By MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Darren Criss and Julianne Hough kicked off the four-hour Tony Awards celebration at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday night, handing out mostly design awards exclusively on Paramount+ streaming.
Criss opened the telecast with the original song, “Set the Stage,” as he and Hough energetically danced on ladders, on laundry baskets and on sliding theater seats to celebrate the artists who bring theater to life.
The night’s top prize — for best score — went to “Six: The Musical,” with music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Marlow is the first non-binary composer-lyricist to win a Tony.
Criss and Hough have one hour to hand out a total of eight technical awards for things like best lighting and sound design, as well as best score, orchestrations and choreography. They will then hand over hosting duties to Ariana DeBose for the main three-hour TV show on CBS and Paramount+ from the same stage, live coast-to-coast for the first time.
The season – with 34 new productions – represents a full return to theaters after nearly two years of pandemic-enforced shutdown. In the last Tonys nine months ago, winners were drawn from just 18 eligible plays and musicals, and many competitive categories were exhausted.
DeBose, the Tony-nominated theater veteran and Oscar-winner for “West Side Story,” said Broadway had to attend a party.
“I feel like if ever there was time, now is the time,” she said. “I think it’s a triumph to just have gotten to this point, to have made art and to have a show.”
The telecast will feature performances from this year’s Tony Award-nominated musicals including “A Strange Loop,” “Company,” “Girl from the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night”, “Music Man”, “Paradise Square” and “Six”. The original cast members of the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening” will also team up and perform.
“A Strange Loop,” a theatrical meta-journey about a playwright writing a musical, enters the show with 11 Tony nominations. Close behind with 10 nominations each are “MJ,” an organic musical by the King of Pop stuffed with his greatest hits, and “Paradise Square,” a musical about Irish immigrants and black Americans scrambling to survive. New York at the time of the Civil War.
The best actresses in a musical are Sharon D Clarke of the revival of “Caroline, or Change” and Joaquina Kalukango of “Paradise Square”. The best actor in a musical may be Jaquel Spivey of “A Strange Loop” against Myles Frost as the King of Pop in “MJ the Musical.”
“The Lehman Trilogy,” Stefano Massini’s play spanning 150 years about what led to the collapse of financial giant Lehman Brothers, is the top contender for Best New Game, while David Morse in a revival of ” How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel is the main contender for Best Actor in a Play. Her co-star, Mary-Louise Parker, could become the first actor to receive the Tonys for Best Actress in a Play back-to-back.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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