THE British stage spectacle proved its popularity once more at the 1988 Antoinette Perry Awards Sunday, with ``The Phantom of the Opera'' being chosen as the season's best musical and winning six other Tonys. By one of the ironies typical of such contests, ``Into the Woods,'' the closest American competitor, earned Stephen Sondheim the award for the best score and James Lapine the prize for the best book of a musical. Cast member Joanna Gleason won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical. With Angela Lansbury as superhostess and a train of glamorous presenters, the 42nd edition of Broadway's annual self-celebration reflected the strengths of a stimulating season. The substance of the dramatic fare was glimpsed in excerpts from the four nominated plays: David Henry Hwang's Tony-crowned ``M.Butterfly,'' August Wilson's ``Joe Turner's Come and Gone,'' Lee Blessing's ``A Walk in the Woods,'' and David Mamet's ``Speed-the-Plow,'' whose Ron Silver won the prize for best performance by a leading actor in a play.
Following the relative disappointment of ``Chess'' and the ``Carrie'' disaster, the strong showing of ``The Phantom of the Opera'' reaffirmed the continued eminence of the British musical. (The long-running ``Les Mis'erables'' was the 1987 Tony winner.) In addition to its selection as the season's best musical, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Richard Stilgoe adaptation of the 1911 Gaston Leroux novel won awards for director Harold Prince, leading actor Michael Crawford, featured actress Judy Kaye, scenery and costume designer Maria Bj"ornson, and lighting designer Andrew Bridge.
``Anything Goes,'' a revamped 1934 Cole Porter delight, won the Tony for best revival and was also saluted for Michael Smuin's dazzling choreography and Bill McCutcheon's comic portrayal of Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No. 13.
Other Tonys among the 19 categories were as follows: John Dexter, best direction of a play, for ``M.Butterfly''; B.D. Wong, in his Broadway debut, best performance by a featured actor in a play, for ``M. Butterfly''; L.Scott Caldwell, best performance by a featured actress in a play, for ``Joe Turner''; and Joan Allen, best performance by a leading actress in a play, for Lanford Wilson's ``Burn This.''
Special Tony Awards went to the South Coast Repertory Theatre, selected by the American Theatre Critics Association as outstanding regional theater, and to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The Tony celebrations are a joint event by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatre Owners and Producers. Both the nominating committee and the 730 theater professionals and journalists who make up the electorate faced some difficult choices, owing to the quality of the competition this season. As always, there were some surprises among the winners. This reviewer agreed with his fellow voters in just over a majority of cases.
Besides presenting excerpts from all of the nominated shows, including ``Romance/Romance'' and the South African ``Sarafina!,'' the Don Mischer production at the Minskoff Theatre offered several extras. Miss Lansbury sang ``Broadway Baby,'' from Mr. Sondheim's ``Follies.'' A tribute to Michael Bennett featured Donna McKechnie, the first Cassie of ``A Chorus Line,'' and original ``Dreamgirls'' Theresa Burrell, Loretta Devine, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The Tony festivities climaxed the 1988 awards season. This year's Pulitzer Prize for drama went to Alfred Uhry's ``Driving Miss Daisy.'' The New York Drama Critics' Circle chose ``Joe Turner's Come and Gone'' as best play, Athol Fugard's ``The Road to Mecca'' as best foreign play, and ``Into the Woods'' as best musical.