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<i>Avenue Q,</i> a Hit at the Tony Awards - 2004-06-07

An offbeat, low-budget puppet musical defied expectations and won the award for the best musical of the year on Broadway, Sunday. And, for the first time the top women's dramatic honors were awarded to an African-American actress.

A green witch, a forceful woman prime minister, a man-eating plant and a mad king are just a sampling of the characters who appeared in the 39 varied productions that opened on Broadway during the last year.

But Avenue Q stole the show at the 2004 Tony awards ceremony, winning the prizes for best musical, best book and best score in an upset against Wicked, a lavish musical loosely based on the beloved Wizard of Oz movie. Wicked took home only one major award, best actress in a musical for Idina Menzel.

The host of the Tony Awards ceremony, Australian movie star Hugh Jackman, won the award for best actor in a musical, in his Broadway debut, The Boy from Oz.

The dramatic actor category was one of the most competitive in years. A relatively unknown actor, Jefferson Mays, received the prize for his portrayal of a German transvestite who survived both the Nazi and communist regimes in the play, I Am My Own Wife, which was also named the top drama of the year.

"We were not supposed to exist," says Mr. Mays. "Persona non grata,"

In the one-man show, Mays takes on more than three dozen roles, including an American soldier with a southern accent. "Still, I think you may well be the most singular eccentric individual the Cold War ever birthed."

Phylicia Rashad, better known for her work on television, became the first African American to win the best actress honors for her role in revival of A Raisin in the Sun, the tale of an African American family.

A mammoth production that combines the first and second parts of Shakespeare's Henry IV won in the best dramatic revival category.

Assassins, Stephen Sondheim's dark musical about nine individuals who attempted to kill U.S. presidents, won the best musical revival award. The 58th annual awards ceremony was broadcast, nationwide, from Radio City Musical Hall. More than 700 theater professionals vote on the awards in 21 categories.