J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell are the first to make history

Nabil Anas

Global Courant

Tony Awards history was made Sunday when Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee became the first non-binary people to win Tony’s for performing while the Broadway community continued despite a Hollywood writers’ strike that left the biggest theater night unscripted.

“Thanks for humanity. Thank you for my incredible company that raised me every day,” said Ghee, the winner for Leading Actor in a Musical for “Some Like It Hot,” the adaptation of the classic cross-dressing comedy.

The soulful Ghee wowed audiences with their vocal and dancing skills, playing a Chicago musician on the run from gangsters, trying on a dress and being transformed.

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Newell, who plays Lulu – an independent whiskey distiller whom no one needs in ‘Shucked’ – blows the audience away with their signature song ‘Independently Owned’.

“Thanks for seeing me, Broadway. I shouldn’t be here as a weird, non-binary, fat, black little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone who thinks they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in the face that you can do anything you set your mind to,” Newell said to an ovation after winning Best Actor in a Musical.

A total of 26 Tony Awards were handed out on Sunday for a season of 40 new productions – 15 musicals, 24 plays and a special engagement during the first full season after the pandemic.

“Kimberly Akimbo,” an intimate, funny-sad musical, pushed aside splashy rivals on Sunday to win Best Musical.

Victoria Clark, as the show’s lead, added a second Tony to her trophy cabinet, having won one in 2005 for “The Light in the Piazza.”

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Tom Stoppard’s ‘Leopoldstadt’, which explores Jewish identity through an intergenerational narrative, won Best Play and also earned awards for director Patrick Marber, actor Brandon Uranowitz and Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes.

Stoppard, the British-Czech playwright who has now won five Tony Awards for Best Play, joked that he won his first in 1968, saying playwrights were “gradually devaluing in the food chain” despite being “the sharp ends of the inverted pyramid”.

Host Ariana DeBose opened a blank script backstage before dancing and making her way to open the main show with a frantic opening number that gave a jolt of electricity to what is normally a happy, safe and fun evening. The writers’ strike forced the legendary awards show celebrating the best of musical theater and plays to rely on spontaneity in a new location far from the theater district.

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Before the pre-show began, DeBose revealed to the audience the only words that would be seen on the teleprompter: “Please walk off.” Later in the evening, almost out of breath after her wordless performance, she thanked the union organizers for allowing a compromise.

Winners showed their solidarity with the standout writers on stage or on the red carpet with pins. Miriam Silverman, who won the Tony for Best Actress in a Play for “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” ended her speech by saying, “My parents raised me to believe in the power of labor and workers being paid and treated fairly. . We stand in solidarity with the WGA!”

Jodie Comer, the three-time Emmy-nominated star of “Killing Eve,” won Leading Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut, the one-woman show “Prima Facie,” which illustrates how current laws fail terribly when it comes to sexual abuse cases.

Sean Hayes won the lead role in a play for “Good Night, Oscar,” which dramatizes a long night journey into the battered psyche of the late pianist Oscar Levant, now obscure but once a TV star.

“This must be the first time an Oscar has won a Tony,” Hayes said. (That’s not it.)

The show took place at the United Palace Theater, in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a new venue for the ceremony, many miles from Times Square and the theater district.

J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell are the first to make history

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