Two British performers - Lindsay Duncan and Alan Bates - are the toast of Broadway after winning top honours at the ceremony held yesterday, 2 June 2002, at New York's Radio City Music Hall for the 56th annual Tony Awards, America's most prestigious stage awards.

Duncan (pictured) won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her starring role opposite Alan Rickman in Howard Davies' acclaimed revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives. The latest honour makes a hat trick of major awards for Duncan in the production which, win first seen in London, also garnered her Best Actress awards at this year's Critics Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards.

Bates triumphed in the New York-originated production of Turgenev's Fortune's Fool, which is now tipped for a West End transfer. To win Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, he beat off stiff competition from fellow Brits Rickman and Liam Neeson (in Richard Eyre's production of The Crucible).

In the 2002 Tony nominations, announced last month, UK-originated productions made a strong showing, collecting no fewer than 20 nominations across 23 categories. The major forces appeared to be is Trevor Nunn's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (first seen at the National Theatre in 1998) with seven nominations, Abba musical Mamma Mia (still playing at the West End's Prince Edward, where it opened in April 1999) with five, and Michael Frayn's backstage farce Noises Off (still playing at the West End's Comedy Theatre) with two and Private Lives (which opened at the West End's Albery Theatre in October 2001) with six nominations.

However, yesterday, the Tony judges seemed only to have been swayed by the last, Private Lives, which won three awards in total - Best Revival of a Play and Best Scenic Design for Tim Hatley, in addition to Duncan's acting honour.

Oklahoma! and Noises Off went home with just one apiece (for Americans Shuler Hensley and Katie Finneran for Best Featured performer roles in a Musical and Play, respectively) while Mamma Mia failed to convert any of its nominations. NT artistic director-designate Nicholas Hytner's adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success won American John Lithgow Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

The big winner of the evening, however, was the nostalgic American musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, which scooped six awards in total, including Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Choreography (Rob Ashford).

- by Terri Paddock