The Lehman Trilogy, Company, A Strange Loop, MJ and Sweet Charity were among the big winners at tonight’s Tony Awards. And Sweet Charity wasn’t even staged this season.
Credit Ariana DeBose for the blink-and-miss-it shout-out to the Bob Fosse classic — and for much else that went right with tonight’s fast-moving ceremony broadcast on CBS. When DeBose, who has mentioned Sweet Charity as being on her Broadway wish list, pulled American Buffalo nominee Sam Rockwell from the audience to do a quick bit of “Rich Man’s Frug” from the great 1966 musical, she made a case both for a revival and for her stake as one of the Tonys’ great hosts.
DeBose will crop up more than once on this list of highlights from tonight’s broadcast. So will MJ, Patti LuPone’s salary and that “big, Black and queer-ass musical” (in RuPaul’s memorable description) A Strange Loop.
Ariana DeBose got things off to a quick and enjoyable start with an opening musical number that paid tribute to Broadway classics including Cabaret, Pippin, The Wiz, The Sound of Music, Hamilton, Rent, A Chorus Line and West Side Story, among many, many others. The segment even included some nice clips of old acceptance speeches — how great to see Michael Bennett and Daisy Eagan again? If anything, the number was a bit too crammed with good stuff and requires at least one replay to catch all the references. Another quibble: Where was the reaction shot of LuPone when DeBose did Evita?
Tony Awards Host Ariana DeBose Hails Broadway Diversity In High-Energy Show Opening: “‘The Great White Way’ Is Becoming More Of A Nickname Than A How-To Guide”
MJ, Paradise Square and A Strange Loop were the clear winners when it came to tonight’s performances. With Myles Frost leading the charge of MJ‘s “Smooth Criminal” and Joaquina Kalukango setting the stage afire with her searing “Let It Burn” from Paradise Square, both productions should see some action at the box office this week. And the performance of “Intermission Song” by Jaquel Spivey and the cast of A Strange Loop was a fine introduction to a hard-to-encapsulate musical that deserves all the love and attention it gets.
Deirdre O’Connell, who won the Lead Actress in a Play Tony for her brilliant, lip-synced performance in Dana H., delivered an acceptance speech for the ages: “I would love for this little prize to be a token for every person who is wondering should I be trying to make something that could work on Broadway and could win me a Tony Award, or should I make the weird art that is haunting me, that frightens me, that I don’t know how to make, that I don’t know if anyone in the whole world will understand, please let me standing her be a little sign from the universe to make the weird art.”