Overall, the health of Broadway is good, with shows yielding a record $1.14 billion in grosses this season, and total attendance reaching 12.3 million. The only concern is that audience numbers were flat, meaning higher ticket prices are pushing the overall box office take.
AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle and AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.