Tony Awards 2019: Wheelchair-using actress Ali Stroker makes history; 'Hadestown' sweeps with 8 wins
"Hadestown" took home eight Tony awards, including best musical. Here's a look at the top moments from the 2019 Tony Awards. USA TODAY
NEW YORK — The Tony Awards went to hell Sunday night.
Critical favorite "Hadestown" was the belle of Broadway on theater's biggest night, taking home eight awards including best musical. "The Late Late Show" host James Corden returned to emcee the telecast on CBS that also saw major wins for the sexy, reimagined production of "Oklahoma," which picked up best revival, and Irish family drama "The Ferryman," winner of best play.
More major moments from the show:
'Hadestown' cleans up with eight awards, including rare win for female director
Thirteen years in the making, "Hadestown" is an inventive retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice that transplants the action to post-apocalyptic New Orleans and incorporates elements of jazz, soul and folk in its music. The show clinched eight of the 14 awards for which it was nominated, including best score, featured actor André De Shields and director Rachel Chavkin, the sole woman nominated in the field. Chavkin used her speech to call for more diversity behind the scenes, as well as in the people who review theater.
“I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway on season," she said. "There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color who are ready to go. And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment, too. This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be.”
Bryan Cranston dedicates award to "real journalists ... in pursuit of the truth"
As expected, the "Breaking Bad" star took home his second Tony for best actor in a play for his towering performance as unhinged newsman Howard Beale in "Network," a stage adaptation of the 1976 movie. Cranston endearingly thanked his wife, Robin Dearden, paraphrasing one of his character's famous lines: "(She) always encouraged me to be mad as hell every night, but just don't bring it home." He then dedicated his trophy "to all the real journalists around the world, both in the print media and also broadcast media, who are actually in the line of fire in pursuit of the truth. The media is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people."
Ali Stroker becomes first wheelchair-using actor to win a Tony
Shortly after stealing the show with her rollicking performance of "I Cain't Say No" with the cast of "Oklahoma," Stroker picked up best featured actress in a musical, becoming the first performer in a wheelchair ever to win a Tony. Smiling through tears, she earned a standing ovation as she wheeled onto the stage. "This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena," Stroker said. "You are.”
Speaking to journalists backstage, Stroker discussed the need for better accessibility for performers with disabilities in Broadway theaters. She also explained how "amazing" it feels to be a role model for people with disabilities, because "I didn't have that as an 11-year-old girl. I was looking to see, 'Who is there that is working and has made it that is in a wheelchair?' There was nobody."
Billy Porter wows in "gender-fluid evening suit" made from curtains
First the Met Gala, now the Tonys: The "Pose" has turned heads once again, walking the red carpet in an eye-popping red-and-pink velvet ensemble. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Porter's look was created by New York label Celestino Couture and is described as a "gender-fluid evening suit." Covered in 30,000 Swarovski crystals, the gown's material was made from a curtain used in Broadway musical "Kinky Boots," for which Porter won the best-actor Tony in 2013.
Tina Fey (jokingly) makes plea for gender-neutral awards shows
Corden's musical performances landed better than his jokes, but fortunately Fey was on hand to pick up his slack. Delivering one of the night's funnier moments at the top of the show, the "Mean Girls" writer took the stage with Jake Gyllenhaal to present the award for best featured actress in a play to Celia Keenan-Bolger for "To Kill a Mockingbird."
"In 2019, I don't know why an acting contest needs to be separated by genders," Fey said, earning laughs. "In 73 years, there should just be two acting categories: humans and puppets. … You know it takes eight guys to operate Bryan Cranston?" Gyllenhaal deadpanned: "How is that fair? I can't compete with that."