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Image: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Robert Lopez
Jeff Christensen  /  AP
From left, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez accept the award for Best Book of a Musical for "The Book of Mormon" during the 65th annual Tony Awards, Sunday, June 12, in New York.
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updated 6/12/2011 11:48:09 PM ET 2011-06-13T03:48:09

The profane and hysterical "The Book of Mormon" took home nine Tony Awards on Sunday including the prize for best musical, a considerable achievement for a pair of first-time Broadway playwrights known more for their raunchy cartoons featuring potty-mouthed kids.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the Emmy Award-winning "South Park," found a kindred soul in Robert Lopez, who co-wrote the Tony-winning "Avenue Q," and all three found themselves with plenty of awards when they collaborated to gently mock Mormons and send-up Broadway itself.

Collecting the best musical prize, a subdued Parker, who tied Josh Logan of "South Pacific" with four Tonys in one evening — said he'd be remiss if he didn't thank his late book co-writer — Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion.

"You did it, Joseph! You got the Tony!" Parker said looking skyward and holding up his award.

The show, which netted honors for best musical, best book, best direction of a musical, best score, best featured actress and four technical awards, came in with a leading 14 nominations and was the heavy favorite for the top musical prize.

"We know what the best musical is — it's like taking a hooker to dinner," comedian Chris Rock said before reading the nominees and announcing the winner.

"War Horse" — a World War I tale about horses told with puppets and actors — won five Tonys, including the best prize award. The revival of "The Normal Heart" and "Anything Goes" both won three each.

Mark Rylance won the best acting award for a play for his powerful role of Johnny "Rooster" Byron in Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem." Just as he did three years ago when he won for "Boeing-Boeing," Rylance quoted a poem by Louis Jenkins, an obscure poet from Minnesota.

Story: List of winners for 2011 Tony Awards

"Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot-making or driftwood lamps," he said to the bemused crowd. When asked later why he had recited the poem, he said, "I don't know. I was getting a little bored."

Norbert Leo Butz won for best actor in a musical. Butz, who plays a frumpy FBI agent hot on the heels of a con man in "Catch Me If You Can" took home his second Tony. His previous win was in 2005 for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

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Sutton Foster won for best actress in a musical and gave a tearful speech. "It doesn't feel like a job," she said of the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes," which also won best musical revival and earned Kathleen Marshall an award for best choreography.

Frances McDormand was declared the best leading actress in a play for portraying a South Boston blue-collar woman who reconnects with a high school boyfriend in David Lindsay-Abaire play "Good People."

The best direction of a musical award went to Casey Nicholaw and Parker for "The Book of Mormon." Parker — as well as co-writers Stone and Lopez — later returned to the stage to accept the Tony for the best book of a musical.

The top directing prize for a play went to Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris for the weepy British import "War Horse." "We quite like it when people cry," Morris cracked backstage.

Nikki M. James, who plays a potential love interest to the pair of missionaries who travel to Uganda in "The Book of Mormon," dedicated the award to her dad, who died while she was in high school, and to her nephew Ozzie, who was born with kidney problems.

Video: Brantley on Tonys: Suddenly cool to be a theater nerd (on this page)

The show is one of the hottest in town and James said even cast members are having trouble getting tickets for their friends and family. "It's amazing to know you're going to walk out there every night and know you're going to see a house full of people," she said.

Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart" won the best revival prize and two actors from the AIDS drama — Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey — also won. Barkin, making her Broadway debut, was declared the best actress in a featured role in a play, while Hickey took home the male equivalent honor.

"It's the proudest moment of my career. Being involved in something this important is I think a once-in-a-career opportunity," said Barkin. Hickey warned his family in Texas that they'd better not be watching the Heat-Mavericks game instead of the Tonys.

Kramer's historic play about the beginning of an epidemic that has killed millions won the Tony 26 years after it was first mounted at the Public Theater. "Learn from it and carry on the fight," he said. "Our day will come."

