Broadway honored its own at the 2008 Tony Awards ceremony for theatrical excellence held Sunday at New York's Radio City Music Hall. And, as anticipated, it...

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Broadway honored its own at the 2008 Tony Awards ceremony for theatrical excellence held Sunday at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. And, as anticipated, it turned out to be a great night for Bartlett Sher, artistic head of Seattle’s Intiman Theatre and director of this season’s blockbuster Broadway revival of “South Pacific.”

Sher took home his first Tony for staging “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center Theater, also honored as best musical revival of the season and awarded five additional Tonys for best leading actor in a musical (the charismatic opera singer Paolo Szot), lighting, costumes, sound and sets.

Other big winners of the evening: “In the Heights,” a vibrant, salsa-fueled show which received Tonys as best new musical and for best score, bestowed on its dynamic young star and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The family dysfunction opus “August: Osage County” by Tracy Letts was named “best new play” and received acting honors for its lead and featured actresses, respectively, Deanna Dunagan and Rondi Reed. And “Boeing Boeing,” a revived Franco-British farce, earned Tonys as the “best play revival” and for its male star, Mark Rylance.

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Patti LuPone, as expected, won the “best actress in a musical” Tony for her tough-love turn as the stage mama Rose in “Gypsy” — the show that was the main competitor of “South Pacific” for the best musical revival prize.

But no one had more to celebrate than Sher, who has had two previous nominations (for directing the musical “The Light in the Piazza,” which originated at Intiman, and a revival of “Awake and Sing!” by Clifford Odets).

Sher began his acceptance speech with a nod to the original creators of “South Pacific” — composer Richard Rodgers, co-author and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, co-author and director Joshua Logan and novelist James Michener (whose short stories inspired the 1949 musical drama).

“They were kind of incredible men, because they seemed to teach me … that in a way I wasn’t only an artist but I was also a citizen,” Sher said.

Sher’s win catapults him to the top of the A-list of Broadway directors. Though he moved recently from Seattle to New York, and has various Big Apple projects in the works (including a new musical about martial-arts superstar Bruce Lee), Sher is contracted through 2009 to head Intiman, where he just staged the new play “Namaste Man.”

Asked if his win helps his hometown company he said, “Of course it does — it helps us attract better artists, better producers and other things down the road.” He also mentioned that Intiman will develop “a big Disney musical next year,” with the title to be revealed later.

Broadcast live on the East Coast, and via tape-delay to the Pacific Coast, the three-hour Tony ceremony was, as always, an extended infomercial for Broadway’s wares.

This year’s telecast was hosted by Broadway veteran Whoopi Goldberg, taking a cue from her former Oscar emcee duties by appearing in several elaborate theatrical guises — i.e., as Mary Poppins in flight and as a crab in “The Little Mermaid.”

The show packed in production numbers from the best-musical nominees, and some that were not nominated for that category — including a bawdy bit from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” which had its pre-Broadway premiere last year at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.

Last note: Though musicals took center stage at the Tonys, of the 36 productions offered in the 2007-08 season an unusually high number (23) were plays.

Misha Berson: Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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