,kimberly akimbo“A small-scale, big-hearted show about a teenage girl who copes with a life-shortening genetic condition and a dysfunctional family won the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical on Sunday night.
The award was presented at the end of an unusual Tony Awards ceremony that almost did not take place due to the ongoing screenwriters’ strike. The show was saved only by the intervention of a group of playwrights working in film and television: they persuaded the Writers Guild of America that it would be a mistake to be collateral damage to the struggling theater industry in a Hollywood-centered controversy, and without a sit-in K, end the broadcast with no scripted banter and no holds barred.
“I’m live and unscripted,” the ceremony’s returning host, Arianna DeBose, said at the beginning of the show, after an opening number that began with her backstage, paging through a binder labeled “script”. was full of blank pages, and then it was dancing. wordlessly through the theater and onto the stage. She then pointed to the absence of the teleprompter, offered her support for the strikers’ cause, and declared, “To anyone who thought last year was a bit haphazard, I say, ‘Dear, buckle up! ‘”
At one point, she looked at the words written on her forearm, and said, “I don’t know what these notes stand for, so please welcome whoever walks onstage next.”
The core elements of the awards show – acceptance speeches by award winners and songs performed by the cast of Broadway musicals – remained more or less intact. But the introductions to the shows and performances were mostly flashily shot videos rather than narrations by celebrities; The presenters spaced their comments very far apart, leaving much time for the unusually well-filmed production numbers.
The event included a pair of milestone victories: J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell became the first nonbinary actors to win Tony Awards in the acting categories, with Ghee as a musician on the lam in “Some Like It Hot” and Newell as Whiskey the Distiller in the musical comedy “Shaked”. “For every trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming human out there who was told you couldn’t be, you couldn’t be seen, this is for you,” Ghee said. Newell expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “Broadway, thank you for watching me.”
Last Fall’s production of “Topdog/Underdog,” Suzanne-Lori Parks’ 2001 tour de force about two black brothers laden with history and circumstance, won the Tony Award for Best Dramatic Revival. The play won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 but no Tony Award; Parks, while accepting this year’s Tonys, praised actors Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Corey Hawkins for “living at large in a world that often doesn’t want to like us” and added, “theater is the great cure.” Is.”
There was also star power. Jodie Comer, best known for playing a murderer in television’s “Killing Eve,” won best actress for her first major stage role, a gruesome, tour-de-force performance as a defense attorney , who becomes a victim of sexual assault. Assault in “prima facie”. And Shawn Hayes, best known for “Will & Grace,” won for playing depressed raconteur-pianist Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar.”
The night serves as a reminder of the growing concern about antisemitism in America and around the world, as “Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s terrifying drama following a family of Viennese Jews through the first half of the 20th century, won Best Drama won the award, and a new production of the 1998 show “Parade”, based on the early 20th-century lynching of a Jewish businessman in Georgia, won the award for Best Musical Revival.
“Leopoldstadt,” which won the best of three Pulitzer-winning plays to win a Tony, also won several other awards on Sunday night, including for its directors Patrick Marber and Brandon Uranowitz as best featured actors in a play. and who noted the personal nature of the production for the predominantly Jewish cast, said in his speech, “My forefathers, many of whom didn’t make it out of Poland, I also thank you.”
The victory of “Parade” cemented a remarkable rebirth for the show, which was not a success when it first opened on Broadway in 1998, but which this time is shaping up to be a hit, fueled by strong word-of-mouth and popularity. Thanks to its lead man, Ben Platt. The success of “Parade” also marks an important milestone for Jason Robert Brown, the musical’s composer, who is widely admired within the theater community, but whose Broadway productions have struggled commercially. Brown wrote the music and lyrics for “Parade”, and the book is by Alfred Uhry; Both men won Tonys in 1999 for their work on the show.
Michael Arden, who won a Tony for directing the “Parade” revival, said in his acceptance speech, “We must come together,” adding, “Or else we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.” Arden recalled how he was called a homophobic slur – the “F-word” – several times as a child, and he drew raucous cheers to retrieve the slur. He said, ‘Keep raising your voice.
But the night belonged to “Kimberly Akimbo”, the smallest and lowest-grossing of the five nominees in the Best Music category, but by far the best-reviewed, literally. unanimous praise from critics. (Pointing to the show’s anagram-loving subplot, New York Times critic Jesse Green suggested one of his own final downfalls: “Excellent cast = Best music.”)
The show, set in 1999 in Bergen County, New Jersey, stars 63-year-old Victoria Clark as Kimberly, a 16-year-old girl at age 15 who has a rare condition that causes her to age prematurely. Increases. Kimberly’s home life is a mess – father is a drunk, mother is a hypochondriac, and Aunt is a gleeful grifter – and her school life is complicated by her medical condition, but she learns to enjoy wherever she is. Clark won a Tony for her performance as Kimberly, and Bonnie Milligan won a Tony for her performance as Chachi.
“Kimberly Akimbo,” directed by Jessica Stone, begins its life with an Off Broadway production at the non-profit Atlantic Theater Company in the fall of 2021 and opens at the Booth Theater in November. It was written by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori, based on a play Lindsay-Abaire wrote in 2003. Lindsey-Abaire and Tesori both won Tony Awards for their work on Sunday Night.
The musical was capitalized to $7 million with only nine characters, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; This is a low budget for a musical on Broadway these days, when an increasing number of shows are costing more than $20 million to stage. The head producers are David Stone, one of Broadway’s most successful men as head producer of “Wicked”; It is the first time he has won a Tony Award for Best Musical, and he was also the lead producer of the Tony-winning “Topdog” revival.
The award for Best Musical is considered the most financially profitable Tony, typically boosting ticket sales. In winning the award, “Kimberly Akimbo” beat out four other nominated shows: “And Juliet,” “New York, New York,” “Shaked” and “Some Like It Hot.” None of the five nominated musicals have a smash hit, and four, including “Kimberly Akimbo”, have been losing money for most weeks.
The 2022-23 season, which ended last month, was a difficult one for new musicals: Broadway audiences were still down about 17 percent from pandemic levels, and those who did buy tickets gravitated toward established titles (such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” which sold strongly in the last months of its 35-year run) and big stars (notably Hugh Jackman in “The Music Man”, Sara Bareilles in “Into the Woods”, Lea Michele in “Funny Girl”) and Josh Groban in “Funny Girl” (“Sweeney Todd”). So this year’s Tonys ceremony took on even more significance than usual, with industry leaders hoping that a nationally televised spotlight on theaters would boost box office sales.
The ceremony featured not only musical performances by all nine nominated new musicals and musical revivals, but also a barn-burning performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Michele, a “Sweet Caroline” performance led by Neil’s cast. It was a single song. A song from the Diamond musical “A Beautiful Noise” and, as part of the In Memoriam segment, “The Phantom of the Opera” were sung by Joaquina Kalukango to acknowledge the show’s closing in April.
The Tonys, presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing and named after Antoinette Perry, presented lifetime achievement awards to two beloved non-politicians: Joel Grey, the 91-year-old actor who is best known for playing master of ceremonies on both Broadway and Broadway. More known. “Cabaret,” and the film version by 96-year-old composer John Kander, who wrote the music for “Cabaret” as well as “Chicago” and “New York, New York.” “I’m grateful for the music,” said Kander after being introduced by Lin-Manuel Miranda as “the kindest person in show business”. Gray was introduced by his daughter, actress Jennifer Gray; He sang a few words from the opening number of “Cabaret”.
“Oh my god, I love applause,” he said to thunderous applause.
sara bahr, Nancy Coleman And Matt Stevens Contributed reporting.