The Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards were founded in 1947 and are the theater's highest honor. The winners were selected by 724 theater professionals and journalists. The honors are administered by the League of American Theaters and Producers and the American Theater Wing.
"We had just finished retiring the last of the investing money," Lion said. "It was a very fast return."
Baruch, of the 230-member investor group, agreed. "It was very quick. It opened in August, and by June, the investors had been fully repaid. Everyone got their full investment back. The actual checks went out."
Then, "Tony Night" arrives on June 8. The "Hairspray" onslaught starts early at Radio City Music Hall. By the end of the night, the musical has won eight awards. Shaiman and Wittman kissed onstage to celebrate their victory, Winokur beat out Broadway veteran Bernadette Peters ("Gypsy") and Fierstein picked up his fourth Tony.
For the "Best Musical" Tony, the last presentation of the night, Lion led a procession of "Hairspray" producers, cast members and backers onto the stage. The consensus among the jubilant throng, which included author Waters, was picked up by microphones as they gathered onstage: "Give it to Margo."
"It was an absolute thrill," Lion said, looking back. "It was one of the best nights of my life.
"It was just a point in the road -- a glorious vista on a, hopefully, longer road -- with a lot behind it and, Lord willing, a lot more ahead of it."
According to preliminary figures, the three-hour CBS telecast brought in 7.95 million viewers, slightly down from 7.98 million last year, but more younger viewers than in the past. About 30 percent more adults ages 25 to 54, and 19 percent more adults ages 18 to 49, watched the telecast, CBS and Tony officials said.
The overall viewer figures may have been down, but the Tony telecast only made things much better for "Hairspray."
"When a show wins a Tony, it gets national exposure," said Back Stage's Sheward. "If it was a dominant winner, that's the one that leads people to think that's the one they want to see."
A Tony telecast could boost a production's box-office receipts by as much as 15 percent, Sheward said.
It did just that, helping to raise advance "Hairspray" sales to $20 million into next March.
World tour envisioned
Now, Lion's attention is focused on planning "Hairspray" tours around the country and around the world.
The production will kick off a two-year national tour at the Mechanic Theater in Baltimore on Sept. 17. Plans also are being made final for a world tour, to include Australia.
Long term, "Hairspray" is expected to continue paying off for investors -- through local performances, observers say.
"High schools and community groups would be happy to do it," said Variety's Hofler. "It's not raunchy or anything like that. The general thinking is that this is an investment that will give back for a long time."
That's exactly what Lion is banking on. "We'll be in New York as long as people will come."