We Were There! Culture Gal Caroline Cao Is Live From the 76th Tony Awards!

By   |   June 12, 2023   |   Entertainment
Victoria Clark and Justin Cooley in Tony-winning Kimberly Akimbo.

Last night was a big one for Broadway. The 76th Tony Awards had a new venue (United Palace in Washington Heights) and a new format—sort of. With the writer’s strike in full swing, there was no script provided for the show.

Our own Culture Gal was live in the press room. Here she gives us her take on the night!

At the start of the Tony ceremony, host Ariana DeBose flips through a blank script before she flies off to do a dance number. This sets the stage for an improvised Tony Awards as the Writers Guild of America strike (and leftover Canadian wildfire smog) permeates the air. Some presentations, like Shucked and Camelot, awkwardly mashed up their numbers expediently. “Independently-Owned” was just too fleeting for the likes of Alex Newell (lovable Lulu), Best Featured Actor winner of the corn-loving musical!

Wearing her best pink dress, Suzan-Lori Parks accepted the award for Best Revival of Play for Top Dog/Under Dog. The musical wins were plenty for Some Like It Hot. The Tonys Musical category has also broke ground with two non-binary actors. First, there’s Newell. Then there’s J. Harrison Ghee as the ravishing Daphne in Some Like It Hot as the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

Even single-song presentations like Sweeney Todd’s “Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd” ended up not showcasing its Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford. We want Mrs. Lovett! Best Scenic Design of a Musical Beowulf Boritt won for New York, New York. His stunning work with the fire escapes and handpainted backdrops is much grandly deserved because Boritt created a romanticized Big Apple.

There was a deserved Best Musical win for Kimberly Akimbo (pictured up top), a touching and funny musical about a teenager with a condition that ages her quickly into an elderly woman’s body. Victoria Clark, as the irascible and strong-willed Kimberly, took home the Best Lead Actress in a Musical prize. To complement this, Bonnie Mulligan totally stole that Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical as the jerkish, but somewhat likable Aunt Debra.

Leopoldstalt was favored to snag the Best Play, Best Director prizes and more, and it did just that. It is a wonderful sprawling play about a Jewish family processing assimilation as Nazism consumes their stability. However, my heart goes to the riskier and daring Ain’t No Mo. Written by and starring Jordan E. Cooper, the youngest Black playwright with a Broadway premiere at age 27, it was shut down too soon.

Parade ended up being one of the all-too-relevant revivals of the season, so the subject matter was adroitly handled by director Michael Arden, who won Best Direction of a Musical. His hands made the audience into a jury for the harrowing fictionalization of a grave injustice.

While many productions might suffer a sound mixing issue, Jonathan Tunick’s orchestration of Sweeney Todd and the heavenly sound of Into the Woods lent us some heaven. Best Orchestration went to Some Like It Hot and from the words of its orchestrator Bryan Carter: “First having an orchestra is a luxury for a new show. We hope our show inspires companies to have large orchestras.”

photo credit: Joan Marcus.


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