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A rollicking good Tony Awards this year with "Hadestown" dominating

by Nathaniel R

The Tony Awards are -- very generally speaking -- the best produced awards show of the majors. Though their Emmy category keeps changing consider this: In the past 12 years of the Emmys, the Tony Awards have won their category 8 times from 11 nominations, missing a nomination only once. The Oscars and the Globes and the Grammys could never; Their combined total of wins and nominations in that same 12 year time frame is 0 out of 20. Last night at the 73rd annual Tony Awards, the American Theatre Wing demonstrating again why they're always a threat as "Best" with a remarkably sincere but funny and entertaining show with a plethora of fantastic acceptance speeches and exciting musical performances. The musical Hadestown and the epic play The Ferryman were the big winners with 8 and 4 wins respectively.

After the jump some of our own 'Best' proclamations of the night, the full winners list, and awards trivia...

Best James Corden musical number
Though Corden's vocals on the very busy show opener were a bit breathless and strained at times, he recovered with an overall winning performances as host. His "James in the Bathroom," a spoof of the popular song "Michael in the Bathroom" from the Tony-shunned show Be More Chill found him on the toilet worrying that he was doing a terrible job of hosting. Funny lyrics and even funnier cameos from past hosts ended with a perfect punchline from Neil Patrick Harris. 

Best audience-bit
Corden, making fun of Broadway's annual sweet love-in, asked the audience to share their beefs to get a Cardi B/Nicki Minaj style "beef" to goose up declining ratings for the show. Each time the "beef" swiftly turned to a love in. Andrew Rannells was pissed that Darren Criss didn't attend his birthday party before realizing he'd gotten his e-mail address wrong (how many fans do you think emailed "" immediately, to see if it actually existed?). The bit attended with an utterly hilarious bit when Tony magnet Audra McDonald claimed that she thought she saw Laura Linney in the audience flipping her off at a recent matinee performance of Frankie & Johnny. Cut to a close up of The Lovely Laura Linney with deadpan defiance and delicious comic timing: "...Yeah, that was me." Our wigs were snatched! We couldn't stop laughing at the viewing party.

Best Musical Performance
[TIE] The exciting and moody performance from Hadestown (beautiful singing, exciting lighting) surely sold a bunch of tickets -- it made us even more desperate to see the frequently sold-out show. On the other hand, in an unusual move the Tonys included a musical number from a closed play Choir Boy. The number reminded us of how thrilling parts of that show were. Everyone at our party agreed that the play about homophobia at an all black boys school and how it affects the star of their choir would make a great movie if the right team optioned it. It was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney of Moonlight fame. 

Runner up: The controversial but thrilling revival of Oklahoma! made a smart move kicking off their alloted performance with a whole verse from "I Cain't Say No" in order to feature Ali Stroker's genius interpretation of Ado Annie which then swiftly won a much-deserved Featured Actress trophy.

Best New (?) Thing
I don't recall seeing this at a previous Tony's show but last night they let the nominated playwrights give 60 second speeches about their plays. Some went political (Tarell Alvin McCraney), others personal (Heidi Schreck and Jez Butterworth) and then there was the ever amazing Taylor Mac talking Gary: A Sequel to Titus Adronicus. It was wonderful to see plays honored on the Tonys in a unique way since generally the night is all about the musicals. 

Best Presenter
Kristin Chenoweth's physical comedy during her presentation of The Prom's musical performance, visibly reacting to the words "fading Broadway star" and "narcissists" and such with hilarious 'is this about me?' annoyance. 

Best Speech
If there was a defining theme of the night it was great speeches. With an abundance of fine speeches to choose from I think we have to call it a tie between Andre de Shields listing his three secrets to his longevity, and Elaine May's bluntly honest entirely gracious speech in which she mapped out exactly how she won -- and what a bouquet of roses that speech was to Lucas Hedges as her grandson, right?



Best Musical Hadestown
Best Revival Oklahoma! 
Best Score Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown
This is only the third time a score written solely by women has won after Kinky Boots and Fun Home, and all three of those shows are from the past 7 years! 
Best Book Robert Horn, Tootsie
Best Direction Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown (2nd nomination)

Stephanie J Block should play Sandra Bullock's sister in a movie!

