“Hadestown” ruled the Tonys Sunday night, winning eight, including Best Musical.
Director Rachel Chavkin gave a shout-out to Iowa in her acceptance speech (her husband is a Davenport native) and put a pitch in for more female directors. “There are so many women who are ready to go,” she said. “There are so many artists of color 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.”
Ali Stroker suggested change was afoot by becoming the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony for acting. She captured the Best Featured Actress/Musical prize for her work in “Oklahoma!” "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 — you are," she said.
Others delivered strong speeches as well, including Bryan Cranston, who said, “The media is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people.” He won Best Actor/Play for his role as an out-of-control anchorman in “Network.”
Also winning: Best Actor/Musical: Santino Fontana, “Tootsie”; Best Actress/Musical: Stephanie J. Block, “The Cher Show”; Best Featured Actor/Musical: Andre De Shields, “Hadestown”; Best Actress/Play: Elaine May, “The Waverly Gallery”; Best Featured Actor/Play: Bertie Carvel, “Ink”; Best Featured Actress/Play: Celia Keenan-Bolger, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“The Ferryman” won four awards, including Best Play; “The Cher Show” won two (including Best Costumes for Bob Mackie, who has been designing Cher’s clothes for decades).
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"Oklahoma!" won the prize for Best Revival of a Musical; "The Boys in the Band" was honored as Best Revival of a Play.
Hosted by James Corden, the show featured a fun opening number, selections from the nominated musicals and some “in the audience” moments with actors. The highlight: Laura Linney and Audra McDonald squaring off for a fight. The two provided live acting at its best.
Of the nominated musicals, “The Prom” probably got the biggest bump, largely because the excerpt gave a good overview of the story and the energetic dancing. “Hadestown” offered a taste of its show, but it’s likely folks back home had no clue what it was about. Sound problems popped up now and then and Corden managed to have a nice moment with past hosts Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban and Neil Patrick Harris in a men’s room, singing a number from “Be More Chill.”
Samuel L. Jackson was the biggest name in attendance, but he wasn’t the most outrageously dressed. Billy Porter, a Best Actor winner for “Kinky Boots,” wore an outfit that was made out of the curtain from that show. Clearly, he had a lock on the red carpet.
That opening number referenced the big paychecks that come from television roles and it was obvious the crowd had plenty of those people in attendance – Broadway vets who are now TV staples. Among them: Jim Parsons, Kristin Chenoweth, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Linney.
For folks who don’t go to Broadway shows, Sunday’s event was a good sampler of what they might expect to see in the next few years when tours begin. Likely, “The Prom,” “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Hadestown” will be coming to a theater near you.