Tonys Latest | ‘A Strange Loop’ wins for best new musical

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on the Tony Awards (all times local):

11 p.m.

“A Strange Loop,” an utterly unforgettable, idiosyncratic trip into one man’s psyche, has won the best new musical Tony Award, beating more commercial fare.

Michael R. Jackson’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize drama winner is a theater meta-journey — a tuneful show about a Black gay man writing a show about a Black gay man. That show is also called “A Strange Loop.”

At its center is Usher, an unhappy playwright slumming as an usher at “The Lion King.” He is haunted by a Greek chorus of voices — his thoughts as well as homophobic family members — who pummel, undercut and berate him.

Jackson, who in real life was an usher at “The Lion King,” is also the songwriter, and he wrote the 18 songs within the Broadway tradition, a cocktail of rock and R&B, melded harmonies, ballads and belting.

“A Strange Loop” beat out “Girl From the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night,” “Paradise Square” and “Six: The Musical.”

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10:50 p.m.

Joaquina Kalukango has won the Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical.

Kalukango won for her work in “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish immigrants and Black Americans jostling to survive in New York City around the time of the Civil War.

Kalukango’s credits include Lifetime’s “The Mahalia Jackson Story,” starring her former “The Color Purple” castmate Danielle Brooks, and Amazon’s “One Night... in Miami” as Betty Shabazz.

She said her name means “established by God” and she gave thanks to God and her parents during her acceptance speech.

She was also in the ensemble of “Holler If Ya Hear Me” on Broadway and appeared in Ava DuVernay’s Exonerated Five miniseries “When They See Us.” She was Tony-nominated for Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking “Slave Play.”

For the Tony, she beat out Sharon D Clarke in “Caroline, or Change,” Carmen Cusack from “Flying Over Sunset,” Sutton Foster in “The Music Man” and Mare Winningham from “Girl From the North Country.”

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10:45 p.m.

Myles Frost has moonwalked away with the award for best lead actor in a musical for playing Michael Jackson and becomes the youngest solo winner in that category.

“MJ” represents the 22-year-old Frost’s Broadway debut as he plays Jackson with a high, whispery voice, a Lady Diana-like coquettishness and a fierce embrace of Jackson’s iconic dancing and singing style, right down to the rhythmic breathing and swiveling head.

Frost thanked his parents and sang during his acceptance speech.

Frost was raised by his mother in Fort Washington, Maryland. After high school, he put theater aside to pursue a career in music. He attended Belmont University in Nashville for two years to major in audio engineering. He transferred to Bowie State University in Maryland for his final two years.

The bio musical is stuffed with the King of Pop’s biggest hits, including “ABC,” “Black or White,” “Blame it on the Boogie,” “Bad,” “Billie Jean,” “Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “I’ll Be There.”

Frost beat Billy Crystal in “Mr. Saturday Night,” Hugh Jackman from “The Music Man,” Rob McClure in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Jaquel Spivey in “A Strange Loop.” Frost unseated Ben Platt as the youngest performer to win best leading man in a musical on his own for “Dear Evan Hansen.” (Three young men won for playing Billy Elliot in 2009).

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10:31 p.m.

Deirdre O’Connell has won the Tony Award for best actress in a play for her work in “Dana H.”

“Dana H.,” which has been described as “harrowing fugue state of a play,” is about a woman kidnapped by a former convict and member of a white supremacist brotherhood and held hostage for five months. It is written by Lucas Hnath and directed by Les Waters.

O’Connell never speaks in the play. Instead, she sits on a set that resembles a Florida motel room and lip-syncs to an edited recording of the survivor, Dana Higginbotham. In her acceptance speech, O’Connell said she wanted her award to be a “token” to those wondering if they should try to create something fort he theater.

O’Connell’s other Broadway credits include “Magic/Bird” and “The Front Page.” For the Tony, O’Connell beat Gabby Beans, LaChanze, Ruth Negga and Mary-Louise Parker.

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10:30 p.m.

Simon Russell Beale has won the Tony Award for best leading actor in a play for his work in “The Lehman Trilogy.”

Stefano Massini’s play about what led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers — adapted by Ben Power and directed by Sam Mendes — stars Adrian Lester and Adam Godley alongside Beale.

It’s Beale’s third time on Broadway, having made his debut in 2004 in “Jumpers” and returning to play King Arthur in “Spamalot.”

He has had roles in projects like the Christina Ricci horror flick “The Gathering,” the Michelle Williams dramatic adaptation “My Week With Marilyn” and the drama “The Deep Blue Sea” with Rachel Weisz.

