The Tony Awards are back, baby. After a whopping 15-month postponement, the 74th Tony Awards ceremony finally took place today. It was hosted by Audra McDonald, six-time Tony Award winner and my actual fave, while Leslie Odom Jr. hosted the aftershow concert.
ICYDK, today’s ceremony was actually the ceremony that should’ve taken place last year. As such, the shows eligible for the awards are from the 2019-2020 season. As you may know, being that you live in this world, the pandemic hit and so that season itself was cut short. That’s why this year’s Tony Awards has a very short list of nominees: Ultimately, only 18 shows were eligible.
So yes, this was one of the stranger showings. While it recognizes great work in Broadway theater as a whole, the Tonys is also very much a musical theater show made by and for musical theater nerds. That makes it all the more egregious that out of the 18 shows eligible this year, only three were musicals: “Moulin Rouge,” “Jagged Little Pill,” and “Tina.”
I’ll tell you who won this year: “Moulin Rouge,” “Jagged Little Pill,” and “Tina.” While the first was what won best musical and gained the most wins, all three musicals had their own wins. It’s kind of hard not to win anything when you’re competing against only two other shows.
The same cannot be said for the non-musical plays. “The Inheritance,” the seven-hour epic about gay men post-AIDS crisis which is based on “Howards End” by E.M. Forster, won best play. The controversial show “Slave Play,” which tackles interracial relationships and racism, did not win a single award. This is despite it having received 12 nominations, a record-breaking number for non-musical plays.
Okay, now onto the good stuff: My boy, the golden sun turned man Aaron Tveit won his first ever Tony!!! Of course, this was sort of a foregone conclusion. After all, with all the cut-offs and limited eligibility, he became the only nominee for best leading actor of a musical this year, which is the first time that’s ever happened at the Tonys. However, there was still a very definite possibility that the Tony Awards voting body could have chosen to abstain their vote instead of cast it for him. As the Washington Post noted, “[He] still [had] to get at least 60 percent of the affirmative votes.” And that he did!
Wearing an all-white suit and graciously leaving his uncropped, dirty blonde locks flowing freely, Tveit teared up through multiple points of his speech.
“For all the nominees and voters—nominators and voters,” he joked in the beginning of his acceptance speech, before thanking loved ones and colleagues.
“We are so privileged to get to do this, to be on Broadway. Let’s continue to tell the stories that represent the many and not the few, by the many and not the few, for the many and not the few,” he said. “What we do changes people’s lives and changes people’s minds and hearts. We can change the world with this. Let’s not forget that. This means more to me than I can ever say.” The social impact that he’s talking about is maybe a little too dramatic considering he was in “Moulin Rouge,” but I’m letting him have his moment.
Tveit wasn’t the only one who won his first Tony today. Adrienne Warren won her first Tony after absolutely bodying Tina Turner in “Tina.” She gave a tearful yet funny speech, both honoring the family members she lost—“I lost three family members while playing Tina”—thanking Turner for trusting her, and joking about not getting in shape anymore for the show. “[I got] in shape three times, and I’m not doing it again.” Danny Burnstein finally won his first Tony after seven nominations, and the Lois Smith became the oldest person to win a Tony after winning her first Tony at 90 for “The Inheritance.”
Director Kenny Leon gave a very emotional speech after “Soldier’s Play” won best revival. After shouting the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd three times, he stressed, “All lives are precious.” He also called for more diversity, saying, “No diss to Shakespeare, no diss to Ibsen, to Chekhov, to Shaw. They’re all at the table. But the table’s got to be bigger.”
Earlier in her opening monologue, McDonald also spoke about Broadway needing to be more diverse. “Broadway is back, and it must and will be better,” she said. It feels a little pointed now, knowing that the Tonys completely shut out “Slave Play.”
Let’s talk performances. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel came on stage to sing “For Good” from “Wicked,” making a generation of theater nerds absolutely bawl while remembering their originating turns as Glinda and Elphaba on the musical. Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp also came on stage to briefly revive their old roles, this time calling back to their turn as Roger and Mark from “Rent.”
The Black-led organization Broadway Advocacy Coalition which won a Special Tony, also gave a stunning piece on silence. It was formed by members of the Broadway community and activists, including Amber Iman and Adrienne Warren, in response to the death of Trayvon Martin. “Silence is no longer golden when talk is cheap and actions are hollow, empty like safes with nothing invested, because there’s nothing safe about an individual or institution that is uninvested in the safety of others,” Daniel J. Watts said in his spoken word piece, with dancers tap dancing around him.