NEW YORK — The bittersweet musical “Once” captured eight Tony Awards on Sunday, including best direction of a musical, best lead actor in a musical and the top musical prize itself.

The inventive play “Peter and the Starcatcher” was next with five awards, but most every show had something to crow about.

Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park,” the perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race and real estate, won the best play Tony.

Audra McDonald was named best lead actress in a musical and her “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” was named best musical revival. This is her fifth Tony Award, tying the record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris.

“I was a little girl with a potbelly and Afro puffs, hyperactive and overdramatic. And I found the theater, and I found my home,” McDonald said.

Her one-time co-star in “110 in the Shade,” Steve Kazee, a rising star with matinee-idol looks, emerged as best actor in a musical, and broke down thinking of his mother, who died Easter Sunday.

Another new star, Nina Arianda, won best leading actress in a play, beating Tracie Bennett, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Cynthia Nixon.

Accepting the award from presenter Christopher Plummer, Arianda admitted something personal to Plummer: “You were my first crush!” she squealed.

In perhaps the biggest shock of the night, James Corden nabbed the lead acting Tony Award in a play for his clownish turn in the British import “One Man, Two Guvnors.” He beat out the favorite, Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman.”

Corden directed most of his comment to his fiancee, Julia, who gave birth to his son a year ago. “She made me say ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ and I love her,” he said.

Arthur Miller’s 63-year-old masterpiece “Death of a Salesman” won the Tony for best play revival and Mike Nichols won his ninth Tony for directing it. On winning, he said the play has a special meaning for those who work in the theater.

“There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman – to be out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine,” he said.

A reworked version of the Gershwin opera “Porgy and Bess” came home with more and more prestigious awards than a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies.”

“Once,” a musical based on the low-budget 2006 film about an unlikely romance between a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician in Dublin, went into the night with a leading 11 nominations. Both the film and musical use songs by Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, including the sublime 2007 Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly.”

“Newsies” was supposed to challenge it, but only came up with two awards.

Natasha Katz won a Tony for her lighting work on “Once,” beating out Maine native Christopher Akerlind, who was nominated for his work on “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”

Judy Kaye won for best actress in a featured role in a musical in “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Judith Light, who plays an acerbic alcoholic in “Other Desert Cities,” won for best featured actress in a play.

Michael McGrath won for best actor in a featured musical role from “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

Guitar guru’s gear auctioned for $5 million

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – An auction of guitars and memorabilia owned by the late Les Paul, known as the godfather of the electric guitar, has raised nearly $5 million for a foundation in his name benefiting music education and innovation.

Julien’s Auctions of Beverly Hills said Sunday that the two-day sale fetched record-setting prices for guitars.

The items most coveted by rock musicians, museum curators and collectors included a 1951 Fender No-Caster, which sold for $216,000, a 1982 Gibson Les Paul that went for $180,000 and a 1940s Epiphone Zephyr that fetched $144,000.

Other Paul memorabilia included a recording console ($106,250), research notes ($28,125) and guitar schematics ($40,625).

Paul invented one of the world’s most widely played guitars, the Gibson Les Paul. The sale concluded Saturday, on what would have been his 97th birthday.