For the Tony, Beale beat his “The Lehman Trilogy” co-stars — Godley and Lester — as well as David Morse in “How I Learned to Drive,” Sam Rockwell in “American Buffalo,” Ruben Santiago-Hudson in “Lackawanna Blues” and David Threlfall in “Hangmen.”

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10:15 p.m.

“The Lehman Trilogy,” which tells the story of an American financial giant’s downfall, has won best new play honors at the Tonys.

Stefano Massini’s play about what led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers — adapted by Ben Power and directed by Sam Mendes — stars Adrian Lester, Simon Russell Beale and Adam Godley.

Spanning 150 years and running three and a half hours, “The Lehman Trilogy” illustrates the trajectory of western capitalism by following the fortunes of a single family into the financial crash of 2008, when their Wall Street institution filed for bankruptcy.

The play first arrived at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre in 2018 and went on to have an off-Broadway run and then a West End bow. The English-language version is a marathon: Three actors doing 185 roles.

For the Tony, it beat “Clyde’s,” “Hangmen,” “The Minutes” and “Skeleton Crew.”

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9:45 p.m.

A revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” that gender-switches the lead character has won the Tony Award for best musical revival.

The show is an exploration of a single person’s conflicted feelings about commitment, traditionally focusing on a 35-year-old bachelor. This time, it had a bachelorette and the sexes of several couples swapped around.

The revival starred Katrina Lenk and Patti LuPone with direction from Marianne Elliott. The songs include “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Side by Side by Side” and the “Being Alive.”

For the Tony, it beat “The Music Man” and “Caroline, or Change.”

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9:15 p.m.

“Take Me out” won the Tony Award for best play in 2003 and this year has won it for best play revival.

Richard Greenberg’s Pulitzer Prize-nominee explores what happens when a Major League Baseball superstar comes out as gay, tracing the way it unsettles the team and unleashes toxic prejudices.

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams plays the star baller and Jesse Tyler Ferguson plays his unathletic gay accountant, Mason Marzac, a sweetly zealous convert to the game.

It beat out “American Buffalo,” “How I Learned to Drive,” “Trouble in Mind” and “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.”

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8:40 p.m.

Marianne Elliott has made Tony history by becoming the only woman to have won three Tonys for directing. The latest prize comes for her work on the Stephen Sondheim revival of “Company.”

The show is an exploration of a single person’s conflicted feelings about commitment, traditionally focusing on a 35-year-old bachelor. This time, it had a bachelorette and the sexes of several couples swapped around.

“Thank you, first and foremost to Stephen Sondheim for trusting me to tell his story in a different way and putting a woman front and center,” Elliott said while accepting the award.

She was an associate director at the National Theatre in the UK for 10 years, where she directed “Angels in America” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” — both of which transferred to Broadway — and she was a co-director of the international hit “War Horse.” She earned directing Tonys for “War Horse” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

For her third directing Tony, she beat Stephen Brackett of “A Strange Loop,” Conor McPherson from “Girl From the North Country,” Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage of “Six: The Musical” and Christopher Wheeldon from “MJ.”

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8:38 p.m.

Sam Mendes has won the Tony Award for best direction of a play for helming “The Lehman Trilogy.”

Mendes last won for directing “The Ferryman” and he has won for producing “Red,” “Take Me Out” and “The Real Thing.”

Stefano Massini’s “The Lehman Trilogy” — about what led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers — stars Adrian Lester and Adam Godley alongside Simon Russell Beale.

Among Mendes’s films are the James Bond installments “Skyfall” and “Spectre” and he won an Oscar for directing “American Beauty.” He also was nominated for “1917.”

For his latest Tony, Mendes beat Lileana Blain-Cruz of “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Camille A. Brown from “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” Neil Pepe of “American Buffalo” and Les Waters for “Dana H.”

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8:30 p.m.

Patti LuPone has won the third Tony of her illustrious career for her work in a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”

The show is an exploration of a single person’s conflicted feelings about commitment, traditionally focusing on a 35-year-old bachelor. This time, it had a bachelorette and the sexes of several couples swapped around.

LuPone plays Joanne, the acerbic character who sings the anthem “The Ladies Who Lunch.” She has had a long history with the character and this legendary song in particular, performing “Ladies Who Lunch” at Sondheim’s 80th birthday concert.

LuPone won her first Tony for “Evita,” earned two more nominations for revivals of “Anything Goes” and “Sweeney Todd” before winning her second prize in 2008 for her performance as Rose in “Gypsy.”

For the latest Tony, LuPone beat Jeannette Bayardelle in “Girl From the North Country,” Shoshana Bean in “Mr. Saturday Night,” Jayne Houdyshell from “The Music Man,” L Morgan Lee from “A Strange Loop” and Jennifer Simard in “Company.”

