Hadestown honored with 8 Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway’s Biggest Night, while The Ferryman won 4 Awards, including Best Play.
By: Patrick Christiano
June 10, 2019: The 73rd Annual Tony Awards were presented at Radio City Music Hall in a ceremony hosted by James Corden and televised live on CBS. Possibly the biggest surprise of the evening was how handily Hadestown, a contemporary take on Greek mythology, nurtured by nonprofits,dominated the competition, The Prom, Tootsie, Beetlejuice, and Ain’t Too Proud, musicals developed by more commercial producers. Hadestown won 8 awards including Best Musical, Best Director, and Best Music & Lyrics. The Ferryman, a British import about a family in Northern Ireland, won 4 Awards, including Best Play, and Best Director. The remaining awards were spread around with four shows winning two and seven shows winning only a single award.
Hadestown was conceived six years ago by Anaïs Mitchell, a Vermont singer/songwriter, who fell in love with the mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, and created a musical, bus and truck version of the tale for her community theater. She then toured Vermont with the musical before the show premiered at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village. A London production followed with more development before finally coming to Broadway. Mitchell feels storytelling can be a balm for sadness and one of the songs from Hadestown, “Why We Build Walls,” was written long before Trump came to power demanding his wall on our Mexican border.
In her acceptance speech Anaïs Mitchell said, “I learned three things since the beginning. First, nobody does it alone, second, it takes a long time and three, it is worth it. This is an exciting time for Broadway with all kinds of things happening from alternate channels.”
Rachel Chavkin won Best Direction of a Musical fairly early in the evening giving Hadestown 3 early wins, a good indication the musical would probably take Broadway’s top prize.
The Ferryman, winner of Best Play, premiered in 2017 at London’s Royal Court moving to the Westend that Summer, before coming to Broadway with many actors from the original cast. Jez Butterworth, the playwright, upon accepting the award said, “I dedicate this to all those, who lost love ones during the struggles with the IRA.”
Bryan Cranston won his second Tony for Network, a stage adaptation of the classic film satire about television news. Cranston, who played Howard Beale, the “mad as hell” anchorman from the film said, “I would like to dedicate this to all the real journalists around the world, both in print and broadcast media, who are actually under attack for their support of the truth. They are not the enemy of the people, demigods are!
The winners for Best Actress and Best Actor in a Musical went to two popular favorites, Stephanie J. Block and Santino Fontana, respectively. Santino said, “Growing up in a small town the Tonys were incredibly important to me as a child. My grandmother had a fiery energy and I get to bring her into the room everyday with Tootsie.”
Stephanie J. Block, a winner with her third nomination, said, “I have always been a Theater nerd. I found a journal entry when I was a 13 year- old and it took 36 years to come into being. This is dedicated to my parents, who taught me to ‘Follow your heart.’ To my husband I want to say here in public, you are more than I deserve, and if you ever leave me, I’m going with you.” In the pressroom after her win she said, “I knew Cher first from her movies then her music. Many times, I thought this business was too much, and I thought of giving up. I am so grateful I didn’t.”
James Corden knocked it out of the park with the evening’s opening number, which featured many of the stars from nominated shows, before Jake Gyllenhaal and Tina Fey presented Best Featured Actress in a Play to Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird. Accepting she said, “I have loved the theater since I was 5 years old, so playing Scout Finch is amazing” The four-time nominee, winning on her forth try, said, “Harper Lee is the greatest literary author of all time, who was asking really-big questions about race. This play touches on the cultural moment we are living through right now”
Bertie Carvel, a 2013 nominee for Matilda the Musical, won Best Featured Actor in a play for his blazing performance as Rupert Murdoch in Ink. He said, “We actors are toxic like nuclear war-heads. Thank you to everyone, especially Manhattan Theater Club.” Elaine May, named Best Actress in a play for The
Waverly Gallery, first appeared on a Broadway stage in 1961 in the same venue that The Waverly Gallery was staged. She quipped, “I have never been nominated for an acting award before.”André De Shields,named Best Feature Actor in a Musical for his performance as the guide in Hadestown came onstage to thunderous applause and said, “Baltimore, Maryland are you listening. I promised you I would move to New York and become a success. I want to thank everyone, who loved me into consciousness. I have three rules I conduct my life by, one, surround yourself with people,who light up when they see you, two, go slowly, and three, the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.
Best Featured Actress in a Musical Ali Stroker won for her performance of Ado Annie, who can never say no, in Oklahoma! She was the first person ever nominated in a wheelchair, and she, too, was a popular winner. She said, “Iwant to thank my partner, who keeps reminding me to let my light shine, because I could never do this without my partner.”
Playwright Terrence McNally, winner of 4 previous Tony Awards, was given the Lifetime in the Theater Award. His appearance was a bit shocking. He came on stage with an oxygen pack hanging over his shoulder and said, “Not a moment too soon. If you haven’t been thrown you ain’t been rode.” Going on he said, “Theater changes the heart, that secret place where we all live. The dues you pay is your heart and soul and all of you. What we do matters. The world needs artists more than ever to remind us of truth and beauty. No one does it alone. Most of all playwrights. Most of all this one”
Before the television broadcast began awards were presented, off the air, in several categories. The first went to Rob Howell, who won two awards for his costumes and set design on The Ferryman. Bob Mackie won for his costumes for The Cher Show and quipped, “This is very encouraging for an 80- year-old.” Another early winner was Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, for his spot on and electrifying choreography. Best Book of a Musical went to Robert Horn, “Anybody can be a sword swallower once. I want to thank my husband, who says ‘For every action I have an equal and opposite reaction.’”
Here is a complete list of the winners.