NEW YORK – The Biggest Night on Broadway returned with starry tributes, tearful speeches and lots of love.
After a downsized show last year due to COVID-19, the Tony Awards arrived at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday with a joyous ceremony hosted by theater veteran and Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”).
Stephen Sondheim’s gender-reversed Company and Stefano Massini’s financial epic The Lehman Trilogy led the awards with five Tonys each. Meanwhile, Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Strange Loop,” about a young black gay playwright, picked up Best Musical and Best Book awards.
Jennifer Hudson is a producer on “Loop” and achieved EGOT status with the show’s best music trophy, having now won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
Bernadette Peters brought viewers to tears with her moving performance in honor of the late composer Sondheim, singing his song “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods. And the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening, which also includes Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, nearly stole the show with their rousing rendition of “Touch Me” from the provocative hit musical.
Here are other highlights of the evening:
Full List of 2022 Tony Awards Winners: “A Strange Loop”, “The Lehman Trilogy” receive the highest awards on Broadway
Ariana DeBose on hosting the Tony Awards, why she doesn’t use her Oscar as a toilet paper holder
Billy Crystal sings Yiddish with Samuel L. Jackson
A string of musicals put on stellar performances guaranteed to sell tickets: Joaquina Kalukango, a newly crowned Tony winner for Best Actress in a Musical, blew up Radio City with her wildly emotional “Let It Burn” from Paradise Square. which was immediately rewarded with standing ovations from the audience. “MJ” and “Girl from the North Country” also thrilled with revised interpretations of popular Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan songs.
Crystal also made the most of his time on stage performing “A Little Joy” from his musical Mr. Saturday Night, in which he plays a seedy standup comedian named Buddy Young Jr. At one point, Crystal called the audience to jokingly scat-sing with him in Yiddish: walked over to Jackson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who both happily sang along and laughed along.
“If you liked me, I’m Buddy Young Jr.” said Crystal at the end of the performance. “In case you’re not sure, I’m Hugh Jackman!”
Laurence Fishburne stuns with random Daffy Duck impression
Between awards shows, DeBose wandered into the audience for some really hilarious banter with presenters and nominees: singing on Andrew Garfield’s lap while hugging her, and performing the Rich Man’s Frug dance from the musical Sweet Charity with Sam Rockwell 1969 on.
But the most memorable was when she walked up to Fishburne, who is starring in Broadway’s “American Buffalo,” sitting with his teenage daughter Delilah.
“Laurence Fishburne, he’s doing an amazing Daffy Duck,” DeBose said, holding a microphone in the actor’s face.
“Well, thank you very much and welcome to the Tony Awards,” Fishburne replied, voicing the Looney Tunes character perfectly while his horrified daughter looked on. “And thank you for your contribution to American theater.”
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His daughter’s hilarious reaction was an instant hit on social media. “Special award for Laurence Fishburne’s embarrassed daughter,” Twitter user @PaulArtSmith joked. “I need someone for a post-show interview with (her)” @jessemermell added.
Myles Frost tearfully pays tribute to his mother and the late Michael Jackson
Frost Moon-Walking walked away with Tony for best actor in a musical, beating out famous fellow nominees Hugh Jackman (“The Music Man”) and Billy Crystal (“Mr. Saturday Night”) for its spot-on portrayal of pop icon Michael Jackson .
“Ma, I did it,” said the 22-year-old newcomer, who danced to the stage and sang Jackson 5’s “Blame It On the Boogie” mid-speech. “I really need to pee right now, so I’ll make it short: Mom, I love you so, so much. I wouldn’t exist without you. You taught and showed me what a strong black woman is and what it means to raise a strong black man. I just pray I made you proud.”
He concluded his speech with a tribute to Jackson himself, saying, “I love you all and as Michael would say, with love heal the world.”
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Speaking backstage to reporters, Frost reflected on Jackson’s impact on pop culture, saying, “Black music culture is music culture, period. Michael was one of the pioneers of this, if not the greatest pioneer.” He was also asked what he would say to Jackson if given the opportunity.
“I would ask him, ‘How have I been? And what can I do better?’ ‘ said Frost. “I’m very hard on myself – that’s my mentality.”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson opens up about co-star’s nude leak backstage
The Modern Family favorite earned his first Tony for Best Actor in a Play for Take Me Out, which also won the Best Play Revival award. Ferguson, who plays the gay business executive of a fledgling baseball player on the show, was reminiscing about his early days working at a Times Square theater gift shop when he accepted the award.
“I sat in there and folded my ‘Phantom of the Opera’ t-shirts, watched actors walk past the windows and thought, ‘Oh God, I hope that’s me one day,'” Ferguson said in his speech before thanking his parents and husband, actor/producer Justin Mikita.
Backstage, Ferguson was asked if he was concerned that future theatergoers could invade his privacy after his co-star Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”) was illegally filmed during a nude scene by a bystander. The footage was later leaked online last month.
“’Take Me Out’ is a very unique game with shower scenes and celebrities. I don’t think those go together too often on stage,” Ferguson told reporters. “Maybe we’re going to see a surge in these plays now, who knows? But no. … I think that was an isolated event, and I love and trust all my theater fans just as much as I did before.”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson says he’s ‘appalled’ at leak of Jesse Williams naked in ‘Take Me Out’
“Consent is important”:Jesse Williams addresses leak of Broadway nude scene
Jennifer Hudson achieves EGOT status for “A Strange Loop”
Hudson secured EGOT status at last night’s Tony Awards after winning Best Musical for ‘A Strange Loop’.
The multihyphenate won a 2021 Daytime Emmy for the animated short Baba Yaga, her first 2009 Grammy for her self-titled album, a second 2017 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album for The Color Purple, and a 2007 Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls. .
Hudson joked in 2020 that if she achieves EGOT prestige, she “should get two more dogs.” The American Idol alum went on to explain that she named two of her dogs Oscar and Grammy before securing those awards, calling her furry friends “lucky charms.”
Patti LuPone revives viral meme as she accepts third Tony
The Broadway legend clinched her third Tony Sunday for Best Actress in a Musical for Company, having previously played Eva Peron in Evita and Mama Rose in Gypsy. In “Company,” she portrays the vodka-slinging Joanne belting out the Sondheim musical’s signature song, “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
In her speech, a visibly emotional LuPone, 73, paid tribute to “every understudy throughout the stage in New York,” as well as “all the COVID security guys.” She also made a playful reference to a viral video last month in which she berated a “Company” viewer for not wearing a mask, who then claimed to be paying the actress’ salary. (“Chris Harper pays my salary!” LuPone retorted, naming one of the show’s producers.)
“Chris Harper, who pays my salary, you are my one and only producer,” LuPone said as she wrapped up her Tonys speech.
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“I’m just saying, you don’t see this coming, do you?” Harper said of the viral phenomenon that has seen theater fans print his name on T-shirts for weeks. “The great thing about Patti is that you never know what’s going to happen. I love her so much. She is hilarious.”
Tony Awards 2022: Broadway’s Biggest Night in Photos