The low-tech Broadway romance "Once" won a leading four Drama Desk Awards on Sunday, including the prize for best musical, adding to its recent haul of theater prizes and giving it momentum ahead of next weekend's Tony Awards.
The musical based on the documentary-style 2006 film about an unlikely love affair between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, has already won the best musical prize from the Drama League, New York Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Critic Circle and the Lucille Lortel Awards. It is nominated for 11 Tonys.
The Drama Desk Awards, which are handed out to shows both on and off-Broadway, honored "Once" for best orchestration, direction, lyrics and the top musical prize at a gala awards ceremony at The Town Hall in midtown Manhattan. Brooke Shields and Brian d'Arcy James co-hosted the ceremony.
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"I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said there are no second acts in American lives," said Frederick Zollo, a producer, who accepted the outstanding musical award on behalf of "Once." ''Well, thanks all of you for giving 'Once' one hell of a second act."
Other big winners included the revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," the British import "One Man, Two Guvnors" and the Gershwin-inspired "Nice Work You Can Get It," which all earned three Drama Desk Awards.
Nina Raine's off-Broadway work "Tribes" was voted outstanding play, beating out such well-regarded works as David Henry Hwang's "Chinglish," Nicky Silver's "The Lyons" and Lynn Nottage's "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark."
Other plays that were cheered this season on Broadway — including "Other Desert Cities," ''Peter and the Starcatcher," ''Venus in Fur" and Clybourne Park" — did not qualify since they were already considered in previous seasons.
Audra McDonald of "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" won as outstanding actress in a musical and Tracie Bennett, who plays Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow," was voted best actress in a play.
"It's been an incredible journey and I'm so honored to have the new family that I have," said McDonald, referring to her cast. Bennett recalled her play's first performance — in a pub in front of two people. "Thank you for the faith," she said, reminding the audience that she was a former chorus girl. "Anything can happen."
In the male categories, James Corden took home the top acting award for a play — beating out Philip Seymour Hoffman from "Death of a Salesman" and Kevin Spacey in "Richard III" — and Danny Burstein from "Follies" won as outstanding actor in a musical.
"I am only one of 12 actors in our play," said Corden after making fun of many of his show's creators for not being present. "Without any of them it just wouldn't work. Being onstage with them is a joy."
"Follies" won the award for outstanding revival of a musical and "Death of a Salesman" won best revival in the play category. Mike Nichols won best director of a play for "Death of a Salesman" and John Tiffany of "Once" took the musical direction award.
"Newsies: The Musical," perhaps the biggest competition to "Once" in the musical category, took home two Drama Desk Awards, for Alan Menken's music and Christopher Gattelli's choreography.