The Tony Awards, which honor the best of Brodway, were presented on Sunday with Oscar-winner and Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose taking center-stage as the ceremony’s host.
DeBose, who also hosted last year’s Tony Awards, acknowledged that due to the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the event was taking place without any scripts.
“Award shows are traditionally written by members of the WGA, so in order for this show to go on a whole host of people had to come together in order find a compromise,” DeBose remarked near the top of the show. “I’m live and unscripted. You’re welcome! So, to anyone that felt like last year was a bit unhinged, to them I say, darlings buckle up!”
Among the night’s top winners were “Kimberly Akimbo” for best new musical, “Leopoldstadt” was named best new play, “Parade” won best revival of a musical and “Topdog/Underdog” won best revival of a play.
Jodie Comer, the three-time Emmy nominated star of “Killing Eve” won leading actress in a play for her Broadway debut, the one-woman play “Prima Facie,” which illustrates how current laws fail terribly when it comes to sexual assault cases.
Sean Hayes won lead actor in a play for “Good Night, Oscar,” which dramatizes a long night’s journey into the scarred psyche of pianist Oscar Levant, now obscure but once a TV star.
“This has got to be the first time an Oscar won a Tony,” Hayes cracked.
Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about sibling rivalry, inequality and society’s false promises, won the Tony for best play revival. She thanked director Kenny Leon and stars Corey Hawkins and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: “They showed up to be large in a world that often does not much want the likes of us living at all.”
Bonnie Milligan, who won for best featured actress in a musical for “Kimberly Akimbo,” also had a message to the audience: “I want to tell everybody that doesn’t maybe look like what the world is telling you what you should look like — whether you’re not pretty enough, you’re not fit enough, your identity is not right, who you love isn’t right — that doesn’t matter.”
John Kander, the 96-year-old composer behind such landmark shows as “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and “The Scottsboro Boys,” was honored with a special lifetime award. He thanked his parents; his husband, Albert Stephenson; and music, which “has stayed my friend through my entire life and has promised to stick with me until the end.”
Jennifer Grey handed her father, “Cabaret” star Joel Grey, the other lifetime achievement Tony. “Being recognized by the theater community is such a gift because it’s always been, next to my children, my greatest, most enduring love,” the actor said.
Echoing the there of antisemitism, “Parade” — a doomed musical love story set against the real backdrop of a murder and lynching in pre-World War I Georgia that won Tonys as a new musical in 1999 — won for best musical revival, with Michael Arden winning for best musical director.
“‘Parade’ tells the story of a life that was cut short at the hands of the belief that one group of people is more valuable than another and that they might be more deserving of justice,” Arden said. “This is a belief that is the core of antisemitism, white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia and intolerance of any kind. We must come together. We must battle this.”
The telecast featured performances from all the nominated musicals and Will Swenson — starring on Broadway in a Neil Diamond musical — led the audience in a vigorous rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” Lea Michele of “Glee” and now “Funny Girl” fame also performed a soaring version of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
It all took place at the United Palace Theatre, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan — a new venue for the ceremony, many miles from Times Square and the theater district.
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