Tony Awards highlights: The big winners, losers, key moments

Nabil Anas

Global Courant


No script? No problem!

There was a lot of uncertainty leading up to this year’s Tony Awards, which at one point seemed unlikely due to the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike.

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But the ceremony went off without a hitch on Sunday evening. The event was scriptless, to honor a compromise with notable writers, but packed with high-spirited Broadway performances that drew loud cheers from an audience clearly thrilled to be there.

It was a night of triumph for the small-scale but big-hearted musical “Kimberly Akimbo,” about a teenager with a rare age-related illness, but also a night notable for inclusion: Two non-binary performers made history by winning their acting categories.

The ceremony also addressed the specter of anti-Semitism in very different places: World War II Europe, with best play winner “Leopoldstadt,” and early 20th century America, with “Parade,” winner for Best Musical Revival .

In the end, the lack of scripted banter didn’t dampen proceedings much, and no wonder: Broadway folks are trained in improv. And of course there was more room for singing and dancing — including from current shows that aren’t in competition — and no one was complaining about that.

Oh, and the show ended right on time.

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Oscars, are you listening?

Some key moments of the evening:


It wasn’t just the writers’ strike that changed the night. The location was also new. It was on Broadway, yes, but miles from the theater district. The ceremony first took place in uptown Washington Heights, at the ornate, gilded United Palace, an extravagantly decorated former movie theater filled with chandeliers and tapestries and majestic columns. “Thanks for coming to town — never in my wildest dreams,” quipped Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has helped bring events to the neighborhood location where he put his “In the Heights.” The after-party took place in tents outside the building instead of the usual festivities in the posh dining rooms of the Plaza Hotel near Central Park.

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Oscar winner and Broadway star Ariana DeBose, hosting for the second year in a row, immediately addressed the elephant in the room. Speaking to the audience before the broadcast began, she explained that nothing would be written and told the winners that the only words they would see on Teleprompters would be “finish please”. When the main broadcast began, she appeared on camera reading a Tony script, but the pages were blank. So instead of words, DeBose and others spoke with their dance moves, a brassy number in the theater’s main lobby, stairs and aisles, complete with gravity-defying jumps. Afterwards, DeBose warned anyone who might have thought he was “unhinged” last year to “Buckle up!” DeBose, who performed in the original cast of “Hamilton” and won an Oscar for “West Side Story,” also passionately explained why the Tonys are so crucial to Broadway’s economic survival, as well as touring productions throughout the world. country.


An early award brought a sobering reminder of the horrors of anti-Semitism. Brandon Uranowitz of “Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s compelling play about a Jewish family in Vienna, thanked the acclaimed playwright “for writing a play about Jewish identity and anti-Semitism and the false promise of assimilation,” and named his ancestors, “whose many that didn’t come from Poland, thanks too.” Uranowitz, who won for Leading Actor in a Play, added a humorous comment that the one thing he wanted most in life was to repay his parents for the sacrifices they made for him – only he could not, because he works in the theater.


“Leopoldstadt” went on to win best play, while best musical revival went to another scorching work about anti-Semitism: “Parade,” starring Ben Platt as Leo Frank, a Jewish man lynched in Georgia in 1915. In his Best Director acceptance speech, Michael Arden referred to the play’s bleak themes, noting, “We’ve got to fight this. It’s so, so important, or we’re doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.” But he added his own story of how, growing up, he was often referred to as the “F-word,” referring to a homophobic slur. He then earned some of the loudest cheers of the night as he triumphantly reclaimed the blemish while pointing out that he now had a Tony.

Alex Newell accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for “Shucked” at the 76th Annual Tony Awards on June 11, 2023. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)


It was an emotional moment when Alex Newell of “Shucked” became the first non-binary actor to win a Tony and take home the award for Best Actor in a Musical. Newell, aka “The Glee Project,” thanked close family for their love and support, then addressed the outside world: “Thanks for wanting to see me, Broadway. I shouldn’t be here as a weird, non-binary, fat, black, little baby from Massachusetts. And for anyone who thinks they can’t, I’m going to look you dead in the face and tell you that you can do anything you want.” Like the Oscars, the Tonys only have gender categories for performers.


J. Harrison Ghee was the second non-binary actor of the night to make history, winning the Best Actor in a Musical Award for their role in “Some Like It Hot”, based on the 1959 classic film, as a male musician who was on the run from the mafia in disguise. as a woman in what becomes a journey of gender discovery. (The film role involved disguise, but not discovery.) Ghee said they were raised not to use their gifts for themselves, but to help others. “For any trans, non-gender, non-binary human who’s ever been told not to be seen, this is for you,” Ghee said, tapping the Tony for emphasis.

Lea Michele, a cast member of ‘Funny Girl,’ performs at the 76th Annual Tony Awards on June 11, 2023. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)


Not to mix up show metaphors or anything, but Lea Michele wasn’t about to throw her shot away. The “Funny Girl” star was not considered for a Tony for that show because she didn’t come up with the role. But Michele, who turned the fortunes of the 2022 production, is seen by many as the quintessential Fanny Brice, and her beautiful belted rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” – actually the second time she performed it on the Tonys, the first in 2010 — certainly didn’t disappoint.


Most Tony visitors spent well over five hours in the United Palace and the room got quite warm. So people were happy to step out to the after party. Guests munched on ceviche, mangoes on sticks and mini Cuban sandwiches, and sipped specially designed cocktails. Ghee was a clear star of the party, towering over most of the guests – literally and figuratively – as they held their Tony and accepted well wishes or agreed to take selfies. Ghee also chatted with last year’s winner of the same award, Myles Frost, who played Michael Jackson in “MJ.” When asked about their main takeaway of the night, Ghee replied, “Our industry is moving forward! We’re erasing labels and boundaries and limits.” The actor wore a bright blue bespoke ensemble by Bronx designer Jerome LaMaar, with a choker of glittering jewels. “If you get it custom made, you can actually do something,” they joked.

Tony Awards highlights: The big winners, losers, key moments

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