Matthew Murphy / Boneau / Bryan-Brown via AP
NEW YORK – “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyper-active 2001 film, won the crown for best new musical at the Tony Awards one Sunday night as Broadway looked back for watch the honor shows closed by COVID-19, lamenting their downfall and also looking forward to welcoming the public again.
The show about what happens in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes such as “Single Ladies” and “Firework” along with the smash 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 for the past 18 months, it feels strange to be considered the best. He dedicated the award to each show that closed, opened, almost opened, or was lucky enough to be reborn.
Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance” was named best new play, and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” won the play’s best revival award.
Lopez’s two-part, seven-hour epic uses “Howards End” as the starting point for a work that explores gay life in the early 21st century. It also scored wins for Andrew Burnap for Best Actor in a Play, Stephen Daldry for Best Director, and Lois Smith for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play.
Thomas Kirdahy, a producer, dedicated the award to her late husband, playwright Terrence McNally. Lopez, the first Latino writer to win in the category, called for more works from the Latino community to be produced. “We have so many stories within us that we yearn to come out. Let us tell you our stories,” he said.
The broadcast delayed by the pandemic began with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” by the original Broadway cast members of “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 to a masked and appreciative audience in a packed Winter Garden Theater. Host Audra McDonald received a standing ovation when she took the stage. “Can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for set design, costumes, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and an acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best director of a musical.
To no one’s surprise, Aaron Tveit won Best Lead Actor in a Musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” That’s because he was the only person nominated in the category. He thanked a long list of people, including his parents, brother, agents, manager, and the cast and crew. “We are privileged to be able to do this,” he said through tears. “Because what we do changes people’s lives.”
Burstein, who won for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and had not won six times before, thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after his wife’s death last year. Rebecca Luker. “You were there for us, whether you sent a note or your love, you sent your prayers, you sent bagels, it meant a lot to us and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
David Alan Grier won Outstanding Actor in a Play for his role in “A Soldier’s Play,” which explores deep-rooted racism between blacks and whites, as well as internal divisions in the black military community during World War II. “For my other nominees: Tough bananas, I won,” he said. On stage, director Kenny Leon recited the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, killed by the police. “We will never, ever forget you.”
Adrienne Warren won the Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her electric performance as Tina Turner in “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.” Warren was considered the favorite for the award thanks to becoming a fireball of energy and euphoria from a single woman. She dedicated the victory to three members of the family she lost while playing Turner, and she thanked Turner herself.
Mary-Louise Parker won her second Tony Award for Best Leading Actress, winning for playing a Yale teacher who treasures great literature but has left no room in her life for someone to share that love with on “The Sound Inside.” . He thanked his dog, whom he was walking in the rain, when he ran into Mandy Greenfield of the Williamstown Theater Festival, who told him about the play.
Burnap made his Broadway debut in “The Inheritance.” He thanked his mom and the University of Rhode Island and joked that he was grateful that “I got to perform for seven hours.”
The sober musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which draws on Alanis Morissette’s great 1995 album to tell the story of an American family going out of control, reached the night with 15 Tony nominations. She won the award for best book and Lauren Patten won the award for best outstanding actress in a musical.
“A Christmas Carol” was cleaned up with five technical awards: stage design for a play, costumes, lighting, sound design, and score. No one from the production was present to accept any of the awards.
Broadway royalty Norm Lewis, Kelli O’Hara and Brian Stokes Mitchell lamented the list of the deceased, which included icons such as McNally, Harold Prince and Larry Kramer.
“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’s groundbreaking and invigorating work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, garnered a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history. But he won nothing.
Sunday’s show was expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald serving Tonys for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosting a “Broadway’s Back!” celebration of the second half with performances of the three main musicals.
The live special also featured David Byrne and the cast of “American Utopia” performing “Burning Down the House” to a standing and clapping crowd. Byrne told them that they might not remember how to dance after so long, but that they could give it a 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”, dedicating it to educators. And Ben Platt and Anika Noni Rose sang “Move On” from “Sunday in the Park with George.”
This season’s nominations were drawn from just 18 eligible plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows from the previous season. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with several sold out.
The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to shut down abruptly on March 12, 2020, eliminating all shows and fighting the spring season. Several have rebooted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”