In other notable wins: Newcomer Myles Frost won Best Actor in a Musical for his starring role as the work-obsessed Michael Jackson in “MJ.” And Joaquina Kalukango won Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of a hard-witted 19th-century tavern owner in “Paradise Square.”
Myles Frost was born to play Michael Jackson.
Frost, 22, who grew up in suburban DC, graduated from Thomas S. Wootton High School and made his Broadway debut in ‘MJ,’ spoke to his mother, Charmayne Strayhorn, who was at Radio City Music Hall to witness the triumph of his son. “Mom, I made it,” Frost said, her sunglasses perched on her head. “You taught me and showed me what a strong black woman can be.” As a result, he added, he learned to be a strong black man.
Simon Russell Beale and Deirdre O’Connell won Best Actor and Actress in a Play for their performances in “The Lehman Trilogy” and “Dana H.” – the latter a performance in which O’Connell lip-synched to the recording of a woman who recounted her real-life abduction by a man she had counseled as a therapist. The character’s voice belonged to the play’s author’s mother, Lucas Hnath.
Beale noted in his acceptance speech that his “Lehman” co-stars Adam Godley and Adrian Lester were among his contenders for Best Actor. “It’s also your price,” Beale told them. “I’m just lucky to bring him home.”
The night lacked the kind of juggernaut winner that makes headlines. It was a revival, with London roots, of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 “Company” that nabbed the most Tonys, five, with “Lehman.” Last year’s best musical, “Moulin Rouge!” sucked in 10 prizes (in a thin field). A few years ago, “Hamilton” scored 11 Tonys, and in 2019, “Hadestown” won eight.
Ultimately, however, composer-lyricist Michael R. Jackson’s “A Strange Loop” — about a black queer theater usher writing a musical about a black queer theater usher writing a musical — hit hard at the last possible minute. The Best Musical award was only his second of the night, with a win for Best Book of a Musical. The show originated off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons three years ago and, in a revised version, made a crucial pre-Broadway leg in December at DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (For a complete list of winners, visit tonyawards.com.)
“The Lehman Trilogy,” meanwhile, defied Tonys convention, winning five awards despite closing on Broadway in January. (Awards tend to go to productions still in progress). It also won the Sam Mendes Set, Lighting and Direction Award.
“The piece was written as a hymn to New York City,” Power said, adding that he applauds the show’s producers for sticking with the show after the fourth performance – because the shutdown of the show covid delayed the fifth performance for another 577 days.
In the best revival categories, Tony’s 650 voters chose “Company” and “Take Me Out,” Richard Greenberg’s early 2000s comedy-drama about the tribulations of a dating Major League Baseball star. cupboard.
The stakes couldn’t be higher at this year’s Tony Awards
Honoring the work of Broadway’s just-concluded 2021-2022 season, many Tony races have been exceptionally competitive this year, with 29 productions receiving nominations in 26 categories. Statistics point to a return to artistic health for the 41 theaters on Broadway, forced to close for 15 months from March 2020 due to the pandemic. Sunday night, he celebrated his first full season since 2018-19. The Tonys were so keen to recognize excellence that the 29-member nominating panel overloaded some categories: Six shows were nominated for Best Musical and seven men for Best Actor in a Play, including all three in “The Lehman Trilogy”. Normally, a category is capped at five nominees, the best.
Ariana DeBose, who won Best Supporting Actress in ‘West Side Story’ at this year’s Oscars, radiated elegance and star power as the host of CBS’ three-hour festivities. His rapport with the live audience and the camera gave the event a dazzle it would not quite have achieved otherwise. His live presence gave a needed jolt to a mid-run comedy number about the theater’s squeaky propensity for sending actors into the auditorium during performances to interact with the audience.
“There’s no escaping us in the audience!” DeBose sang, as she planted herself in the lap of giggling audience member Andrew Garfield.
The telecast followed an hour-long preliminary event hosted by Darren Criss and Julianne Hough, during which almost half of the prizes were awarded, including all prizes for sets, lighting, costumes, sound and the music.
A host of celebrities, including Jennifer Hudson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bryan Cranston, RuPaul Charles and Bernadette Peters, handed out the awards and performed the numbers for eight musicals in the traditional fashion.
Place must be preserved on CBS television for what likely keeps the Tonys on network TV: the production numbers of the nominated musicals (and others). Theatergoers across the country love it that way, and so do Broadway producers, because the Tonys are Broadway’s pivotal marketing event of the year. This year, eight shows vying for Tony staged numbers on the show. The title track of the merry “Six,” which is staged like a concert and therefore looks tailor-made for the small screen, was presented perhaps to the best effect. A soft version of “The Music Man” finale was shown to what looked like a lesser benefit.
After an exuberant opening number that anthologized more than 20 well-known musicals, DeBose reminded viewers of the efforts being made to create a more diverse Broadway. Last season, she noted, plays by black playwrights debuted in seven of Broadway’s 41 theaters.
“I feel like the phrase ‘Great White Way’ is becoming a nickname rather than a how-to guide,” DeBose said, to loud applause.
The evening, led by Tony Awards veteran (and Emmy winner) Glenn Weiss, was executive produced by Weiss and Ricky Kirshner, another awards veteran who led the 2020 Digital Democratic National Convention. Sympathetic and skillfully staged proceedings, devoid of the kind of commotion that rocked the Oscars in March, when contestant Will Smith burst onto the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock for a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The jokes that night were of a placid variety, but there were a few sentimental highs: During the first hour of streaming, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus hailed Angela Lansbury, 96, five-time Tony winner – recipient of a lifetime achievement award – with the title track to “Mame.” (Lansbury, who originated the title role in the original 1966 production, did not make an appearance.) And a tribute to Sondheim, who died in November at the age of 91, featured excerpts from the composer -lyricist and a heart-melting performance by a delightful Peters of “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods.”
There will never be another Stephen Sondheim
Miranda introduced the interlude with her own tribute to Sondheim. “I stand here on behalf of generations of artists that he took the time to encourage,” he said.
Other highlights from the three-hour main event: Patti LuPone receiving her third Tony Award, as Best Supporting Actress in the revival of “Company”; Michael Jackson’s children, Paris and Prince, portraying Frost in “Smooth Criminal,” a dance number by “MJ”; presenter Marcia Gay Harden greeted 150 Broadway “covid security officers” invited to Radio City for the ceremony. Two stage actors who have restored their reputations on TV, Phylicia Rashad and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, won Best Actress and Supporting Actor in a Play for Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew” and “Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg. Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, the songwriters-creators of ‘Six’, a moving tale of the six wives of King Henry VIII, won the prize for best score. Marlow is the Tonys’ first non-binary winner. And several presenters highlighted the contributions of Broadway stand-ins and stand-ins, who stepped in countless times during a long stretch of coronavirus-induced absences.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the low number of awards for “A Strange Loop.” As the evening wore on, a curious pattern seemed to repeat itself: At the last Tony Awards, the show with the most nominations, “Slave Play,” was kicked out.
Finally, however, Jackson was called to accept the award for best book by a musical, and then came the top prize of the night. “I started writing the musical when I was 23,” Jackson said, wrapped in a huge fuchsia cape as he accepted best book. He described the task as creating “a life raft for myself…to get through the day”.
Thomas Floyd contributed to this report.