The Best (and Teariest) Moments From Inside the 2019 Tony Awards

by Charles Manning

Last night, the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing celebrated the best of Broadway at 73rd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, hosted by James Corden and broadcast live on CBS. Hadestown and The Ferryman took home the top prizes of the night for Best Musical and Best Play, respectively, while Best Revival of a Musical went to Oklahoma! and Best Revival of a Play went to The Boys in The Band.

The cast and crew of “Hadestown” accepting the award for Best Musical (Getty Images)

The night was full of tender and teary moments, many of which did not make it to air. Before the live broadcast began, Robert Horn received the award for Best Book of a Musical for Tootsie. During his acceptance speech, he thanked his mother, who was seated in the back of the theater and stood up to thunderous applause. Joyful and overwhelmed, she was visibly shaking and crying, as was everyone in her immediate vicinity (this writer included) who witnessed her profound happiness up close.

Robert Horn (Getty Images)

Sergio Trujillo won the award for Best Choreography for Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. In his acceptance speech, he spoke about coming to America 20 years ago as an illegal immigrant and encouraged everyone listening to not give up on the American dream. Although the later part of his message made it into the broadcast, his confession about his former immigration status was edited out by CBS.

Sergio Trujillo (Getty Images)

Shortly after belting her heart out with an impressive rendition of “I Can’t Say No,” Ali Stoker won the award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in Oklahoma!. Stoker received a standing ovation for her win and used her time at the podium to encourage all physically disabled people to believe in themselves, to keep striving for what they want, and to see in her and her win a small sliver of the representation and recognition that is their due in the arts and the world at large. (And just like that, I was in tears all over again.)

Ali Stroker performing on stage at the Tony Awards (Getty Images)

Stephanie J. Block took home the award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for The Cher Show, thanking her husband, actor Sebastian Arcelus, for all his love and support and telling him from the stage “If you ever leave me, I’m coming with you!” (More tears.)

Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block (Getty Images)

André De Shields accepted the award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Hadestown, expressing his joy at coming to New York and making his hometown of Detroit proud.

André De Shields (Getty Images)

Hadestown also won the awards for Best Original Score, music and lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell, and Best Direction of a Musical, Rachel Chavkin. In her acceptance speech, Chavkin called out the lack of diversity in her category — she was the only woman nominated for Best Director and, indeed, the only woman to direct a musical on Broadway this season. “There are so many women and artists of color ready to go,” she said. “It’s a failure of imagination by a field whose job it is to imagine how the world could be.”

Other winners echoed Chavkin’s sentiments, including Hadestown‘s Bradley King, winner of the award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Bryan Cranston, who won Best Leading Actor in a Play for his work in Network.

Of course, the night wasn’t all tears and pathos. The casts of Tony nominated musicals The Prom, Beetlejuice, and The Cher Show, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, and Kiss Me, Kate definitley brought the fun. (Although, if I’m being completely honest, I did tear up again when Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen kissed at the end of The Prom cast’s performance. It was just so lovely!)

Isabelle McCalla, Caitlin Kinnunen, and the cast of The Prom performming on stage. (Getty Images)

The night also included fun moments only members of the live audience got to see, not least of which was an impromptu performance by Billy Porter of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy. During the commercial breaks, to keep the energy in the theater high, James Corden coerced audience members to engage in a little orchestra pit karaoke. “I didn’t come here to work tonight,” Porter joked in the middle of his song before ascending the main stage (everyone else did their performing from the audience).

There was also a funny moment when Anthony Ramos and Christopher Jackson did a duet of “96,000” from 2011’s In the Heights. Jackson originated the role of Benny on Broadway and Ramos takes on the part in the upcoming film version, but both of them stumbled over the line in the song about “Donald Trump and I on the links,” both of them making “ew” faces before cracking up. Don’t be surprised if that particular song sees a rewrite for the film.

The American Theater Wing also presented a number of special awards, including one to Judith Light, who received the Isabelle Stevenson Award for her activism in the fields of HIV/AIDS and the furtherment of LGBTQ+ equality.

Laura Linney, Ben Platt and Judith Light (Getty Images)

All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful night.

Check out more pictures below and click here to see a complete list of all the night’s winners.

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