John Larroquette, in his Broadway debut, won the award for best actor in a featured role in a musical for "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." He thanked his co-star Daniel Radcliffe, who was not nominated, saying that without the "Harry Potter" star he'd be "home, sitting in my underwear, watching this on television."

Slideshow: Tony Awards (on this page)

Away from the television cameras, "The Book of Mormon" won for orchestration, sound design, scenic design of a musical, score and book of a musical. "War Horse" won for best sound design of a play and best scenic design of a play, and "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" got the costume award for flamboyant fantasies created by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner.

Host Neil Patrick Harris began the show at the Beacon Theatre with an exuberant, facetious song about how Broadway isn't just for gay people any more. The number featured a bevy of dancing nuns, sailors, flight attendants and Mormons: "Attention every breeder, you're invited to the theater!" He later mocked "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," sang with Hugh Jackman and rode one of the puppet horses of "War Horse."

The ceremony was rolling along fine until Brooke Shields had to be bleeped after forgetting the lyrics and flubbing an opening song with Harris. "I can do eight performances a week but I can't read a TelePrompTer," she joked.

This year's Tonys were on Manhattan's Upper West Side after the ceremony was forced to leave its longtime home at Radio City Music Hall because Cirque du Soleil moved in. Tony producers picked the 3,000-seat Beacon Theatre, which has only about half as many seats as Radio City.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: 2011 Tony Awards

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  1. Neil Patrick Harris

    Host Neil Patrick Harris performs on stage during the 65th Annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Sunday, June 12. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Nikki M. James

    Actress Nikki M. James accepts the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for "The Book of Mormon" on Sunday, June 12. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Catch Me If You Can'

    The cast of "Catch Me If You Can" perform onstage during the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ellen Barkin

    Ellen Barkin accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her role in "The Normal Heart" during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York on Sunday, June 12. (Jeff Christensen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'The Book of Mormon'

    Actor Andrew Rannells and the cast of "The Book of Mormon" performs on stage during at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Sunday, June 12. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Marianne Elliott, Tom Morris

    Marianne Elliott, left, and Tom Morris accept the Best Direction of a Play Tony Award for "War Horse." (Jeff Christensen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Vanessa Redgrave

    Actress Vanessa Redgrave arrives for the Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre in New York, on Sunday, June 12. (Peter Foley / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel

    Christie Brinkley, right, and her daughter Alexa Ray Joel arrive at the 65th annual Tony Awards. (Charles Sykes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Billy Crudup

    Actor Billy Crudup arrives at the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York on Sunday, June 12. (Charles Sykes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Al Pacino, Lucila Sola

    Actor Al Pacino and Lucila Sola attend the 65th Annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre on Sunday, June 12. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Brooke Shields

    Actress Brooke Shields arrives for the Tony Awards in New York on Sunday, June 12. (Peter Foley / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Bobby Cannavale

    Bobby Cannavale, left, nominated for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play for 'The Motherf**ker with the Hat," arrives with an unidentified guest for the Tony Awards in New York. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lily Rabe

    Actress Lily Rabe attends the 65th Annual Tony Awards at the Beacon Theatre on Sunday, June 12. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Hannah Yelland

    Actress Hannah Yelland, nominated for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play for "Brief Encounter," arrives for the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Brantley on Tonys: Suddenly cool to be a theater nerd

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    >>> you know, if you would have told me two years ago that i would miss the best basketball game ever to hang out with nathan lane , i would have said you're crazy. but that's what happened. i remember my first musical like it was yesterday, because it was yesterday. this is the best musical and it's -- come on. we know what the best musical s this is such a waste of time. it's like taking a hooker to dinner. i mean --

    >> oh, lordy.

    >> welcome back to " morning joe ." with us now, the "new york times" chief theater critic, ben brantley . ben, let's just first of all talk about the show, before we get to the specifics, so much better than the academy awards , so much better done than the emmys. any show.

    >> the tonys .

    >> oh, yeah, no.

    >> done so w.

