What do you get when you put Sutton Foster, Patti Lupone, and enough Stephen Sondheim references for a boozy drinking game at Radio City Music Hall during Pride Month? It’s the 75th Annual Tony Awards, of course. After a rough few years of COVID-related closures, Broadway had a lot to celebrate and it did in style with a star-studded party hosted by West Side Story star Ariana DeBose.
Not only were Hugh Jackman (The Music Man), Sam Rockwell (American Buffalo), Ruth Negga (Macbeth), Uzo Aduba (Clyde’s) and Billy Crystal (Mr. Saturday Night) all up for acting awards, but the world was on “EGOT” watch. Jennifer Hudson was nominated for her work as a producer on the hit Broadway show A Strange Loop—potentially unlocking the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony combination that would put her among a very elite crew.
Here’s what happened during the 75th Annual Tony Awards:
Best Nod to History: The opening number incorporated shows from Tony Awards history, weaving in key snippets of songs from the musical past in what felt like some sort of theatrical fever dream, with host Ariana DeBose as the lead.
Worst Decision: For some (not nearly good enough) reason, the Tony producers decided to give Angela Lansbury her Lifetime Achievement award in the pre-show—that is, the part that isn’t aired on TV. To be clear, the 96-year old icon wasn’t on-hand to receive the prize personally, but her accomplishments still deserved wider attention.
Best Back-Handed Compliment: DeBose applauded Broadway’s growing inclusivity with one zinger of a line in her intro: “The Great White Way is becoming more of a nickname than a how-to guide.”
Most Patti Lupone Moment: Patti Lupone won Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her part in Company—and then referenced the time she yelled at an audience member who wouldn’t wear a mask. Speaking of which…
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Worst Audience Member Award: Imagine being so rude to Patti Lupone that you become a meme. That’s what happened when an audience member refused to properly wear a mask during a post-performance Q&A at Company and Patti Lupone does not abide fools. When he dared to talk back, saying he paid her salary, she snapped back, “Chris Harper pays my salary!” Now, that moment has become a meme printed on t-shirts and mentioned at least three times during the Tony Awards—even by Chris Harper himself.
Best Family Affair: Prince and Paris Jackson introduced the nominated play MJ.
Most Deserved Shout Out: Marcia Gay Harden took a moment to offer kudos to the 150 COVID safety managers who were in the audience as the guest of the Tonys. The show must go on, but only with them overseeing safety.
Best Cross-Cultural Moment: During a performance from Mr. Saturday Night Billy Crystal shoved a mic in Samuel L Jackson’s face and made him scat in Yiddish.
Talent Alert: Turns out that American Buffalo nominee (and Matrix legend) Laurence Fishburne can do a perfect Daffy Duck impression.
Best Enunciation: Phylicia Rashad earned her second Tony Award for her work in Skeleton Crew and used her time on stage to put on a master class in the very slow and careful enunciation that made her moment on stage even longer.
Read More: Inside Broadway’s Jubilant Homecoming
Most Self-Deprecating Moment: Anthony Edwards introduced a musical number from nominee Girl From The North Country, which stars his wife, Mare Winningham. During his intro, he casually mentioned that with COVID still rampaging through the country, when the production ran out of those all-important swings and understudies, he was asked to step up. As if Goose wouldn’t make an excellent addition to any cast!
Most Sondheim Tribute to Sondheim: Broadway legend Bernadette Peters came out to sing a Stephen Sondheim song (specifically “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods) as a way to honor the Broadway icon that is Stephen Sondheim. What could be more Sondheim than that?
Most Memorable Speech: Michael R. Jackson of A Strange Loop (a play about a Black gay writer writing a play about a Black gay writer) swooped on stage to accept his award for Best Book and told everyone cheering to “shut up, shut up, shut up” and then launched into a speech about building “a life raft for myself as a Black gay man,” wanting to see more of his own experience on stage, before ending with the exhortation “Never settle. Do your best.”
Best Costume Choice: The original cast of Spring Awakening reunited for a somber performance dressed in muted shades of black and grey. Then Skylar Astin appeared onstage in a sequined tuxedo.
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Best Free Casting Tip: The next time anyone in Hollywood needs to cast a buddy comedy, they should look to former Angels in America co-stars Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield. Even Garfield could barely keep a straight face while Lane did his spiel on doing Jello shots with Chita Rivera, his love for men in velvet, and his musical about an exotic dancer with an eye twitch, a direct-to-video movie called, yes, Boom, Boom…Tick! Put these two in a buddy comedy, stat!
Most Inspirational Speech: “Please let me standing here be a little sign from the universe to make the weird art,” said first time Tony Award nominee and, now, winner Deirdre O’Connell for her performance in Dana H.
Most Emotional Moment: First Joaquina Kalukango made everyone get in touch with their feelings as tears streamed down her face while she performed “Let It Burn” from Paradise Square. Then, Billy Porter came out and sang a tribute to those lost over the year. It was all the emotion and drama we’ve come to expect from Broadway in one five minute segment.
Most Sportsmanlike Conduct: When Myles Frost took home the top prize for Best Performance by Leading Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Michael Jackson in MJ, the first person on his feet was A Strange Loop star Jaquel Spivey, who Frost had just beat out for the prize. Love the support!
Most Real Moment: “I really have to pee right now, so I’m going to keep it quick,” said Frost while accepting his award.
Best EGOT: Jennifer Hudson did it! When A Strange Loop took home the top prize for Best Musical, it meant that Hudson is now an EGOT winner.
Worst Mic Cut-off: When A Strange Loop writer Michael R. Jackson got to the mic for his acceptance speech, even with ten seconds left on the prompter, they cut him off and he just managed to eke out, “ok bye!” Let the man talk, he earned it!