Best Leading Actress Stephanie J Block, The Cher Show (3rd nomination)
Best Leading Actor Santino Fontana, Tootsie (2nd nomination)
Best Featured Actress Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!
She's the first performer in a wheelchair ever nominated for acting and she won, too!
Best Featured Actor André de Shields, Hadestown (3rd nomination)
Best Scenic Design Rachel Hauck, Hadestown
Best Costume Design Bob Mackie, The Cher Show 
Best Lighting Design Bradley King, Hadestown (2nd win!)
Best Sound Design Nevin Steinberg (2nd nomination) & Jessica Paz, Hadestown
Paz is the first female winner in this category
Best Choreography Sergio Trujillo, Aint Too Proud (2nd nomination)
Best Orchestrations Michael Charney & Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown 


Best Play The Ferryman
Best Revival Boys in the Band
Best Direction Sam Mendes, The Ferryman (5th win)
Best Leading Actress Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery
Best Leading Actor Bryan Cranston, Network (2nd win)
Best Featured Actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird (her 4th nomination)
Best Featured Actor Bertie Carvel, Ink
Best Scenic Design Rob Howell, The Ferryman 
Best Costume Design Rob Howell, The Ferryman (3rd win)
Best Lighting Design Neil Austin, Ink (3rd win... also won last year for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
Best Sound Design Fitz Patton, Choir Boy

After effects of all this? We'd expect closing notices soon for The Prom (which didn't win anything) and Be More Chill (which only had 1 nomination) and King Kong (unless that brief bit detailing the special Tony Award for their puppetry team boosted their advance sales). We also wouldn't be surprised to see Oklahoma!, scheduled to close in January 2020, extended to run further into 2020 if the Tony wins give them strong advance sales.

EGOT movement? The legendary designer Bob Mackie won his first Tony at age 79. He'd never even been nominated despite designing for several shows in the past. He already has 9 Emmys but sadly he never won an Oscar after 3 nominations (Funny Lady, Pennies from Heaven, Lady Sings the Blues). In his acceptance speech he quoted Ruth Gordon's famous Oscar speech for Rosemary's Baby about 'how encouraging a thing like this is,' a joke about his advanced age as if he's a rising star.

Ryan Murphy who has won 6 Emmys, collects his first Tony for the revival of Boys in the Band. (He also has one Grammy nomination for the first Glee soundtrack but didn't win)

Bryan Cranston (multiple Emmy winner) and Sam Mendes (Oscar winner) won Tonys last night but they were already Tony winners so there's no change in their status. 

A lot of the nominees from the Tonys are in shows from limited runs or shows which had already posted closing notices so if you're in the NYC area and want to catch up on these productions are all shuttering soon:

Kiss Me Kate (closing June 30th)
All My Sons (closing June 30th)
Ink (closing July 7th)
My Fair Lady (closing July 7th -- from last year's Tony)
Burn This (closing July 14th)
Hillary & Clinton (closing July 21st)
What the Constitution Means to Me (closing August 24th)

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Reader Comments (27)

I agree it's the best awards show to watch but last night I couldn't tell if we were in 2006, 2012 or 2019.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

The "Cher impersonation" we saw onstage was an insult to Cher impersonation, I'm not sorry to say. Can't believe that lady won—she was lucky to be nominated!

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

I wasn't really a big fan on Corden, but I guess he was fine. I probably would've liked his opening number more if NPH's "We Were That Kid" opening hadn't happened. And yes, the Linney/McDonald beef saved that skit for me. I need a movie of THAT stat.

Glad you also called out "Michael in the Bathroom." I know the Tony's are more insider-y than most awards show, but would it have been too much work to credit which song they were parodying esp. one so small (and like you said might be closing). It IS a great song and it was also my fave Corden bit of the night.

Still need to see HADESTOWN and FERRYMAN but I'm pleased to see BOYS IN THE BAND and OKLAHOMA! win as well. The latter I need to see a 2nd time now after their rousing performance.

Finally, re: plays presentation, I vaguely remember them trying to do something like that a few years ago. It's... fine. But I don't get why we can't get a clips package. Don't the plays have to do photoshoots and whatnot for marketing? Build into their budget a 2-3 minute clip to use for the Tonys and voila. Would that be too impossible?

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Ryan T. -- They did excerpts of all the nominated plays back in the 80s and the 90s.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Playwrights introducing the Best Play nominees was the highlight of the night for me. I can't remember them doing it before, either, and it was wonderful.

I picked the same top performances, too, and lean a little more toward Choir Boy for being something so new and different for the Tony telecast. Hadestown is beautifully staged and didn't compromise on their staging.

Celia Keenan-Bolger was my favorite speech because it's the moment where people can finally say Celia Keenan-Bolger won a Tony award. It only took 14 years and 4 nominations for it to finally happen across musicals and plays. NBD.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Thrilled for Hadestown and Anaïs Mitchell. For those of you that liked the Hadestown performance, I strongly recommend checking out Anaïs Mitchell's music. She is a seriously talented singer-songwriter, and her album Young Man in America is exquisite.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

Gideon Glick is my future husband.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Wait, you didn't see Big Little Lies?

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Regina King attended the ceremony. Is it possible she has plans to triple crown?

