Tony Awards 2023: A Night of Unscripted Surprises and Historic Wins

With the absence of a scripted show, the Tony Awards broke new ground, delivering an unforgettable evening filled with historic triumphs, heartfelt acknowledgments, and a resounding message of solidarity.

The 76th annual Tony Awards took place amid an ongoing writers’ strike, resulting in a show that unfolded without a script. Host Ariana DeBose opened the night with an energetic performance, acknowledging the unique challenge of running an unscripted show. The telecasts, aired on Pluto and CBS, featured quick speeches, historic wins, live musical performances, and a vibrant atmosphere filled with dance.

The awards ceremony, held at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights, made history with its diverse and inclusive winners. “Kimberly Akimbo” was crowned Best Musical, “Leopoldstadt” won Best Play, and “Parade” received the award for Best Revival of a Musical. Renowned Hollywood figures such as Jodie Comer and Sean Hayes were also honored with trophies. The event concluded on schedule, keeping the audience captivated throughout the night.

Throughout the evening, winners and presenters expressed their support for the striking writers and highlighted the significance of their work. Tom Stoppard, winner of a Tony for “Leopoldstadt,” emphasized the value of writers, describing them as the “short end of the inverted pyramid.” Several nominees wore Writers Guild of America (WGA) pins, encouraging others to join the picket lines.

The occasion witnessed remarkable breakthroughs beyond the writers’ strike. Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history as the first openly nonbinary performers to accept Tony Awards. Newell’s portrayal in “Shucked” got them the prize, while Ghee was rewarded for their appearance in “Some Like It Hot.” Both actors used their acceptance speeches to celebrate their personalities and motivate others to achieve their aspirations.

Some of the winners also brought up social problems. Jodie Comer’s performance as a sexual assault survivor in “Prima Facie” garnered her the prize for best main actress in a play. She acknowledged her sense of duty in taking on the post. Michael Arden, the Best Director winner for “Parade,” expressed his support for the trans and non-binary community. Bonnie Milligan, who won Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “Kimberly Akimbo,” spoke on self-acceptance.

The Tony Awards also paid tribute to individuals who have made significant contributions to the theater community. Jerry Mitchell received the Isabelle Stevenson Award for his work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Jennifer Grey presented a lifetime achievement award to her father, Joel Grey, who expressed gratitude for the support he received throughout his career.

Despite the absence of a scripted show, the Tony Awards maintained their vibrancy and excitement. Lin-Manuel Miranda, originally set to write the opening number, chose to abstain in solidarity with the striking writers. Presenters relied on cue cards instead of teleprompters, adding a spontaneous element to their presentations.

This year’s Tony Awards served as a platform for celebration, support, and advocacy. The winners showcased the talent and diversity of the theater community while standing in solidarity with the writers’ strike. The show proved that even without a script, the magic of Broadway shines through, making it an unforgettable evening for all involved.

In the musical category, Patrick Marber won the award for Best Director of a Musical for his work on “Parade.” Bonnie Milligan was honored as the Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in “Kimberly Akimbo.” Michael Arden received the award for Best Director of a Musical for “Parade.”

Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” won Best Play in the play category, and Stoppard also won a Tony Award for his playwriting. Miriam Silverman took up the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her work in “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.” Jodie Comer, best recognized for her performance in “Killing Eve,” was honored for her Broadway debut in “Prima Facie.” Sean Hayes was named Best Actor in a Play for his depiction of Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar.”

Among the historic wins, Alex Newell became the first openly nonbinary actor to win a Tony Award for their performance in “Shucked.” J. Harrison Ghee also made history as the first nonbinary person to win a Tony Award for acting, recognized for their role in “Some Like It Hot.”

Overall, the 76th annual Tony Awards showcased the creative prowess of Broadway in the face of the ongoing writers’ strike. The unscripted telecasts, hosted by Ariana DeBose, featured quick speeches, live musical performances, and a vibrant display of dance. Despite the absence of a traditional script, the ceremony proceeded smoothly, honoring outstanding talent in both musicals and plays.

The Tony Awards, known for celebrating Broadway excellence, embraced the importance of writers and acknowledged the labor dispute. Many winners expressed solidarity with the Writers Guild of America, wearing WGA pins and using their acceptance speeches to advocate for fair compensation and recognition of the writers’ contributions.

With compelling performances and groundbreaking wins, the 76th annual Tony Awards demonstrated the resilience and creativity of the theater community. Broadway once again proved its ability to push boundaries and provide a platform for diverse voices to shine on the grand stage.

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