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8:10 p.m.

Host Ariana DeBose has kicked off the Tony Awards and Jesse Tyler Ferguson has won the first acting award of the night.

DeBose, wearing a sparkling white jumpsuit and wide-brimmed hat, danced and sang a song that mashed up shards of musical theater favorites, like “Chicago, “The Wiz,” “Evita,” “Rent,” “Hair,” “Cabaret,” “Hairspray” and “West Side Story,” the movie remake for which she won an Oscar.

Still panting while welcoming viewers, she told the crowd that this was the season “Broadway got it’s groove back.”

Moments later, Ferguson won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for his work in the revival of “Take Me Out.”

“I can’t believe I get to do this for a living,” Ferguson said, thanking his mother and father for letting him move to New York City to pursue his acting dream.

Richard Greenberg’s play is an exploration of what happens when a Major League Baseball superstar comes out as gay, tracing the way it unsettles the team and unleashes toxic prejudices. Ferguson plays the superstar’s unathletic gay accountant.

Ferguson, a five-time Emmy-nominated star of TV’s “Modern Family,” has had previous roles on Broadway, including “On the Town,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Fully Committed.” This is his first Tony.

Ferguson beat out Alfie Allen from “Hangmen,” Chuck Cooper in “Trouble in Mind,” Ron Cephas Jones from “Clyde’s” and two of his “Take Me Out” co-stars — Jesse Williams and Michael Oberholtzer.

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8 p.m.

Eleven Tony Awards were handed out Sunday before the main telecast, spreading trophies across seven shows.

“Six: The Musical” picked up awards for best score and costumes for a musical. The revival of “Company” nabbed best scenic design for a musical. Best orchestrations went to “Girl From the North Country.” And “The Lehman Trilogy” won for best scenic design of a play and lighting design of a play.

“The Skin of Our Teeth” won best costumes for a play, “MJ” won for choreography, best lighting of a musical and sound design of a musical and “Dana H.” won for sound design of a play.

The main event with host Ariana DeBose will start live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.

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7:15 p.m.

Darren Criss and Julianne Hough have kicked off a one-hour Tony Award celebration at Radio City Music Hall, handing out mostly technical awards like best scenic and lighting design on Paramount+.

Hough and Criss opened their portion of the telecast with his original song, “Set the Stage,” celebrating the artists who keep theater alive.

The first award of the night — for best score — went to “Six: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Marlow is the first out nonbinary composer-lyricist to win a Tony.

A total of eight design awards will be handed out along with best score, as well as the award for orchestrations and ending with choreography. The main event with host Ariana DeBose will start live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.

“A Strange Loop,” a theater meta-journey about a playwright writing a musical, goes into the telecast with a leading 11 Tony nominations. Right behind with 10 nominations each is “MJ,” a bio musical of the King of Pop, and “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish immigrants and Black Americans jostling to survive in New York City around the time of the Civil War.

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6:30 p.m.

It has taken playwright Michael R. Jackson almost two decades to take his musical “A Strange Loop” to Broadway and he says the recognition is a sort of validation.

“It feels wonderful. It feels like a real validation of all the time, the blood, the sweat, the tears we put into this piece. I’ve worked on this musical for almost 20 years, and so to be here after having stuck to my guns feels like such a validation,” Jackson said on the Tony red carpet.

In the musical, we meet the character Usher, an unhappy playwright slumming as an usher at “The Lion King.” Usher is haunted by a Greek chorus of voices — his thoughts as well as homophobic family members — who pummel, undercut and berate him. Jackson said there’s a little Usher in him.

“Usher is a character that I’ve certainly created to sort of deal with some things that I was thinking about. But he’s grown so far beyond that and I’ve grown so far beyond that,” he said. “Watching every night feels really exciting because I’m watching a piece of art that I started from like a really formative time, sort of really become something bigger than any sort of personal experience that I was having.”

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9 a.m.

Darren Criss’ favorite night of the year has arrived. It’s the Tony Awards. “I’ll never shut up about the Tonys. I love the Tonys,” he says.

Criss will not only be watching the Tonys on Sunday, he’ll also be working. He’s co-host with Julianne Hough of a one-hour pre-Tony celebration at Radio City Music Hall, and he’s even written an original song about the show that he’ll perform, revealing “a bit of my nerdy proclivities.”

Criss and Hough will be handing out creative arts Tonys on Paramount+ and then pass hosting duties to Ariana DeBose for the main three-hour telecast on CBS from the same stage, live coast to coast for the first time.