By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Kinky Boots" won six Tony awards on Sunday including the top award of best musical and a prize for its composer, pop queen Cyndi Lauper, as Broadway presented its top honors.
Lauper won best score for her first Broadway musical, "Kinky Boots," an adaptation of a British film about a struggling shoe factory reinventing itself by making boots for drag queens.
The hit musical topped the nominations with 13 and also won best actor in a musical for Billy Porter, best choreography, orchestrations and sound design.
A tearful Lauper said "I can't say I wasn't practicing in front of the shower curtain for the past couple of days," and went on to "thank Broadway, for welcoming me."
Porter, who as the strong, proud drag queen is at the show's heart, said he first watched the Tony telecast at home at age 11, and recalled a performance from the musical "Dreamgirls" by saying "That moment has changed my life."
The best play Tony was won by "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," a crowd-pleasing comic riff on Anton Chekhov's work by veteran playwright Christopher Durang that stars Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce.
Winning his first-ever Tony award, Durang noted that he had written his first play in the second grade in the 1950s, adding "It's been a long road."
In an unexpected win, Tracy Letts, who is also an award- winning playwright ("August: Osage County") was named best actor in a play for his strongly praised performance in the revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," which was widely predicted to go to Tom Hanks making his Broadway debut in the late Nora Ephron's journalism drama, "Lucky Guy."
The Edward Albee classic also won the Tony for best revival of a play.
Cicely Tyson won best actress in a play for her moving portrayal of an elderly woman returning to her former home in the revival of "The Trip to Bountiful," marking her return to Broadway after some 30 years.
Speaking with deliberation and poise, Tyson, 79, noted she had a "burning desire" to do just one more play and remarked a teleprompter was saying "Please wrap it up. Well, that's exactly what you did to me," she continued. "You wrapped me up in your arms after 30 years and now, I can go home with a Tony."
"Matilda the Musical," an Olivier award-winning production based on a story by Roald Dahl about a precocious little girl that received ecstatic reviews and 12 nominations, came away with four awards, including best book of a musical and best featured actor in a musical for Gabriel Ebert.
Veteran television, film and theater actress Andrea Martin won best featured actress in a musical for an acclaimed circus-themed revival of the 1970s hit "Pippin," which won four Tonys including best revival of a musical, best actress in a musical Patina Miller and best director for Diane Paulus.
Women won both the directing honors with Pam MacKinnon taking home the Tony for play direction for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
Judith Light, known to television audiences for the sitcom "Who's the Boss" but also an acclaimed stage actress, won her second consecutive Tony, for "The Assembled Parties."
She paid tribute to her fellow nominees, saying "you have made this a celebration, not a competition." Light won the same award last year for "Other Desert Cities."
Courtney B. Vance won best featured actor in a play for "Lucky Guy," saying backstage as his gazed at his award, "It's nice to meet you fella'."
The show at Radio City Music Hall and broadcast on CBS featured appearances by the casts of "Kinky Boots, "Matilda" and "Pippin." It opened with host Neil Patrick Harris leading a lavish, satirical production featuring the casts of those shows as well as "Cinderella," "Spiderman" and even Mike Tyson, who did a one-man show this season and dueted with Harris.
Presenters included Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Cuba Gooding Jr, Jesse Eisenberg, Jon Cryer, Liam Neeson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Zachary Quinto, Sally Field, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Matthew Broderick.
Other highlights included a special tribute to the musical "Phantom of the Opera," Broadway's longest-running show which is still going strong after opening in 1988.
(Additional reporting by Kat Wiessner; Editing by Eric Walsh)