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

The playwrights have been introducing their works for awhile now. I specifically remember Lynn Nottage introducing "Sweat" right after winning the Pulitzer again.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSy

I dimly recall the Tonys featuring live performance excerpts from nominated plays. If they can't go through all that *trouble* for their non-musical nominees, I think Ryan T's suggestion of video clips is a very sound one. Give the audiences at home a good taste of what the plays are about. As it is now they are demoting straight plays to second-class citizenship, and it's a shame.

BTW, the Laura Linney/Audra McDonald faux smackdown was the total highlight of the show for me.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Hadestown and Choir Boy took the night for me, though I was pleasantly surprised by Beetlejuice, and Prom looks like fun. All of the other musicals appeared to be either boring, uninspired, or a complete mess (looking at you, Ain't Too Proud and Cher).

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Troy -- the Prom is a ton of fun. I did NOT like Aint Too Proud but The Cher Show is kind of fun even though it's a mess.

/3rtful -- that'd be awesome but has she ever done stage? She's dfeinitely never been on Broadway.

Jorge -- watching it tonight. I always watch something if it's "live" and save the prerecorded things

Peggy Sue -- fight you for him.

June 10, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'll be curious to see how last night's results affect Oklahoma's sales and the length of its run. On the one hand, Tonys = tickets. On the other, its word of mouth will not be anywhere near as rosy as the critical acclaim suggests.

I saw Kiss Me Kate this weekend and was shocked to find that I loved it. Corbin Bleu is such a great dancer. He has a number-- not the one seen last night during the Tonys-- that bowled me over. It's probably my favorite dance performance I've ever seen on Broadway. I'm sad that it's closing so soon!

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm happy that Boys in the Band won!

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

So happy so Stephanie J Block. What a voice she has! I saw her perform at the Muny in St Louis in Cats and there was not a dry eye in the house.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I can't see the videos you share in the post :(

Fortunately i can watch (and rewatch) in YouTube the audience-bit you mentioned and i thought couldn't love Laura Linney more than i do but i was wrong.

June 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Nathaniel- And on a side note- where is the Big Little Lies Season 2 review??

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Jamie -- tomorrow. running behind.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Catherine O'Hara showing up with that black and white (Beetlejuice) outfit to present was just perfect. Always good value to get a little Delia/Moira humour.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Nathaniel- 👍👍👍

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Re Sam Mendes: Does a production company win count as a win for the individual? I'm not sure it does. It looks like the Tony Awards database only credits him with last night's win, unless I am missing something.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMatty

This show was just OK. The producers never seem to really know how to manage the show.

I though the Hadestown number (while beautiful) lacked the punch it delivers in the show as it really is the culmination of the first act. The Prom did well, highlighting almost everything the show exceeds at (just missing some Beth Leavel and Chris Sieber fun).

As for the winners, I still think the Prom deserved best book since Hadestown is really about mood & atmosphere as conveyed by the score and performances. Plus, the Prom deserved best choreography, which is wasn't even nominated for. While I enjoy Stephanie Block, this was clearly a "its time" win, rather than the actual performance since the Cher Show is a mess of a show.

I'd love to see Audra & Laura extend their "beef" as a running bit each year. The Tonys are such an insular awards show that they can pull this off. If the producers actually pay attention...

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRich

Excited to see both OKLAHOMA and HADESTOWN. And really glad for THE FERRYMAN--one of the most thrilling plays I've seen, with a perfect ending that I didn't see coming but that immediately felt inevitable.

Most of all, though, I'm sad about what this might mean for THE PROM. That show is a total delight. So much difficult artistry goes into making a "fun" piece like that look so easy.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterER

"The Cher Show" looked awful. Cher herself couldn't even save that trash. It must've been a super weak category for Block to prevail. First lead actress winner from a nonnominated musical or revival since ... when? "Aida"? That's almost 20 years!

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLaurence

I was like - where's Chad Michaels. She coulda had a Tony.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Really enjoyed this year's show, especially after having gotten to see so many of the nominated shows this year than I usually do. Very happy for the big wins for Hadestown and The Ferryman, two shows I really loved a lot this past season. Also would have been happy with What the Constitution Means to Me winning for Best Play, as I just saw it a couple weeks ago before the Tonys.

Of the performances, I think Oklahoma!, Choir Boy, and The Prom were my favorites of the night - Hadestown was fine but I think Way Down Hadestown or Road to Hell would have been better choices to show off its best elements (big ensemble cast, jazzy music, etc), but I enjoyed their performance either way. Oklahoma! is definitely on my list to see now after the Tonys.

My only gripe with this year's show was that I think they could have cut one of the bits or (two), or at least shortened them quite a bit, especially with the amount of awards that they left off the broadcast that could have been in their place. Some of the bits just went on way too long.

June 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan M

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