Sophie Okonedo

Sophie Okonedo

British actress Sophie Okonedo has been honoured at the Tony Awards.

The British-Nigerian actress won the Tony award for best featured actress in a play for her Broadway show A Raisin In The Sun at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

London-born Okonedo thanked the show’s producer Scott Rudin for believing that a “Jewish, Nigerian Brit” could play the iconic role of Ruth Younger. “I am loving it on Broadway,” she said.

Okonedo is best-known for her starring role in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. She has also received honours for her television work, including a Golden Globe nomination for the 2006 series Tsunami: The Aftermath and BAFTA nominations for Criminal Justice (2009) and Mrs. Mandela (2010).

First performed in New York in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun is based upon a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago, which was the centre of racial segregation and violence in the 1920s. The play also won a Tony for best revival and its director Kenny Leon scooped the prize for best direction.

Okonedo was joined by British actor Mark Rylance who received his third Tony award, winning the prize for best featured actor in a play for his role as the countess Olivia in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The Kent-born actor, who previously won for Jerusalem and Boeing-Boeing, was also nominated for best lead actor honours for his evil title character in Richard III.

The annual Tony awards recognise achievement in live Broadway theatre and are voted on by some 870 professional members. This year Broadway producers have a reason to party, since box offices hit record profits of £755 million, up from £672 million last year.

Other awards went to A Gentlemen’s Guide To Love and Murder, which won a total of four prizes, including the best musical award.

Audra McDonald became Tony’s most decorated actress, winning her sixth Tony for portraying Billie Holiday in Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Among those she thanked were her parents for not medicating their hyperactive child.

Bryan Cranston, best-known for his portrayal of Walter White in the smash-hit TV series Breaking Bad, won the best actor trophy for his Broadway debut in Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, which also was crowned best play.

Hosted by Hugh Jackman, the evening featured performances from Sting, who sang from his upcoming musical The Last Ship and Jennifer Hudson, who sang from the Peter Pan musical Finding Neverland.