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2024 Tonys hand big awards to Daniel Radcliffe, Jeremy Strong, Danya Taymor and Shaina Taub
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2024 Tonys hand big awards to Daniel Radcliffe, Jeremy Strong, Danya Taymor and Shaina Taub

  • PublishedJune 17, 2024



NEW YORKAlicia Keys electrified the Tony Awards on Sunday, teaming up with superstar Jay-Z on their hit “Empire State of Mind,” while theater history was made for women as Broadway directors and score writers.

Danya Taymor — whose aunt is Julie Taymor, the first woman to win a Tony Award for directing a musical — became the 11th woman to win the award. She helmed “The Outsiders,” a gritty musical adaptation of the classic American young adult novel.

“Thank you to the great women who have lifted me up,” she said, naming producer Angelina Jolie among her list.

Then Shaina Taub, only the second woman in Broadway history to write, compose and star in a Broadway musical, won for best score, following such writers as Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori. Taub, the force behind “Suffs,” had already won for best book earlier in the night.

Her musical is about the heroic final years of the fight to allow women to vote, leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment. Taub told the crowd the score win was for all the loud girls out there: “Go for it,” she urged.

Keys appeared at the piano on the stage of the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center as the cast of her semi-autobiographical musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” was presenting a medley of songs. She began singing her and Jay-Z’s 2009 smash before leaving the stage to join the rapper on some interior steps to wild applause.

Host Ariana DeBose kicked off the telecast with an original, acrobatic number and Jeremy Strong took home the first big award of the night as Broadway’s biggest party opened its arms to hip-hop and rock fans.

Strong, the “Succession” star, landed his first Tony for his work in the revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 political play “An Enemy of the People.” The theater award for best lead actor in a play will sit next to his Emmy, Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe.

The play is about a public-minded doctor in a small town who discovers the water supply for the public spa is contaminated but his efforts to clean up the mess pit his ethics against political cowards.

“This play is a cry from the heart,” he said.

Kara Young, the first Black performer to be nominated for a Tony three consecutive years in a row, won this time as best featured actress in a play for “Purlie Victorious,” the story of a Black preacher’s scheme to reclaim his inheritance and win back his church from a plantation owner.

“Thank you to my ancestors,” she said, adding thanks to her mom and dad, brother, partner, cast, her co-star Leslie Odom Jr. and her director, Kenny Leon. She saved her last thanks to playwright Ossie Davis and his star Ruby Dee, who originated the role.

“Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe cemented his stage career pivot by winning a featured actor in a musical Tony, his first trophy in five Broadway shows. He won for the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim- George Furth musical that goes backward in time.

“This is one of the best experiences of my life,” Radcliffe said, thanking his cast and director. “I will never have it as good again.” He also thanked his parents for playing Sondheim in the car growing up.

Kecia Lewis, who plays a formidable piano teacher in “Hell’s Kitchen,” took home her first Tony. The 40-year veteran made her Broadway debut at 18 in the original company of “Dreamgirls” and endured amazing moments and heartbreak.

“This moment is the one I dreamed of for those 40 years,” she told the crowd. ”Don’t give up!”

DeBose, a three-time host, started with a nod to “Chicago” by holding up a newspaper with the headline, “She’s Back!!!” and then jumping into the original song “This Party’s for You,” which had a disco vibe with hip-hop elements and multiple acrobatic lifts.

The song was a cheer for those who sacrifice for their art and she took a gentle swipe at other entertainment types: “You’ll learn that film and TV can make you rich and make you famous. But theater will make you better.” She ended the song with a dramatic backward fall from a pillar.

“Stereophonic,” a play about a Fleetwood Mac-like band recording an album over a turbulent, life-changing year, was leading the Tony count with four, including for director Daniel Aukin and for actor-bassist Will Brill. Among those Brill thanked were his therapist and bass teacher.

What happened at the pre-show?

On the pre-show, the play “Stereophonic” and the musical “The Outsiders” each took two technical Tonys. “Stereophonic” won sound design for Ryan Rumery, while David Zinn’s work on the show won best scenic design of a play. “Stereophonic,” went into the night with a leading 13 Tony nominations, tied with “Hell’s Kitchen”

“The Outsiders” also won two pre-show Tonys: best sound design for Cody Spencer and best lighting design for Hana S. Kim and Brian MacDevitt.

Dede Ayite’s work on “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding” won best costume design of a play. Jonathan Tunick won best orchestrations for “Merrily We Roll Along” and Linda Cho earned the Tony for best costume design for a musical for “The Great Gatsby.” The best choreography award went to Justin Peck for “Illinoise.”

‘A time of transformation’

The awards cap a Broadway theater season that had something for everyone — fun musicals like “Back to the Future,” sweeping romance in “The Notebook,” political rallying cries like “Suffs” and intimate ensembles like “Mother Play” and “Appropriate.” Filipinos took center stage in “Here Lies Love” and autism was explored in ”How to Dance in Ohio.”

“I think it has been a year of real flexibility. I also think Broadway is in a time of transformation,” said DeBose in an interview days before the show. “A total of 36 productions opened on Broadway this season alone and each one spoke to a very different audience. I do believe that we are learning, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ So we are continuing to find our voice and who Broadway wants to be.”

Nicole Scherzinger will anchor the “In Memoriam” section and the late Chita Rivera will get a separate tribute from Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Bebe Neuwirth.

Some key awards to watch

Going into the night, two shows shared the most nominations with 13: a piano prodigy’s coming-of-age in “Hell’s Kitchen” and the back-and-forth struggles to create a rock album in the play “Stereophonic.” They are competing in different categories, best new musical and best new play.

Of the 26 competitive categories, two are virtual locks: “Stereophonic,” a critical and box office triumph, and “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim- George Furth musical that flopped when it premiered on Broadway in 1981 but is the strong favorite for best musical revival.

Looking to beat “Hell’s Kitchen” for the top new musical crown are “The Outsiders,” an adaptation of the beloved S. E. Hinton novel and Francis Ford Coppola film; “Illinoise,” the dance-heavy, dialogue-less stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 album “Illinois”; “Suffs,” based on the American suffragists of the early 20th century; and “Water for Elephants,” which combines Sara Gruen’s 2006 bestseller with circus elements.

Hoping to knock down “Stereophonic” are “Mother Play,” Paula Vogel’s look at a mother and her kids spanning 1964 to the 21st century; “Mary Jane,” Amy Herzog’s humanistic portrait of a divorced mother of a young boy with severe health issues; “Prayer for the French Republic,” Joshua Harmon’s sprawling family comedy-drama that deals with Zionism, religious fervency and antisemitism; and “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” Jocelyn Bioh’s comedy about the lives of West African women working at a salon.

The leading actress in a musical race is between veteran Kelli O’Hara in “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Hell’s Kitchen” newcomer Maleah Joi Moon. On the play side, Sarah Paulson from “Appropriate” is expected to win the best lead actress trophy over a challenge by Jessica Lange in “Mother Play.”

Jonathan Groff is the favorite to win best lead actor in a musical for “Merrily We Roll Along,” competing against Eddie Redmayne in “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club” and Brian d’Arcy James from “Days of Wine and Roses.”

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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More on the Tony Awards: https://apnews.com/hub/tony-awards

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.





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