The company of “Hadestown,” accept the award for best musical at the 73rd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 9, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Tony highlights: A historic win and a strong night for women

Broadway favourites Santino Fontana and Stephanie J. Block took the top musical acting prizes

When effervescent actress Ali Stroker came onstage to accept her historic trophy as the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony, it wasn’t just the feel-good moment of the night. It may have been one of the most joyous Tony moments in years.

The crowd jumped to its feet in unison as Stroker, who won best featured actress in a musical for a sexy, saucy performance as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!” arrived onstage.

“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena,” she said. “You are.”

The buoyant moment was emblematic of a feel-good evening at the Tonys that featured crowd-pleasing performances, a Broadway-loving host in the form of James Corden and a theme of inclusivity. The big winner: “Hadestown,” the soulful musical by Anais Mitchell based on an ancient Greek myth, which triumphed over much more traditionally commercial fare.

The victory of “Hadestown” was also notable for the number of women it brought to the podium; it was not only written by a woman but also directed by one, and producer Mara Isaacs accepted the award. Director Rachel Chavkin won her own Tony, as did Mitchell for best score. In all, “Hadestown” won eight Tonys.

But despite a great night for a show that began its long, improbable journey to Broadway as a community theatre project in rural Vermont, Chavkin echoed a note of frustration about the persistent lack of diversity on creative teams.

“I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season,” she said. “There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of colour who are ready to go. … This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be.”

The acting awards brought a slew of satisfying victories for beloved veterans. Comic legend Elaine May, 87, won her first Tony for playing an Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery,” charming the crowd with a witty acceptance speech.

And Broadway favourites Santino Fontana and Stephanie J. Block took the top musical acting prizes. Fontana won his first Tony as the cross-dressing lead in “Tootsie,” an adaptation of the 1982 Dustin Hoffman comedy about a struggling actor who impersonates a woman to get cast in a show.

The actor paid tribute to his late grandmother, a “fiery, red-headed woman” who, he revealed, was an inspiration for his performance: “Every day I get to bring her into the room, and it has been the best experience of my life.”

Block earned her own first Tony for playing a real-life legend — Cher. In an ebullient speech, she told her young daughter: “Mommy won a trophy but like I always tell you, it’s not about winning; it’s about showing up, doing your best, loving all people and finding joy along the way.”

Yet another veteran winning his first Tony — at 73 — was André De Shields, best featured actor in a musical for his silky smooth narrator in “Hadestown.” He thanked his hometown of Baltimore and offered “three cardinal rules of my sustainability and longevity.”

“One, surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming,” he said. “Two, slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be. And three, the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.”

Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman,” a sweeping Irish family drama, was crowned best play. Butterworth asked the crowd to give his partner, actress Laura Donnelly, a round of applause for giving birth to their two children while appearing in the drama. Her own family tragedy inspired him to write the play.

And in one of the most poignant moments of the night, Sergio Trujillo won the choreography prize for “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations,” thanking his Colombian family.

He said in his speech that he arrived in New York over three decades ago without legal permission.

“I stand here as proof that the American dream is alive,” he said.

Speaking later at the Plaza Hotel after-party, Trujillo was so moved that he was reduced to tears.

“I have to be able to use my success as a way to inspire and effect change,” he said. “This is what happens,” he said, pointing to the Tony in his hands, “when we get the love and support that we so richly deserve.”

Bryan Cranston won his second Tony for best actor in a play as newscaster Howard Beale in the inventive stage adaptation of the 1976 film “Network.”

“Finally, a straight old white man gets a break!” he joked, riffing on the evening’s theme of inclusivity. He dedicated his award to real-life journalists: “The media is not the enemy of the people,” he said, in what amounted to the evening’s most obvious jab at the Trump administration.

Corden, in his second stint as host, scored audience points with his obvious affection for Broadway. Among his amusing bits was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to raise ratings by trying to provoke a Nicki Minaj-Cardi B-style beef between Broadway figures.

But his most successful bit may have been one the television audience never saw. During commercial breaks, Corden implored celebrities to sing karaoke.

The huge hit was Billy Porter. After first protesting that he “wasn’t here to work tonight,” Porter, a former Tony winner for “Kinky Boots,” belted his way through “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy,” earning the crowd’s adoration.

Best featured actress in a play went to Celia Keenan-Bolger for her role as Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Bertie Carvel won best featured actor in a play for “Ink,” about Rupert Murdoch.

Legendary designer Bob Mackie won best costume design for a musical for “The Cher Show,” getting laughs for saying “This is very encouraging for an 80-year-old.”

The dark retelling of “Oklahoma!” beat the crowd-pleasing, dance-heavy revival of “Kiss Me, Kate” for best musical revival. “The Boys in the Band” won best play revival.

The awards cap a strong season for Broadway, with a reported record $1.8 billion in sales, up 7.8% from last season. Attendance was 14.8 million — up 7.1% — and has risen steadily for decades.

ALSO READ: Buy your own dinosaur fossil for as low as $7

ALSO READ: Raptors remain all-business on eve of what could be historic victory

___

Associated Press writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.

Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Four charges approved in Saanich hit and run that left woman in coma

‘This was a significant crash that caused serious injuries,’ say police

Crown alleges resentment of ex-wife drove Oak Bay father to kill his daughters

Patrick Weir alleged in his closing arguments that Andrew Berry is responsible for the deaths of his daughters

Tour de Rock kicks off on Saturday morning

The 22nd annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock ride will take two weeks to complete

One-man Frankenstein show coming to Craigdarroch Castle

The Halloween special will kick off at the beginning of October

MISSING: Victoria man Cameron Johnston

VicPD are looking for a missing 36-year-old man

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Many demonstaers were kids and teens who skipped school to take part

Former B.C. lifeguard gets house arrest for possession of child porn

Cees Vanderniet of Grand Forks will serve six months of house arrest, then two years’ probation

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

VIDEO: Fire destroys Williams Lake strip club targeted by past arson attempts

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, as well as New World Tea and Coffee House

Trudeau seeks meeting with Singh to apologize for blackface, brownface photos

‘I will be apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian,’ Trudeau said Friday

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

Charges stayed against Alberta RCMP officer in alleged off-duty Whistler assault

Const. Vernon Hagen instead completed an alternative measures program

Most Read