"The Drowsy Chaperone," one fan's celebration of a frothy, faux 1920s musical, was the night's biggest winner, collecting seven awards. "The History Boys," Bennett's affectionate look at students trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge, followed with five.
Besides the top musical prize, "The Drowsy Chaperone" took awards for book of a musical, Bob Martin and Don McKellar; featured actress-musical, Beth Leavel; sets-musical, David Gallo; costumes, Gregg Barnes; music, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, and lyrics, Lambert and Morrison again.
"The History Boys" picked up a trio of performance awards: best actor, Richard Griffiths; featured actor, Samuel Barnett and featured actress, Frances de la Tour, as well as the nod for best director, Nicholas Hytner.
Lois Smith received the top actress prize for her portrayal of a lonely woman who returns to her old home in "The Trip to Bountiful" by Horton Foote, who was given a lifetime achievement award.
Lead musical performance prizes went to John Lloyd Young for playing pop star Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys," and Christine Ebersole for her work as both a mother and daughter in "Grey Gardens," a look at two eccentric Long Island relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Revival prizes were given to Lincoln Center Theater's production of Clifford Odets' Depression drama "Awake and Sing!" and to "Sweeney Todd," which also picked up awards for direction-musical, John Doyle; orchestrations, Sarah Travis; and lighting, Richard G. Jones. Michael Yeargan won the set design-play award for his work on "Awake and Sing!"
The popular revival of "The Pajama Game" could manage only one award, choreography, which went to Kathleen Marshall.
Veteran Jim Dale received the featured actor-musical prize for his portrayal of Mr. Peachum in the revival of "The Threepenny Opera," while Antony Sher won the solo performance prize for playing the title character in "Primo."
"Christine Jorgensen Reveals" took the award for unique theatrical experience.
Special, non-competitive prizes for ensemble acting were given to the casts of both "Awake and Sing!" and "Stuff Happens," David Hare's play about the origins of the Iraq war.
The awards show was held in the concert hall at F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts.
The Drama Desk, which was founded in 1949, honors both Broadway and off-Broadway productions.
By Michael Kuchwara