The Hudson Valley was represented well at the 66th annual Tony Awards, with Audra McDonald and Alan Menken winning in major categories.
Audra McDonald, a longtime Croton resident, won her fifth Tony Award on Sunday, her first win in the Best Leading Actress in a Musical category.
McDonald won a Tony for her performance in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” beating out fellow Westchester County resident Kelli O’Hara, who had received a nod for “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” “Porgy and Bess” also won Best Revival of a Musical.
Upon accepting the award, a tearful McDonald said, “I was a little girl with a pot belly and afro puffs, hyperactive and overdramatic, and I found theater and I found my home ... and to think the theater would be so good to me is mind-blowing.”
She thanked the “Porgy and Bess” company, saying it was “filled with light and soul and spirit.” After thanking her fiance, actor Will Swenson, she told her daughter Zoe, who was in the audience, “This is an amazing night for Mommy. But ... the day you were born was the best night ever.”
Meanwhile, iconic composer Alan Menken finally can add "Tony Award winner" to his incredible resume. The New Rochelle native won for Best Original Score along with lyricist Jack Feldman for “Newsies,” a musical based on the 1992 film. Though he has been awarded eight Oscars for his musical contributions to popular Disney films, it was Menken’s first Tony Award.
Menken told Newsday that the victory was a relief, in part because it's the end of a long awards season, full of luncheons, meetings, interviews and events.
"And obviously, this is my first Tony Award, so I'm really thrilled that I finally won one," he said.
During his acceptance speech, Menken thanked “the generation of kids who adopted this movie” and noted that his daughters predicted he would win. He also referenced a previous Razzie Award he received for Worst Song for the movie version of "Newsies."
"I always found the Razzie to be sort of a badge of honor, quite frankly," Menken said later when asked about his speech. "I found out that I won the Razzie backstage at the  Oscars, after I'd won my second Oscar for 'Beauty and the Beast.' I almost took it almost like a joke, like, 'Let's humble Alan Menken a little bit.' ... I think it's fine, but it is interesting to see something that's famous for being ridiculed and not successful become something that's famous for being popular."
But not all of the local tie-ins to Tony Award winners were in the musical categories. Jeff Croiter, who grew up in Eastchester, won a Tony for Best Lighting Design for the play "Peter and the Starcatcher." Croiter is a Purchase College graduate whose previous Broadway productions include "The Pee-wee Herman Show" and "Next Fall."
Although McDonald, Menken and Croiter won Tonys, there were other theater veterans with Hudson Valley roots that did not. Danny Burstein, a Mount Kisco native, was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for “Follies,” but he lost to Steve Kazee from “Once.” Legendary actor James Earl Jones, a Dutchess County native who was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Play, lost to James Corden from “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
"Once," based on the 2006 film about star-crossed Irish musicians, was the night's big winner, taking home eight awards (including Best Actor winner Steve Kazee, Best Director winner John Tiffany and nods for orchestration, sound, book, scenic design and lighting). "Clybourne Park," the remarkably perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate, won the Tony Award for Best Play.
"Peter and the Starcatcher" won for Best Costume Design, Best Scenic Design and Dest 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.