Call it an equal opportunity Tony Awards.
No single show dominated Broadway’s big night, with prizes split almost evenly among a handful of productions. “Kimberly Akimbo,” a quirky, smaller-scaled show that chronicles the story of a teenager who suffers from a disease that effectively traps her in an older person’s body, was named best musical, the evening’s most heralded honor.
But otherwise, the show captured a respectable but hardly record-breaking four other awards — namely, ones for Victoria Clark for lead actress in a musical, Bonnie Milligan for supporting actress, Jeanine Tesori for score and David Lindsay-Abaire for book. By contrast, “Hamilton” won a total of 11 awards when it competed in 2016.
Similarly, “Leopoldstadt,” legendary dramatist’s Tom Stoppard’s chronicle of a Jewish Viennese family before, during and after the Holocaust, was honored for best play, but didn’t sweep its way through all the other categories in which it was nominated. Still, it picked up wins for Brandon Uranowitz for best supporting actor, Patrick Marber for direction and Brigitte Reiffenstuel for costume design.
Other major winners: a production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog” was named best revival of a play and a production of Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade” was recognized for best revival of a musical.
This year’s Tony Awards ceremony, held at the United Palace theater in New York City, was significant on several other levels. For starters, it was an unscripted awards show — a situation borne from the fact that the Writers Guild of America is still on strike. The powers behind the Tony Awards worked out an agreement with the union to let the show proceed, but without the preamble and intros that usually accompany any awards program.
Still, there was a host — veteran actress Ariana DeBose — who acknowledged some of the awkwardness of the situation from the start, but also showed that, well, the show must go on.
“Darlings, buckle up!” DeBose said at the beginning of the main ceremony, which was seen on CBS and Paramount+.
It was also an occasion for Broadway to flex some of its muscle as it continues its recovery from the pandemic, which forced theaters to shut down for more than year. Shows grossed nearly $1.6 billion during the 2022-’23 season — a sizable figure, but still not equal to the record $1.8 billion that Broadway took in during the 2018-’19 season.
In addition, this marked the first time the Tonys recognized a non-binary performer with an award — actually, two performers, with J. Harrison Ghee of “Some Like It Hot” for best lead actor in a musical and Alex Newell of “Shucked” for best featured actor in a musical.
Newell gave one of the most emotional acceptance speeches of the night.
“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway,” Newell said. “I should not be up here as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face. That you can do anything you put your mind to.”