NEW YORK — Every year, the New York theater world is on display at the American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards, an Oscar-like glitzfest that recognizes the best plays, musicals, revivals and all things Broadway.
The 68th Annual Tony Awards Sunday night did not disappoint.
In fact, when the Tony host, actor Hugh Jackman, sang “On Broadway” to the bejeweled and tuxedoed audience at Radio City Music Hall, there was adoration in the air. But there was suspense too. Of the five nominees in each of the 26 Tony categories, who would win?
A sixth Tony makes history
When Audra MacDonald won the award for best actress in a play for her portrayal of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, it was her sixth Tony Award - the most ever received by a single actor. And history was on McDonald’s mind as she accepted the trophy.
“I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and courageous women that I am standing on,” she began. “I am standing on Lena Horne’s shoulders. I am standing on Maya Angelou’s shoulders. I am standing on Dianne Carroll and Ruby Dee.”
Macdonald reserved her deepest gratitude for Billie Holiday. “You deserved so much more than you got when you were on this planet. This is for you, Billie. Thank you so much.”
“All the Way,” by Robert Schenkkan, won the Tony for best play. It is about U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, during his first year in office, when he managed to maneuver the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a reluctant Congress.
When Bryan Cranston won the Tony for best actor in a play for his portrayal of Johnson, he seemed to struggle at first for words. “Oh my goodness. Oh, dear Lord,” were his initial words.
Tony Night offered musical surprises. Jessie Mueller, star of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which profiles the iconic singer-songwriter most famous for her 1971 album “Tapestry,” sang “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
This was followed by Carole King herself singing one of her own songs.
When Mueller was awarded the Tony for best actress in a musical, as many had expected, she thanked King for her inspiration. She also acknowledged her parents, who were among the beaming guests.
“My parents are actors and they raised four kids and they sent them all to college. And I just love you guys. It’s true. I’m not making that up!”
“Gentleman’s Guide” wins big
The Tony awards climaxed with the announcement that the comedy “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” had won best musical. It was the show’s fourth win of the night. When producer Joey Parnes accepted the trophy on behalf of the musical, he seemed to speak for all of Broadway.
“We all do what we do in the theater because we believe it matters,” he said. “Theater nourishes the soul and gets us to feel and think and see things differently. This is what drives us.” He added that the good will and collaborative spirit that flows through each of us on this show, and on all shows everywhere… is a great gift. Thank you for embracing that gift and thank you for giving us another one!”