NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Once," the musical adaption of an unlikely love story of a Dublin street performer and an Czech piano player, won eight Tony Awards on Sunday as Broadway honored its best plays and musicals.
The wins for the humble, intimate stage musical adapted from the 2006 independent film "Once" included awards for best musical, best book, orchestrations, scenic design, sound design, best actor in a musical and best direction for John Tiffany in his first Tony victory.
"'Once' is a story about when people believe in each other, they can move on in life, and so many people have believed in this project," Tiffany said in his acceptance speech.
Actor Steve Kazee fought back tears as he thanked his cast members, including his leading lady Cristin Milioti, and said after his mother died early on in performances, they "carried me around and made me feel alive and I will never be able to fully repay them."
"Clybourne Park," a satire on race relations, won best play, with playwright Bruce Norris telling the audience that since the play premiered more than two years ago off-Broadway, "I have made so many friends in regional theaters and in other theaters around the world who have worked on this play."
"Clybourne Park" won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for best play.
Brit James Corden upset Philip Seymour Hoffman to win best actor in a play for his comic turn in the London transplant spoof, "One Man, Two Guvnors," while Nina Arianda won best actress in a play for her sexy performance in "Venus In Fur."
Esteemed film and stage director Mike Nichols was an early winner for his direction of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." Nichols has won a record-setting six Tony Awards for best direction of a play. He also has been honored twice as a producer.
"You see before you a happy man," Nichols, 80, said, thanking Miller's daughter, Rebecca Miller, for permission to stage the play that also won best revival of a play.
Nichols also thanked Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield as "a cast straight from heaven" and said the play, which premiered in 1949, "gets truer as time goes by."
"The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," a reinvention of the 1935 opera and comedy, won best revival of a musical and Audra McDonald won best actress in a musical for her stirring performance as Bess.
The awards show kicked off with host Neil Patrick Harris welcoming the audience to the 66th Tony Awards, "or as we like to call it, 'Fifty Shades of Gay,'" referencing Broadway's campy reputation and the popular erotic fiction novel, "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Judith Light of "Other Desert Cities" was an early winner for best actress in a featured role in a play.
"I feel like I am the luckiest girl in New York tonight," said Light, who first found fame in 1980s TV sitcom "Who's The Boss."
Other winners included Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath for their featured roles in the comedy musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and Christian Borle for his hilarious turn in the Peter Pan prequel, "Peter and the Starcatcher."
"Once,", which features the Oscar-winning song, "Falling Slowly," received a total of eight Tonys. "Peter and the Starcatcher" captured five trophies.
The Disney production "Newsies," based on a 1899 New York newsboys strike, won best original score.
The awards show featured star-packed performances from this season's musicals, plays and revivals. Presenters included Paul Rudd, Christopher Plummer and Angela Lansbury.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Bill Trott and Stacey Joyce)