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'Billy Elliot' dances with Tonys

"BILLY Elliot The Musical" swept the top theater honors in the United States on Sunday, winning 10 Tony Awards for a Broadway season that defied a recession with record ticket sales.

"Billy Elliot" is based on Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry's 2000 film about a ballet-dancing schoolboy in a mining town in northern England. Elton John, who suggested the film be adapted for theater, wrote the music for the production.

"We came here at a hard time economically, you opened your wallets and your hearts to us and we love you for it," Elton said.

"Billy Elliot" was named best musical and the three teenage actors who play the title role - David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish - were all named best actor in a musical, the first time three actors have shared the award.

"We want to say to all the kids out there who might want to dance, never give up," Kulish said.

Daldry, who won best musical director, said the boys were "three great gifts of Broadway."

Gregory Jbara won best featured actor in a musical for his role as Billy's father and the show also won best book of a musical and scenic, lighting, sound and choreography awards. It tied with "Next to Normal" for best orchestration.

Alice Ripley was named best actress in a musical for her role as a bipolar suburban housewife in "Next to Normal," which also picked up best original score.

Among other winners were: Liza Minnelli for best special theatrical event for "Liza's at the Palace," a musical tribute to the 1940s nightclub act of her godmother Kay Thompson; veteran British actress Angela Lansbury, 83, for best featured actress in a play for her performance in "Blithe Spirit" and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, who won the best actor in a play Tony for his Broadway debut in "Exit the King."


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