Members of the LGBTQIA+ community certainly were in the spotlight at last night’s star-studded Tony Awards.
Three major queer triumphs included A Strange Loop, about a gay Black man trying to write a musical about a gay Black man—which won best musical; Company, which won best revival of a musical; and Take Me Out, which won the award for best revival of a play. Take Me Out featured gay icon Jesse Tyler Ferguson and a much talked about scene of full frontal male nudity. (Ferguson also picked up best supporting actor in a play.)
Company is notable for switching the gender of the protagonist (played by Katrina Lenk) and the recent passing of its creator, Stephen Sondheim, 91, who was arguably Broadway’s greatest gay trailblazer. Company’s Patti LuPone won for supporting actress in a musical (this is her third Tony), and LuPone’s co-star Matt Doyle, who is gay, picked up best supporting actor.
The Lehman Trilogy took out five Tony Awards, including the prize for the lead performance of Simon Russell Beale, who is gay.
The glitzy ceremony brought into context the past two years’ devastating pandemic for the theater arts. “What a season it’s been,” noted Tonys host award-winning Ariana Debose, who also dazzled in a powerful opening number. “For many of you it’s been a roller coaster – starts, stops, dramatic twists and turns,” she said, referring to the many losses due to the pandemic and false starts suffered with shows closing, trying to reopen, and the effort to bring Broadway — a fixture in so many queer folks’ lives — back.
Debose, who is a queer Black woman, also acknowledged the diversity brought to Broadway by the recent social justice movement and Black Lives Matter. A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson made an acceptance speech acknowledging the milestone of his timely win. “I felt unseen, I felt unheard, I felt misunderstood, and I just wanted to create a little bit of a life raft for myself as a Black gay man to try to just get through the day.”
In a sign of how times have changed on the “great white way,” mainstream megahit The Music Man gleaned six nominations but no wins, while stage veteran Angela Lansbury received a lifetime achievement award.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO, GLAAD welcomed the wins, stating: “With ‘A Strange Loop,’ Michael R. Jackson puts Black, queer stories center stage and GLAAD was beyond proud to be an investor to help bring this incredible and groundbreaking production to Broadway. ‘A Strange Loop,’ ‘Company,’ and ‘Take Me Out’ showcase the outstanding work of multiple LGBTQ artists and tell important stories about the lives of LGBTQ people with depth, nuance, and humanity. These productions winning top honors at this year’s Tony Awards is a key reminder that our stories matter and deserve recognition. As a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills sweep the nation today, creating and awarding authentic and deeply affecting stories is more crucial than ever before.”