James Corden opened the 2019 Tony awards in New York with a 10-minute song and dance number about the joys of live theatre.
Ten minutes. We’ll let that sink in.
The night was dominated by the musical Hadestown, a modern retelling of a Greek myth, written by folk musician Anaïs Mitchell and adapted from her 2010 album of the same name.
Here are the key winners and moments from the ceremony:
1. James Corden kept things light-hearted
OK, we’re possibly being a bit harsh about James because the general consensus is that he did well on his second outing as the Tonys host.
The opening number was all about how live theatre will always trump television (well, except for budget and wages) and saw Corden joined by a host of performers.
“To be fair, their emergence from out from under his couch felt something like magic,” said Variety.
“That magic faded. As the number, fuelled on its journey into incoherence by more and more appearances from the various companies of nominated shows, ground on, it was deafening, enlightening.”
In his opening monologue which followed, Corden joked: “In my eyes, you’re all winners. However, statistically speaking, the majority of you will be losers,” before a light-hearted sequence where he got stars in the audience to practice their best losing face.
One particularly odd moment saw Corden halt proceedings as Bryan Cranston attempted to sneak off to the bathroom.
“I’m bloated as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” shouted Cranston, apeing his Tony award winning dialogue from Network.
The range of expressions in the audience, pictured above, says it all.
Another skit saw Corden, concerned with audience ratings, try and inject some controversy by asking performers to publicly air grievances about each other, which ended with Laura Linney squaring up to fellow actress Audra McDonald.
Funny, if a little forced.
2. More women directors are needed
Rachel Chavkin was the only woman director on Broadway this season, and took home the prize for best direction of a musical.
“I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway on season,” she said as she accepted one of Hadestown’s eight Tony awards.
“There’s so many women and artists of colour ready to go. It’s a failure of imagination by a field whose job it is to imagine how the world could be.”
Backstage, she furthered her point, asking: “First and foremost, who is the stories and what stories are we telling? I think inclusion is at the forefront; before we worry about fixing problems elsewhere, there has to be a lot of attention paid to our own backyard.”
The first woman to win best direction of a musical was Julie Taymor for The Lion King in 1998, 51 years after the first Tony award ceremony. Diane Paulus was the last women to win for Pippin in 2013.
3. Ali Stroker became the first Tony-winning wheelchair user
Actress Ali Stroker picked up the award for her role as Ado Annie in a revival of Oklahoma!.
She is the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony in the ceremony’s history.
In her acceptance speech, Stroker talked about how important it is to see people with disabilities on stage.
“This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are.”
4. Bryan Cranston and The Cher Show were among the winners
We can’t possibly fit in all the categories here, but the main winners included:
- Best play – The Ferryman
- Best musical – Hadestown
- Lead actor in a play – Bryan Cranston, Network
- Lead actress in a play – Elaine May, The Waverley Gallery
- Lead actor in a musical – Santino Fontana, Tootsie
- Lead actress in a musical – Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show
The full list of winners is available on the Tony Awards website.
5. There were some seriously on-point red carpet looks
Both guests and nominees went to town when it came to dressing up for American theatre’s big night.
The red carpet itself was pretty colourful – the LGBT rainbow flag was displayed in the background, a nod to Pride month.
Special mentions to British actress Cynthia Erivo, who also performed a show-stopping cover of Can You Feel the Love Tonight? from The Lion King to accompany the In Memoriam segment.
Also actor Billy Porter’s strong red carpet game continued. After his evening suit gown from the Oscars to the golden high priest of camp at the Met Gala, he stayed on form with a red velvet ensemble.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the floral pattern on the train of the “gender-fluid evening suit” was meant to portray female reproductive organs in support of women’s abortion rights while the red material was recycled from the curtain backdrop of the Broadway production of Kinky Boots.
6. There weren’t many surprises
“The races turned out to be as riveting as a TED talk about biodegradable paint,” reported the New York Post.
Most of the favourites in the night left Radio City Music Hall grasping their award.
In the acting categories, dead certs such as Elaine May and Bryan Cranston came through as expected.
There were a few snubs, such as the newly-opened Beetlejuice – a special effected laden musical which, the NY Post points out, lost out in the technical categories like set, lighting and sound design to Hadestown and its “few singling lamps, wooden tables and chairs”.
The Ferryman, written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes also performed well.
“I’m heartbroken not to be there – I am making a new movie in Scotland,” said Mendes. “To state the obvious, I’m utterly thrilled.”
In fact, the winners were so unsurprising, that the The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg successfully predicted all 17 categories.
7. There was a clear winner of most moving speech
Seventy-three year old actor André DeShields offered his three rules of Life as he accepted his first ever Tony for his role as Hermes in Hadestown.
1. Surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when they see you coming.
2. Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.
3. The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.
Good advice for us all.