Broadway’s Back…. and ready to give the audience what they want….. LIVE THEATRE! Sunday night was the 74th Annual Tony Awards and Broadway’s finest will be celebrated and honored once more with feeling. “We’re a little late, but we are here!” host Audra McDonald said at the top of the ceremony, taking place at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre. Its a great feeling to see the Tonys after Broadway and theatres around the world went dark in March 2020 to finally rise again like the phoenix just weeks ago.
Among the nominees this year, “Jagged Little Pill” leads with 15 Tony nominations, and right behind it is “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” with 14 nods. Last night awards truly delivered the goods with appearances by Broadway’s finest including legends Chita Rivera and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber announcing the Best Play which went to “The Inheritance”. It was clear that Broadway owns Sunday Night! Yesterday, I got to talk to some of the night’s big winners!
First up is Peter Hylenski, he won for Best Sound Design of a Musical for his work on Moulin Rouge! The Musical. I asked him “What advice would you give to anyone who would love to be a sound designer for a musical or a play?”
Perseverance, just stick with it. You never stop learning, get in there. Learn as much as you can. I really got to where I am with my mentors Jonathan Deans, Martin Levan & my dear friend Graham Carmichael who is no longer with us. They were so instrumental in where I am today. I owe this to them.
Next on the docket was Britton Smith. He accepts a Special Tony Award as president of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition! BAC is a nonprofit which was created to address the nation’s pandemic of racism and police brutality through the work of artists and community advocates, the award follows half a decade of racial justice and equity work on Broadway and throughout New York City. I asked him “How did it feel to get the Tony tonight and when did you realize that theatre was the craft for you?
I realized that theatre was the craft for me when I was in high school actually. I went to an arts high school and I went there for music. When I began realizing as a class clown that I actually telling stories and seeing an audience reacting to my thoughts and my ideas which lead me to theatre. I also found a group of weirdos who didn’t make me feel so weird for not loving the Dallas Cowboys and that is where I am from. So, I found my people when I found theatre.
Oh man, I feel overwhelmed… proud, affirmed. I feel seen by my ancestors foreseen by the spirit of freedom and liberation. I feel like Harriet Tubman is dancing in the clouds. I feel like people saw that the industry is excited to shift such an old history. I think that this award accept there is willingness to shift. So I am so proud of that I got to represent in a small way the shift that’s happening and will continue to happen. I am overwhelmed, man!
My final interview of the night was with Kenny Leon, the legendary director who helmed and accepted the Tony for Best Revival of a Play for “A Soldier’s Play” and I asked “You mentioned that your experience directing Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play at Roundabout was an amazing moment in time. With that in mind and your win tonight, can you emphasize on these special moments in time?
It almost seem like you know we have an insight into the future when we did that play and that play was all about America, those who served in the military, their love for this country, the whole idea that the whole ideal that people who knelt at sporting events were considered to not love their country. I did this play with twelve wonderful men and the play ends with this big image of the American flag with Black men saluting the audience as we hear Nipsey Hussle hip-hop tune.
So I married 1982, really 1940 since it took place in 1940, to 2020. Its even more important now given what happened right when we opened the play of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I just think that as artists, our job is to just really to impact the world through our storytelling. Like I was saying on stage, the more stories we hear, the more clearer we get to truth.
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees! Whether you’re in NYC, DMV or anywhere in the country and the world – support live theatre because ITS BACK!