Best Director of a Musical winner Rachel Chavkin made a few heads turn at the Tonys when she brought attention to the fact that she was the only female director for the entire season and only the fourth in history to win the Tony in her category.
Broadway has gone out of its way to open the doors to actors of all stripes but women are still battling a glass ceiling when it comes to direction.
No one is more aware of that than Chavkin, who directed the multiple award-winning musical Hadestown.
“It’s pretty shocking,” she told reporters before the awards ceremony at a Hadestown press day.
“One of the oldest truths is that a woman or artist of color has to prove themselves, not just once, but multiple times, in a way that a special white man or mediocre white man may not have to,” she added.
In an evening that featured few surprises, Chavkin took the Tony Awards straight to Hell, with Hadestown winning eight trophies, including Best Musical.
“I worked on it for six years. It was wildly slow and profoundly organic,” she said at the show.
Though the ceremony offered few surprises, mouths dropped when Ain’t Too Proud choreographer Sergio Trujillo trumped front runner Warren Carlyle, who has been sweeping theater awards this season for his extraordinarily hot steps with Kiss Me, Kate.
Also surprising was Bertie Carvel’s win for his performance in Ink, an award which many prognosticators assumed would go to Benjamin Walker for his work in All My Sons.
Bryan Cranston took home an award for his inspiring performance in Network, beating Jeff Daniels for his acclaimed work in the critically applauded To Kill a Mockingbird.
Other winners in the acting categories included Ali Stroker (the first person in a wheelchair to win a Tony) and Andre De Shields, who won his first Tony after a stage career that began in 1969
Celia Keenan-Bolger, a four-time nominee, also won her first Tony for playing Scout in Mockingbird and Elaine May won her first Tony for The Waverly Gallery at the age of 87.
The winners reflected on the big night while recalling the memories and processes that got them there:
Bryan Cranston, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, Network:
On the possibility of doing more theatre:“I love it. It’s really the most fun and connective an actor can have. It drains the hell out of me because I seem to be attracted to really damaged characters. I keep thinking of comedy where I’d be sipping tea or something and I think, ‘That would be nice, just to sit around,’ but unless something really catches me and I sense a journey for someone, I am attracted to that damage. It all depends on the story, it’s not even the character. If the story of Network and the support and text wasn’t really great, it doesn’t matter what the character is, it really has to move me that way.”
On his acceptance speech in which he joked: ‘Finally, a straight, old, white man gets a break!’ I embrace and rejoice in what’s happening here. I think this is a siren call to arrest the country. They must be going apeshit right now. We in the creative community, we just throw our arms around all of this. But it does take more producers and investors to be able to say, “I’m going to put my money behind this person and this risky show.” Many times you will see Broadway productions being risk averse.
“It’s absurd to think the media is the enemy of the people and if that message keeps getting propagated over and over again sometimes it starts to seep in, and the perception of the truth is often more important than the truth. Because if people believe it, it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. They believe it. So the opposite message has to continue to be put out there, whether it’s diversity, whether it’s the fight against media, whether it’s women’s reproductive rights, whether it’s voting rights, it’s important to keep sounding the alarm.”
“I don’t read social media because I don’t need to be the recipient of a bombardment of negativity and vilification because I speak out on a lot of things. I want to speak my truth. If you don’t agree with it, that’s okay. I don’t think we want to make enemies of people with a different opinion.”
Stephanie J. Block, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, The Cher Show:
Cher is really proud of the show. She said it’s bringing so much joy in a time where some of us have some heavy hearts. She’s so authentically herself, whether it’s an email or a text message or in person. She translates the same and it’s just so beautifully authentic. I was a fan of [Cher’s] movies before I was a fan of her music. My parents watched Sonny and Cher so I can vaguely remember what that meant to our household. But to me, it was the Barbie.
It was seeing this sleek, long, dark-haired figure in a Barbie box in a gorgeous Bob Mackie gown. I went, “You know what, I feel like I resemble her much more than the other Barbies here.” That’s what truly drew my attention first. Then the movies, then music, and as odd as it sounds, as a friend. To go from Liza [Minelli] 15 years ago [in The Boy From Oz] to say ‘yes,’ again, to play another icon, maybe I’m a masochist, but here I stand. It was a good decision.
On winning the Tony: “You don’t work for the award, but it is always that hope, that wish, that dream, that goal. That little journal paper [I held on stage] was from 1984, and so to stand up there 30-something years later and to know that that actually happened, really brings me to my knees because there were so many times that I just thought New York was too much. It’s all too much. I quit this business at least twice each year and yet I still stand here because of the people who love me. I know it all takes endurance and tenacity. That was one of the reasons I said yes to playing Cher. Her tenacity, resilience and never giving up on what life throws at her has brought me here. I’m just so grateful.”
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play, To Kill a Mockingbird
Every step of [this process], has felt like if I just show up and do the work, then the fruits of the labor were rewarded. In this moment I feel enormously lucky.
So much of this had to do with what Aaron Sorkin did with this script. It was asking really good questions about our country’s relationship to race, where we come from and what morality and justice means.
This is the first time I’ve been nominated when I’ve had a four-year-old child, and so everything has been filtered through the lens of also being a parent and what his experience of reading To Kill a Mockingbird will be. I have been obsessed with Jean Louise Finch for as long as I can remember, but it’s also very much about this play and this cultural in this moment.
