Tony Awards telecast makes inclusive history and puts on quite a show despite Hollywood strike

by Gabriel Martinez
2023 Tony Awards

On Sunday, the heartwarming yet tragic musical “Kimberly Akimbo” emerged victorious over its high-profile competitors at the Tony Awards. This triumph occurred on a night that saw Broadway showcase its artistic prowess in the midst of the Hollywood writers’ strike, while also making strides in inclusivity with nonbinary actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell receiving awards.

Composed by Jeanine Tesori and penned by David Lindsay-Abaire, “Kimberly Akimbo” follows a teenager suffering from a unique genetic disorder, who navigates life in a dysfunctional family and high school romance, all with a life expectancy of just 16 years. Victoria Clark, who leads the show, secured her second Tony, following her initial win in 2005 for “The Light in the Piazza.”

The musical’s producer, David Stone, praised the writing team for their captivating creation, describing “Kimberly Akimbo” as an enlightening, profound, and joyous musical comedy, examining life’s fragility. The show dominated the awards with five wins, including best book and score.

Earlier, the Tony Awards made history when Newell and Ghee became the first nonbinary individuals to win Tonys for acting. This followed last year’s achievement by Toby Marlow of “Six”, the first nonbinary Tony winner.

Ghee, the lead actor in the musical “Some Like It Hot”, thanked their incredible team and the humanity shown to them. Their performance as a musician evading gangsters, who experiences a transformation after trying on a dress, was a standout of the night.

Newell’s portrayal of Lulu, a self-reliant whiskey distiller in “Shucked”, also won them a Tony. Known for their unforgettable number, “Independently Owned”, Newell encouraged anyone feeling marginalized to believe in their potential.

Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt”, a play exploring Jewish identity, claimed the best play award and also saw director Patrick Marber, actor Brandon Uranowitz, and costume designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel recognized for their work.

Second-time host Ariana DeBose started the show on an energetic note despite the writer’s strike leaving the celebration of theatre unscripted. The show saw support for the striking writers from winners, either on the red carpet or at the podium.

Other notable winners included three-time Emmy nominated Jodie Comer for “Prima Facie”, Sean Hayes for “Good Night, Oscar”, and Bonnie Milligan for “Kimberly Akimbo.” The night also saw Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Topdog/Underdog” recognized as the best play revival.

Before the main broadcast, a fast-paced pre-show was aired on Pluto, featuring the technical awards. Renowned composer John Kander was honored with a lifetime achievement award, and Joel Grey received the same honor from his daughter Jennifer Grey.

A highlight of the evening was the recognition of “Parade” for best musical revival, with director Michael Arden emphasizing its critical message. The show was staged at the United Palace Theatre, in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, marking a departure from the traditional Times Square location.

The broadcast featured performances from all nominated musicals, with Lea Michele and Will Swenson delivering memorable performances. Lin-Manuel Miranda humorously thanked everyone for making the journey uptown to Washington Heights, a setting familiar to fans of his musical, “In the Heights.”

This news piece was contributed to by AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck and Mark Kennedy. For additional coverage of the 2023 Tony Awards, visit https://bigbignews.net/tony-awards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about 2023 Tony Awards

What is the significance of the Tony Awards in 2023?

The 2023 Tony Awards was noteworthy for its strides in inclusivity, with J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell becoming the first nonbinary individuals to win Tonys for acting. This event occurred amid a Hollywood writers’ strike, which led to the ceremony being unscripted.

Who won the top awards at the 2023 Tony Awards?

“Kimberly Akimbo”, a musical exploring life’s fragility through a teenager’s perspective, won multiple awards, including the best musical award. The play “Leopoldstadt” won best play. J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell made history as the first nonbinary individuals to win Tony Awards for acting.

How was the show hosted given the Hollywood writers’ strike?

Second-time host Ariana DeBose handled the situation with aplomb, beginning the show with an energetic, unscripted opening number. This added a unique dynamic to the celebration, offering a jolt of electricity to what is typically a pre-determined and orderly event.

What were some of the standout speeches of the night?

Ghee and Newell both gave powerful acceptance speeches that highlighted their journey and the inclusivity strides made by the awards. Bonnie Milligan, who won for best featured actress in a musical for “Kimberly Akimbo,” delivered an inspiring message about body positivity and self-acceptance.

Who were the lifetime achievement awardees at the 2023 Tony Awards?

The lifetime achievement awards were bestowed upon John Kander, the composer behind landmark shows like “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” and “The Scottsboro Boys,” and Joel Grey, the star of “Cabaret.”

More about 2023 Tony Awards

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FrankOceansCousin June 12, 2023 - 6:07 am

Wow, Broadway really stepping up in inclusivity, huh? This is huge! Congrats to all the winners. But especially to Ghee and Newell, they’re breaking barriers, man.

TheatreLover98 June 12, 2023 - 6:07 am

I’ve heard great things bout Kimberly Akimbo, now I’ve got to see it myself. Also love that Bonnie Milligan’s speech got mentioned, it was so inspiring!

StageMom123 June 12, 2023 - 6:07 am

Being a fan of Killing Eve, was so thrilled to see Jodie Comer win! She’s truly an exceptional talent. Can’t wait to see more of her in Broadway!

PlaybillCollector June 12, 2023 - 6:07 am

History made at the Tonys! And in spite of the writer’s strike, what a show! Hats off to all the winners and nominees, they really put their hearts out there.

RazzleDazzle June 12, 2023 - 6:07 am

Sean Hayes won lead actor for “Good Night, Oscar”? That’s wild. Also his acceptance speech lol. gotta love a good pun!


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