If the last 74 years of Tony Awards ceremonies have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is a guarantee when it comes to predicting the winners. Following a Broadway season like no other, it's no surprise that the 75th annual celebration had several remarkable wins, a few upsets, and its own share of history makers.
Read on for some surprises and other breakout moments from this year's awards presentation.
Angela Lansbury Absent From Tony Ceremony
Yes, we know the great Angela Lansbury is 96, but we couldn’t help feeling let down that we didn’t get to see the beloved actor bask in the audience’s adoration for her decades of thrilling stage performances. There was a roar of applause when presenter (and former Sweeney Todd co-star) Len Cariou first mentioned the name of Broadway great Lansbury, this year’s recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. Lansbury previously received Tonys for her performances in the title role of Mame (1966 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical), Countess Aurelia in Dear World (1969 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical), Rose in the first Broadway revival of Gypsy (1975 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical), Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (1979 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical), and Madame Arcati in the most recent Broadway revival of Blithe Spirit (2009 Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play). Although Lansbury was not in attendance, Cariou and the Gay Men’s Chorus offered a heartfelt tribute to the stage icon.
A Strange Journey to Tony Gold
Already the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a slew of rave reviews, and the most Tony nominations of the season (11, including Best Musical), it seemed almost a sure thing that A Strange Loop would walk away from the evening with numerous Tony Awards. But it wasn’t until later in the evening that the powerful new musical picked up its first prize: Best Book of a Musical for its Pulitzer-winning composer, lyricist, and librettist, Michael R. Jackson, whose compelling musical centers on Usher, a young, Black, gay theatre writer grappling with his toxic inner thoughts while trying to write a musical about a young, Black, gay theatre writer grappling with his toxic inner thoughts. And, at the end of the night, the groundbreaking production picked up the coveted prize of Best Musical, presented by Broadway icon Chita Rivera. Just like Jackson's nearly 20-year journey getting A Strange Loop to Broadway, sometimes it's worth the wait—especially when you pick up two of the most prestigious Tony Awards.
Joaquina Kalukango Takes Home Paradise Square’s Only Trophy
Paradise Square, a powerful musical take on the rich story of Irish immigrants and Black Americans living in New York City during the Civil War, was a leader of the 2022 Tony nominations pack. In fact, the show’s 10 nods fell just one short of A Strange Loop’s 11 and tied with MJ. But despite Paradise Square’s many shots at a win, only Lead Actress Joaquina Kalukango was able to seal the deal for her moving performance. Kalukango’s win, it should be noted, was one of the most warmly received of the night, coming on the heels of her showstopping performance of the musical’s “Let it Burn” that garnered a mid-ceremony standing ovation. After her name was read, Kalukango was joyfully welcomed onstage by former The Color Purple co-stars Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks.
Marianne Elliott’s History-Making Third Win
Marianne Elliott, director of the 2022 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, made history when she won for her work on that Tony-winning revival. In that moment, Elliott, who is also a successful producer, became the first woman in history to receive three Tony Awards for Best Direction. Elliott, in fact, is doubling down on this historic feat, having previously become the first woman with two directing wins for 2011’s War Horse and 2015’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. And, Elliott’s award was far from Company’s only recognition at the 2022 awards. In total, her revival garnered 5 wins, tying with The Lehman Trilogy for most-decorated production.
Myles Frost Makes Tony Awards History
Myles Frost’s win as Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance in the title role of MJ, The Musical was hardly a surprise; Frost was favored to win going into last night’s ceremony, and his performance is both a stunning tour de force and a Broadway debut, a frequently powerful combination when it comes to Tony Awards. However, Frost’s win was historic and surprising in another way—he becomes the youngest solo winner (as opposed to the 2009 joint win for Billy Elliot’s David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish—15, 14, and 15, respectively) to win Best Leading Actor in a Musical at just 22 years old. Frost takes this mantle from Ben Platt, whose 2017 win in the category for his own title role performance in Dear Evan Hansen came when Platt was 23.
No Splits Here
Conventional wisdom states that when more than one actor from the same production is nominated in the same category, the vote is liable to get too evenly split between them to deliver a win for any nominee from that show. Luckily for both Simon Russell Beale of The Lehman Trilogy and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Take Me Out, that did not bear out at this year’s Tonys. Beale was nominated alongside his Lehman co-stars Adam Godley and Adrian Lester and Ferguson alongside co-stars Jesse Williams and Michael Oberholtzer—and both still came out with the win. Beale's category, Best Leading Actor in a Play, gave voters no less than seven nominees to choose from, making his win even more remarkable. Given the circumstances, Beale and Ferguson’s wins likely indicate a greater consensus among this year’s Tony voters than one would expect.