‘[This award] is enormously meaningful mostly because it is so tied to who I am and how my parents brought me up. My parents and my grandparents were such fighters for social justice. Someone asked me, “Do awards matter?” I said, “I’ll let you know when I get one.” Obviously, I’m pretty f**kin’ excited.”
Bertie Carvel, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Ink:
On the roles that he would like to take on next: “Exciting ones, things I’ve never done before. I’ve made a rule not to repeat myself. The problem with that is nobody recognizes you and you don’t get cast in things! [Ink] is a play about journalism, the state of it now, and the way we got here. I asked [Rupert Murdoch] what one thing he’d change [about Ink], and he said, “Nothing.” Art and journalism lead to truth.”
Bob Mackie, Best Costume Design of a Musical, The Cher Show:
“Broadway was always a goal. When I got out of school, I had no money, no coat. It was winter. I took my portfolio over to Paramount, I got hired that day. I kept going in Hollywood. When I was ten years old my uncle asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Bobby?” I said, “I want to be a costume designer on Broadway.” His eyes rolled back in his head and he walked away. Here I am, seventy years later, and I got my first Tony. I would love to design for another musical, but hopefully not one with bare tummies and too much glitter. I think I’ve done enough of that in my life.”
Robert Horn, Best Book of a Musical, Tootsie:
“[Tootsie] is a modern, old-fashioned musical, and it has been a while since we’ve had one. I loved having the opportunity to say that that genre still exists and that it’s important to Broadway.
On the creation of Tootsie: “We wanted to honor the DNA of the movie but we knew we had to update it and make it exist in the social times that we live in. You always have to ask yourself with a musical: ‘Why does it sing?’ By putting it in the world of musicals we answered that question. We had to make the female characters strong. In the movie, the character of Julie finds her empowerment through a man in a dress. We wanted to do the opposite. Our lead character finds his morality through the strong women in his world.”
On his next project: “I’m going to try to do plays, musicals, soap operas, all of it!”
Sergio Trujillo, Best Choreography, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations:
“I didn’t actually know the Temptations until I got to Toronto in the ’70s, and even then, it took me a while to really know their body of work. I wanted to do research of the period so I dove in and immersed myself in American Bandstand and anything I could get my hands on from that period. Even the day before opening night, I was still fine-tuning all of the choreography, and I felt like it was a step up to bat and I hit a homerun.”
On having original Temptation Otis Williams in the audience: “I owe this to Otis Williams and The Temptations. He’s taught us so much about tenacity and perseverance. He has been incredibly supportive throughout this whole process. He even said, ‘You know this move? That move? I’m going to steal it and put it into my show.’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’
Ali Stroker, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!:
“I have heard from a lot of young aspiring musicians, actors, singers and performers who have disabilities how exciting it is to see someone in a chair on Broadway and on television and working, and how it motivates them and inspires them to keep going. It makes me feel amazing to be that for them because I did not have that as an 11 year old pursuing this dream. I was looking to see who was working with a disability or in a wheelchair, and there was nobody.”
Ryan Murphy & David Stone, Best Revival of a Play, The Boys in the Band:
Ryan Murphy: On his play being filmed for Netflix: “This is the fiftieth year of this play. What I’m excited about is 165 million people all over the world will now have access to watch it. I remember being a really young guy and seeing The Boys in the Band on television; it was the only group of gay men I had ever seen. I’m just excited about the evolution of that idea and bringing it to a new audience.”
David Stone: On what has changed since the show opened fifty years ago: “Everything has changed and nothing has changed. What happens outside of that apartment has changed drastically, how we are accepted in society and culture. I think that the way gay men treated each other and the way they feel about themselves hasn’t necessarily changed.”
Ryan Murphy: “I think there’s a whole generation under us that’s much bolder about confronting discrimination, bias and hatred then I think my generation was. Social media has changed the way young people interact with the world and demand their rights.”
Rosemary Harris, Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater:
On being in My Fair Lady: “I’ve never been in a musical before. Learning about put-ins and tracks, they couldn’t have been kinder and sweeter and helped me. I’ll hopefully come back to New York. I want to be a New Yorker again.”
On what she enjoys most about theater: “The camaraderie and the friendships that you make. I don’t know another profession where you can just pick up where you left off.”
Andre De Shields, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Hadestown
“Knowing that I have received my first Tony Award, the golden dream, the best that Broadway can offer, I now realize that the greater work I want to achieve is ahead of me. My mother and my father had dreams of being performers; my mother wanted to dance; my father wanted to sing. When you see me dancing I’m using my mother, when you hear me sing I’m using my father’s voice. So this is that karmic debt paid in full. Now I can go about my next 73 years doing what satisfies Andre.”
On how he felt having heard that he had won the Tony: “I felt successful and a kind of completion because I wasn’t going to leave Broadway until they gave me what I thought I deserve. There are so many other adventures that I want to have. There’s so many other mountains that I want to climb. I gaze at the stars because the stars gaze at me, so every decision I make has to do with being a Capricorn, and of course, Capricorns are mountain climbers. So I am looking for my next peak.”
|The Complete 2019 Tony Award Nominees & Winners
Best Direction of a Play
Best Direction of a Musical
Best Book of a Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Best Scenic Design of a Play
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Best Costume Design of a Play
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre