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Denzel Washington wins first Tony Award (1735 hits)

(Associated Press and BlackAmericaWeb.com) – "Fences," a revival of August Wilson's deeply personal drama about family, won for best revival of a play, and its two acclaimed stars, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, won for best actors in a play.

Even their acceptance speeches seemed to complement each other.

"My mother always says, 'Man gives the award, God gives the reward.' I guess I got both tonight," Washington said after winning for his performance as the sanitation man who might have been a baseball star.

It was Washington's first Tony Award and nomination, and he beat out a list of film and stage heavyweights, including Jude Law, Alfred Molina, Liev Schreiber and Christopher Walken.

"I don't believe in luck or happenstance. I absolutely believe in the presence of God in my life," said Davis, honored for playing Washington's all-sacrificing wife. "It feels like such a divine experience eight times a week."

Davis, whose role in “Fences” marks the third August Wilson play she’s appeared in on Broadway - the other being “Seven Guitars” and “King Hedley II," for which she won her first Tony - won over veteran theater stars Valerie Harper, Linda Lavin, Laura Linney and Jan Maxwell.

"Memphis," an interracial romance with a primarily black cast set against the backdrop of the 1950s rhythm 'n' blues explosion, won Tony for best musical.

The show of soulful sounds and a parade of engaging characters beat out "Fela!" — the innovative Afro-beat biography of Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo-Kuti; Green Day's rock musical "American Idiot"; and "Million Dollar Quartet," a fictional re-creation of a jam session of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis in a Memphis recording studio.

"Fela!" won for Bill T. Jones' choreography, best costume design of a musical and best sound design of a musical. It had 11 nominations, including two in acting categories: Sahr Ngujah, who played Anikulapo-Kuti, for best performance by a leading actor in a musical, and Lillias White, who portrayed his mother, for best performance by a featured actress in a musical.

Other black nominees for Tony Awards were Montego Glover for best performer by a leading actress in a musical in "Memphis" alongside "Fences'" Stephen McKinley Henderson and David Alan Grier from "Race," both men for best performance by a featured actor in a play.

Grier doesn't think the Tonys are the outsider of other award shows, but the origin of all others.

"The Tonys are the frozen sperm of all the other award shows," he said. "I have a dog that's a Greater Swiss Mountain dog. From that dog came other breeds. That's the Tonys."

The actor adds: "The Tony is not the Oscars of the theater, it is the Oscar with another name."

According to Grier, the biggest obstacle Sunday was getting through the matinee so he could get to New York's Radio City Music Hall for the Tony Awards show.

Grier says that during the performance, he was thinking: "Hurry up, there's someplace I need to be."
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Monday, June 14th 2010 at 6:10AM
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