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Photo: The 2022 Tony Awards
This year’s Tony Awards featured an excellent selection of shows, with many of the categories being a toss-up right up until the winner was announced. Myles Frost and Deirdre O’Connell, in particular, earned pleasantly surprising wins. O’Connell herself acknowledged the unconventionality of Dana H. in her acceptance speech, saying “Please let me standing here be a little sign to you from the universe to make the weird art.”
Speaking of unconventionality, Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop won Best Musical to a standing ovation. Jackson’s hyper-meta, uncompromising take on being a black, queer writer took audiences by storm, and Jackson himself showed up in a hot pink, cape-length overcoat to match the hype.
Michael R. Jackson was not alone among queer winners. Toby Marlow, the first openly non-binary recipient of a Tony, won alongside co-writer Lucy Moss for the score of SIX: The Musical. Moss and Marlow’s concert-style reclamation of the stories of Henry VIII’s six wives has become a steadily growing cultural phenomenon since the initial release of their studio album, which came before the show’s run. The Tony awarded to them has brought the journey full circle.
If one person stole the show Sunday night it was Joaquina Kalukango, whose performance of “Let It Burn” as part of the performance for Paradise Square brought the house to its feet. Kalukango won for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and showed exactly why.
As for the other performances of the evening, MJ and SIX stood out among the nominated shows, and the original cast of Spring Awakening celebrated/advertised the documentary made last year for the show’s 15-year anniversary with a tender performance of “Touch Me.” Bernadette Peters performed “Children Will Listen” in a touching tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim. Some of the other show’s performances, most notably A Strange Loop, ran into clunky sound mixing issues that are not uncommon for the Tony Awards.
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Ariana DeBose hosted the ceremony, largely as a result of her recent, Oscar-winning performance as Anita in Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story.’ Her over-the-top energy got mixed reactions, and unfortunately her songs, despite her talents, were less than stellar. Her parody number about actors going into the audience left us with a hilarious segment where she sat in Andrew Garfield’s lap, but the rest of it felt truly strange.
Moving in the opposite direction of the Oscars, who seem to cut another award from the broadcast each year, Paramount+ offered a streaming-exclusive segment of the ceremony that covered the tech awards, as well as the honorary awards including Angela Lansbury’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Darren Criss and Julianne Hough hosted, and Criss wrote their opening number, a cute dedication to those who work behind-the-scenes that unfortunately outshined the main show’s opener.
A Brief Analysis
The 2022 Tony Awards leaned heavily into the fact that these are the first Tony Awards to be hosted in Radio City Hall since the first COVID shutdowns. The songs were big (if clunky), Ariana DeBose was as hyper as can be, and Billy Crystal had a blast getting the audience to do a call-and-response “Yiddish scat” that culminated in a theater-wide chant of “oy vey.” Throughout the night, awardees thanked COVID safety officers, but the message seems to be that Broadway is returning to normal.
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If you’ll be an audience member in the near future, however, you should know that masks are still required. As a matter of fact, the cast and crew of Company played up an inside joke about Chris Harper being the person who pays Patti LuPone’s salary that comes from a video of LuPone calling out an unmasked audience member. In it, the audience member says “We pay your salary,” to which an unphased Patti LuPone rebuts, “You pay my salary? Bullshit. Chris Harper pays my salary.” So just in case, the Tony Awards read to you as Broadway being mask-free, remember that attendees of the Tony Awards were all tested for COVID before entering the building.
Though it didn’t always show through in the award-winners, this year’s nominees represented an incredibly diverse array of creators, and perhaps more importantly than the nominees themselves, the production teams receiving awards were made up of more diverse faces than you usually see. In addition to all of that, Samuel L. Jackson took an opportunity to honor his wife Latanya Richardson Jackson for being “the first woman to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway.” Her production of The Piano Lesson will begin its run on September 19th and will feature Samuel L. Jackson. In the meantime, Jennifer Hudson earned EGOT status as a producer for A Strange Loop, rounding out her Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar awards with a Tony.
As always, the Tony Awards intended to showcase some of the best shows on Broadway, and if you have a ticket in an online checkout cart somewhere, hopefully, you saw plenty of reason to complete your purchase. Broadway, against all odds, has had an excellent year.
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The Tony Awards Winners
First up! The list. It’s what you came for. If you’re interested in contextualizing commentary after you see the results, however, stick around.
Best Book of a Musical
A Strange Loop (Michael R. Jackson)
Best Original Score
SIX: The Musical (Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss)
Best Revival of a Play
Best Revival of a Musical
Best Leading Actor in a Play
Simon Russell Beale (The Lehman Trilogy)
Best Leading Actress in a Play
Deirdre O’Connell (Dana H.)
Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Myles Frost (MJ)
Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Take Me Out)
Best Featured Actress in a Play
Phylicia Rashad (Skeleton Crew)
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Matt Doyle (Company)
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone (Company)
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Es Devlin (The Lehman Trilogy)
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bunny Christie (Company)
Best Costume Design of a Play
Montana Levi Blanco (The Skin of Our Teeth)
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gabriella Slade (SIX: The Musical)
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Jon Clark (The Lehman Trilogy)
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz (MJ)
Best Sound Design of a Play
Mikhail Fiksel (Dana H.)
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Gareth Owen (MJ)
Best Direction of a Play
Sam Mendes (The Lehman Trilogy)
Best Direction of a Musical
Marianne Elliott (Company)
Christopher Wheeldon (MJ)
Simon Hale (The Girl From the North Country)
By Kevin Hauger
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