Audra McDonald wins her sixth Tony award playing jazz singer Billie Holiday. -- EPA
The best on New York’s Broadway have been crowned.
Broadway crowned one its favourite female stars and embraced a bevy of newcomers at the Tony Awards this morning in some of the most closely contested actress races for years.
An emotional Audra McDonald, 43, made Tony Awards history with a record sixth performance win for her heartbreaking turn as jazz singer Billie Holiday in the play, Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill.
And Jessie Mueller, the fresh face who has captivated audiences with her uncanny portrayal of young songstress Carole King in the musical Beautiful, won her first Tony.
McDonald, a classically trained singer and actress, has now won Tonys in all four play and musical categories. She tied with the late actress Julie Harris at six, but one of Harris’s statuettes was for lifetime achievement.
McDonald, who also won a Tony for her last Broadway show, Porgy And Bess in 2012, won a lengthy standing ovation from the audience of actors, producers and directors at the Radio City Music Hall in New York that left her shaking and in tears.
“I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and courageous women that I am standing on,” she said. “And most of all Billie Holiday. You deserve so much more than you were given when you were on this earth.”
McDonald also thanked her late parents for “not medicating their hyperactive girl” but channeling her energy into theatre.
As for entering into Tony record books, McDonald appeared lost for words. “I am just completely overwhelmed and grateful and I don’t believe it,” she told reporters backstage.
Mueller, 31, who made her Broadway debut in 2012, emerged the winner in one of the closest Tony races – lead actress in a musical.
King, whose 1971 album Tapestry remains one of the biggest sellers of all time, poured praise on Mueller’s performance.
“At that age, I had no idea who I was and what was good about me and not good about me,” King said backstage. “It is a gift to see myself as the woman I was then and to actually like myself.”