A recap of the 74th Tony Awards


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Gabby Newton, Contributor

The triumphant return of Broadway has officially begun here in New York City, which means the Tonys are back too! On Sept. 26, the 74th annual Tony Awards aired live from the Winter Garden Theatre for the first time in two years. 

This year’s Tonys were split into two events, with the awards ceremony premiering on Paramount+, followed by a two-hour concert special on CBS, titled “Broadway’s Back!” The concert special was such a spectacle of artists performing with everything they had, as they had been neglected to perform for such a long time.

Hosting the Tonys and “Broadway’s Back!” was Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom Jr., respectively. Odom started off the night strong with an energetic and thrilling entrance to give a sneak peek into what the night entailed. As he walked through the aisles and everyone on stage danced their hearts out, you could feel the joy and energy through the screen.

There were three big reunions of iconic duos during the “Broadway’s Back!” segment. First was Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth singing “For Good” from the musical “Wicked”. As the song is already such an emotional performance, both singers were holding back tears throughout the song. The emotion you could feel through the words during this performance was chilling, showing how grateful the two were to finally be back on stage.

The second reunion was Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal singing “What You Own” from “Rent,” which brought a smile to your face, as it was so great to see these magnificent performers back in their element doing what they love. 

Last but certainly not least were Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell who brought the house down singing “Wheels of Dream” from “Ragtime”. This duet was outstanding and had the whole audience on their feet by the end of the song.

Seeing that “Moulin Rouge!” was one of the most talked-about musicals as of late, a performance from them was expected, and they delivered with flying colors. During this performance, your eyes were drawn in every direction. The cast truly put on an amazing show, giving the audience everything they had longed for this past year. 

Other notable performances included Adrienne Warren singing a medley of songs from “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” and the cast of “Jagged Little Pill” performing “Ironic” and “All I Really Want,” giving you a taste of their shows that left you wanting more. 

John Legend and the company of “Ain’t Too Proud” brought some beautiful soul and piano playing to the stage singing “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Soon after, Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson, Broadway’s power couple, brought real-life love and emotion to the song “You Matter To Me” from “Waitress.”

Ending the show strong and yet lighthearted was a summary of the show featuring several Broadway legends taking the stage with a freestyle rap. The collective thought viewers took away from watching these performances was no matter the emotion being expressed, everything was so strong that you could feel it through the screen.

It’s been a weird year for Broadway as the nominees reflected the pandemic’s effects on Broadway and really molded this year’s awards. Many of the plays and musicals unfortunately closed and haven’t made plans to reopen and many of the shows nominated were last seen over two years ago. However, the newcomer “Moulin Rouge!” took home 10 awards including Best Musical. 

“Moulin Rouge!” is a stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s grandiose 2001 film about love and deception, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris nightclub told through pop songs. Aaron Tveit, the lead actor in the show, won a Tony for Best Performance by Leading Actor in a Musical. He was the only one nominated in his category but still needed 60% of the votes to win the award. 

University freshman Allie Diane was actually outside the Winter Garden Theatre the night of the show and felt that “it was super cool that even though Aaron Tveit was the only one nominated, his reaction to winning still felt so genuine and emotional, especially during his speech.”

“Even after he left, he took the time on his way out to wave to us outside and thank us for congratulating him. I loved how he still made it special and a big deal even though he’s known he was going to win for so long,” Diane said.

“Moulin Rouge!” also had another actor win, with Danny Burstein winning his first Tony for Best Performance by Featured Actor in a Musical after seven nominations. In his speech, he remembered his wife who had passed away this past December and relayed his love for being able to act on Broadway.

While the acceptance speeches reflected the pandemic’s toll, they also highlighted serious issues that happened in 2020 and Broadway’s effects to fully open again. “A Soldier’s Play” director Kenny Leon named Breonna Taylor and George Floyd saying, “they will never be forgotten.” 

Alongside them, Broadway Advocacy Coalition received a special award and actor Daniel J. Watts emphasized how important social and racial justice is. While these issues were advocated at the Tonys, there was some controversy over one award.

The jukebox musical “Jagged Little Pill” originally drew outrage this year due to concerns over the character Jo, who was originally written to be gender non-conforming, but the creators changed the character to be a cis-gender woman and denied ever intending the character to be non-binary. Lauren Patten, who plays Jo, won the award for Best Performance by Featured Actress in a Musical.

University freshman Diana Mukoie-Carcamo put it very well by stating, “[Patten] is a good actress and belongs on Broadway, but this role just wasn’t for her because she is a cis-woman playing a non-binary role.” Hopefully, in the future, Broadway will make sure they listen to their audiences and make the necessary changes instead of denying them.

In a touching performance, Bernadette Peters and Brian Stokes Mitchell among others led a performance honoring those the theater community has lost since the last Tonys in a beautiful medley of Broadway’s most emotional tunes. 

Yet another beautiful moment was when Louis Smith who starred in “The Inheritance” became the oldest winning actress in Tony’s history, at 90 years old. 

All in all, this year’s Tony Awards was full of powerful moments remembering everything the audience had missed over the last year on Broadway. From performances that brought standing ovations to speeches that tugged at the heartstrings, these performers did what they couldn’t for the past year and left everything they had on stage.