NEW YORK – “Moulin Rouge! The Musical, ”a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 hyperactive film, won the Best New Musical crown at the Tony Awards on Sunday night as Broadway looked back on honors programs closed by COVID-19, mourning its downfall and also looking forward to welcome the audience again.
The show about the course of a Parisian nightclub at the turn of the century, updated with melodies like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” along with the big hit “Lady Marmalade”, won 10 Tonys. The record is 12, won by “The Producers”.
Producer Carmen Pavlovic said that after what Broadway has been through the last 18 months, it felt strange to be considered the best. She dedicated the award to every show that closed, opened, nearly opened or was lucky enough to be reborn.
“The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez was named the best new piece, and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” won Best Resurrection.
Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour epic uses “Howards End” as the starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. It also gave victories to Andrew Burnap as best actor in a play, Stephen Daldry as best director and Lois Smith as best actress in a prominent role in a play.
Thomas Kirdahy, a producer, dedicated the award to her late husband, playwright Terrence McNally. Lopez, the first Latin writer to win in the category, encouraged several plays to be produced from the Latin community. “We have so many stories in us that hurt to get out. Let us tell you our stories, ”he said.
The pandemic delayed broadcast started with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from original Broadway cast members in “Hairspray!” Jennifer Holliday also took the stage to deliver an unforgettable rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”
The singers performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theater. Host Audra McDonald received a standing ovation as she took the stage. “You can not stop the pace. The heart of New York City! ” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical ”won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a prominent actor Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut, and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best instruction for a musical.
Not surprisingly, Aaron Tveit won the award for Best Leading Actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The musical. “It was because he was the only person nominated in the category. He thanked a long list of people, including his parents, brother, agents, manager and cast. “We are so privileged to be allowed to do this,” he said, tearing up. “Because what we do changes people’s lives.”
Burstein, who won for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and had not won six previous times, thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death of his wife, Rebecca Lukers last year. “You were there for us, whether you just sent a note or sent your love, sent your prayers – sent bagels – it meant the world to us, and it’s something I will never forget.”
David Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in “A Soldier’s Play,” which dissects entrenched black-and-white racism as well as internal divisions in the black military community during World War II. “To my other nominees: Hard bananas, I won,” he said. On stage, director Kenny Leon recited the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, killed by police. “We will never ever forget you.”
Adrienne Warren won Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her electric tour as Tina Turner in “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren was considered the frontrunner for the award thanks to becoming a one-woman fireball of energy and enthusiasm. She dedicated the victory to three family members she lost while playing Turner – and even thanked Turner.
Mary-Louise Parker won her second-best lead actor Tony Award, and won for playing a Yale professor who appreciates great literature but has left no room for anything to share that love with in “The Sound Inside.” She thanked her dog as she walked in the rain when she came across Mandy Greenfield from the Williamstown Theater Festival who told her about the play.
Burnap debuted on Broadway in “The Legacy.” He thanked his mother and the University of Rhode Island and joked that he felt grateful because “I had to shop for seven hours.”
The sober musical “Jagged Little Pill”, which lets Alanis Morissette’s breakthrough album from 1995 come to tell a story of an American family who got out of control, came into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations. It won for best book, and Lauren Patten won the award for best actress in a musical.
“A Christmas Carol” cleaned up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was ready to accept any of the prizes.
Members of Broadway’s royalty – Norm Lewis, Kelli O’Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell – mourned the list of the dead, which included icons such as McNally, Harold Prince and Larry Kramer.
“Slave Play”, Jeremy O. Harris’ groundbreaking, exciting work that mixes race, sex, taboo and class, earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated piece in Tony’s history. But it won nothing.
Sunday’s show was expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald handing out Tony’s the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosted a “Broadway’s Back!” party for the second half with performances from the three top musicals.
The live special also included David Byrne and the cast of “American Utopia,” who played “Burning Down the House” to a standing and clapping crowd. Byrne told them they might not remember how to dance after such a long time, but they were welcome to try.
John Legend and the cast of “Ain’t Too Proud” performed “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and Josh Groban and Odom Jr. sang “Beautiful City” from “Godspell” and dedicated it to teachers. And Ben Platt and Anika Noni Rose sang “Move On” from “Sunday in the Park with George.”
The season’s nominations were drawn from only 18 qualified plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows the previous season. In most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with more exhausted.
The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to abruptly close on March 12, 2020, knocking out all shows and encrypting the spring season. Several have been restarted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton,” and “The Lion King.”
AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck contributed to this report.
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