2019 Tony Awards winners: 'Hadestown' earns top honours

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.”

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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.

WATCH BELOW: Nominees for 2019 Tony Awards announced

“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.

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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 Andre 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.

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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.

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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 per cent from last season. Attendance was 14.8 million — up 7.1 per cent — and has risen steadily for decades.

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See the full list of winners from the 2019 Tony Awards below.

Best Musical

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Beetlejuice

Hadestown **WINNER**

The Prom

Tootsie

Best Play

Choir Boy

The Ferryman **WINNER**

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ink

What the Constitution Means to Me

 

Best Revival of a Musical

Kiss Me, Kate

Oklahoma! **WINNER**

 

Best Revival of a Play

All My Sons

The Boys in the Band **WINNER**

Burn This

Torch Song

The Waverly Gallery

 

Best Book of a Musical

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations – Dominique Morisseau

Beetlejuice – Scott Brown and Anthony King

Hadestown – Anaïs Mitchell

The Prom – Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin

Tootsie – Robert Horn **WINNER**

 

Best Original Score

Beetlejuice – music and lyrics: Eddie Perfect

Be More Chill – music and lyrics: Joe Iconis

Hadestown – music and lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell **WINNER**

The Prom – music by Matthew Sklar; lyrics by Chad Beguelin

Tootsie – music and lyrics: David Yazbek

To Kill a Mockingbird – music by Adam Guettel

 

Best Direction of a Play

Rupert Goold, Ink

Sam Mendes, The Ferryman **WINNER**

Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird

Ivo van Hove, Network

George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

 

Best Direction of a Musical

Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown **WINNER**

Scott Ellis, Tootsie

Daniel Fish, Oklahoma!

Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

 

Best Leading Actor in a Play

Bryan Cranston, Network **WINNER**

Paddy Considine, The Ferryman

Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

Adam Driver, Burn This

Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

 

Best Leading Actress in a Play

Annette Bening, All My Sons

Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery **WINNER**

Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton

Heidi Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

 

Best Leading Actor in a Musical

Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom

Derrick Baskin, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice

Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!

Santino Fontana, Tootsie **WINNER**

 

Best Leading Actress in a Musical

Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show **WINNER**

Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom

Beth Leavel, The Prom

Eva Noblezada, Hadestown

Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

 

Best Featured Actor in a Play

Bertie Carvel, Ink **WINNER**

Robin de Jesús, The Boys in the Band

Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird

Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

Benjamin Walker, All My Sons

 

Best Featured Actress in a Play

Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman

Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird **WINNER**

Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ruth Wilson, King Lear

 

Best Featured Actor in a Musical

André De Shields, Hadestown **WINNER**

Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie

Patrick Page, Hadestown

Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie

Amber Gray, Hadestown

Sarah Stiles, Tootsie

Ali Stroker, Oklahoma! **WINNER**

Mary Testa, Oklahoma!

 

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird

Bunny Christie, Ink

Rob Howell, The Ferryman **WINNER**

Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Jan Versweyveld, Network

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Robert Brill and Peter Nigrini, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Peter England, King Kong

Rachel Hauck, Hadestown **WINNER**

Laura Jellinek, Oklahoma!

David Korins, Beetlejuice

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Rob Howell, The Ferryman **WINNER**

Toni-Leslie James, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Clint Ramos, Torch Song

Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

 

Best Costume Design of a Play

Michael Krass, Hadestown

William Ivey Long, Tootsie

William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

Bob Mackie, The Cher Show **WINNER**

Paul Tazewell, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Ink **WINNER**

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Peter Mumford, The Ferryman

Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, Network

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, The Cher Show

Howell Binkley, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Bradley King, Hadestown **WINNER**

Peter Mumford, King Kong

Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

 

Best Sound Design in a Play

Adam Cork, Ink

Scott Lehrer, To Kill a Mockingbird

Fitz Patton, Choir Boy **WINNER**

Nick Powell, The Ferryman

Eric Sleichim, Network

 

Best Sound Design in a Musical

Peter Hylenski, King Kong

Peter Hylenski, Beetlejuice

Steve Canyon Kennedy, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Drew Levy, Oklahoma!

Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz, Hadestown **WINNER**

 

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy

Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

Denis Jones, Tootsie

David Neumann, Hadestown

Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations **WINNER**

 

Best Orchestrations

Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown **WINNER**

Simon Hale, Tootsie

Larry Hochman, Kiss Me, Kate

Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!

Harold Wheeler, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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