    >> they such a big embarrassment factor in awards shows, i think and usually i watch the tonys sort of like a parent, you know, watching --

    >> oh, dear.

    >> but this was really loose. it was cool. it was --

    >> organic.

    >> organic.

    >> he yeah.

    >> and people were crazy in a good way. i mean, everyone's so scripted and airbrushed at the oscars, it feels kind of pompous and institutionalized.

    >> i loved francis mcdormand came up with a denim jacket over her evening dress. mark rylance quoted poetry. nothing to do with it. it was like the spirit of " south park " minute pent feblgted the tonys and suddenly, really cool to be a theater nerd.

    >> you know, willy, ben says that the tonys last night, much like " morning joe ," was a very gay show last night.

    >> oh, yeah.

    >> was it? i don't know. it began with a number --

    >> i saw the opening number.

    >> normal heart, that was the serious gay part and as it should have been, i mean, that was a landmark play, beautiful revival, brought to out a lot of emotion, but i think the message really was you don't have to be gay to be gay. there's gay homosexual hadal and there's a gay sensibility, which is there are those of us who like to live in -- i mean, i'm both, but -- who like to live inside a musical comedy .

    >> i thought last night's show was reflective of what was what's happening on broadway it has reach sod far across the country with star power , frankly. bono was in the room, chris rock we saw, the guys from " south park " were there harry porter .

    >> harry porter was there i also think to the tonys credits and to their credit that these guys, were trey parker and matt stone , but daniel radcliffe wasn't nominated, chris rock wasn't nominated, though he is on broad watch they showed up, they were game.

    >> was daniel radcliffe snubbed? a lot of people thought he was snubbed?

    >> no. i mean, was he snubbed, yeah, of course.

    >> unfairly?

    >> no. no i liked him in "he can kiss," i thought he was good in that he is not a natural song and danceman man, you look at the other people in the category, watch norbert leo but thez, playing geriatric detective, he works it thank into the dance, that is a full character in the song.

    >> a banner year in new york .

    >> in terms of box office , for one thing.

    >> the range as well.

    >> the best year for plays, straight plays, so to speak, in my tenure at the times. there were four nominations. the one that won probably wasn't best play , "war house horse" but it is about a boy and his had horse, grown men go and cry at it. i think the voters were voting with their hearts in that case.

    >> obviously, the show right now with all the buzz, day in and day out is "the book of mormon ." it won big last night. could you ever have believed the creators of " south park ."

    >> nine tony awards .

    >> put together with the help of the guy successful with " avenue q ."

    >> believe these guys put together something this successful?

    >> for me, the great movie musical of the best ten years was " south park , big, longer and uncut" i could thing sink to you my favorite song from that.

    >> why not?

    >> you just can't go there can you?

    >> no, i can't. but they had it in them. and these what i thought this show celebrated, was -- and i think "glee" has made it okay to be a theater nerd, too. suddenly, it's cool to be singing like barbra streisand on the streets.

    >> yeah. well, willy, again, that's something that you and i do all the time.

    >> your time has come, willie.

    >> we haven't talked about my summer stock period when i was young.

    >> my goodness.

    >> a lot of work in the theater, dig deep enough, you might find some tape what is a show we should be thinking about doesn't get all the headlines now, " book of mormon ," "spider-man" what is your favorite show for people under the radar what is coming to new york ?

    >> i love "jerusalem" the tony-winning performance mark rylance , a state of the nation play about widely and crazy guy, abouty we look up to unedited drug addicts ' benders what they represent in us we repress.

    >> now i'm fascinated.

    >> she is fascinated. rylance is so great in it he goes over the top because that's where his character is and, you know, we are all up there in the clouds with him. the with the hat.

    >> yeah.

    >> that sort of added to the tone of the show, too, they tried to bleep so much, but that's really fun play.

    >> i'm curious, obviously "spider-man" made headline for the wrong reason, rebooting it, to so to speak.

    >> reimagined, new songs, new story.

    >> are you hopeful? it sounds like they have take on out the most objectionable part.

    >> i have seen it but

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