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A Strange Loop, Billy Porter, and More Make the Tonys Gay

Chita Rivera and Ariana DeBose

Above: Tony Awards host Ariana DeBose (right) with Chita Rivera, who presented the Best Musical award. Rivera originated the role of Anita in West Side Story on Broadway, and DeBose won the Best Actress Oscar for the same role in the most recent film of the musical.  

It was a gloriously queer night Sunday at the 75th Tony Awards.

The ceremony was hosted by out performer Ariana DeBose, who starred in an opening number that spotlighted the contributions of many LGBTQ+ artists along with others, and several queer or inclusive productions won awards.

A Strange Loop, Michael R. Jackson’s musical about a queer Black man writing a musical about a queer Black man writing a musical, while working as a theater usher and being assailed by thoughts that threaten to undermine him, was nominated for 11 Tonys and won two, for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. Jackson wrote the book along with the music and lyrics.

“I started writing this miracle when I was 23 years old. I’m 41 years. I am old as hell. I brought it from the old lady’s house in the middle of Queens. I wrote it at a time when I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know how to move forward. I felt unseen. I felt unheard. I felt misunderstood,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to create a little bit of a life raft for myself as a Black gay man to just get through the day.”

L Morgan Lee, who plays one of the protagonist’s thoughts, was nominated for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a musical, becoming the first transgender actress nominated, although she did not win. The show had already had acclaimed productions off-Broadway and in Washington, D.C., and won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company, with protagonist Bobbie, a man in previous productions, rewritten as a woman, won for Best Revival of a Musical. In the revival, the various couples trying to push single Bobbie into marriage include a same-sex couple, and Matt Doyle, who plays one half of that couple, won for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. He thanked his longtime partner, Max Clayton, in accepting the award. Other winners for Company included Patti LuPone for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, in the role originated by Elaine Stritch, and director Marianne Elliott.

Bernadette Peters, who starred in many Sondheim shows, delivered a tribute to the composer-lyricist, who died in November, singing “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods.

Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg’s play about a gay pro baseball player, won for Best Revival of a Play, and out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson won Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for his performance in the production.

In an award presented before the nationally televised portion of the ceremony, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss won Best Score for Six: The Musical. Marlow is the first out nonbinary composer-lyricist to win. “It feels really amazing to be a part of a season where there’s so much queerness on stage explicitly,” Marlow said afterward, according to Playbill. “Queerness in the people, in the actors, in the creators of the shows. It feels really wonderful, and I really hope that with more and more queer people storming Broadway, in lots of new and different ways, that that’ll be reflected more and more in the shows we’re watching, because representation is pretty fab. Love the queers. Happy Pride!”

Adam Rigg, a nominee for Scenic Design of a Play for The Skin of Our Teeth, made history as the first out agender nominee. Es Devlin won in the category for The Lehman Trilogy.

Billy Porter performed in the In Memoriam segment, singing “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady to honor the Broadway artists who had died in the past year.

And the cast of the LGBTQ-inclusive 2007 musical Spring Awakening reunited onstage for a 15th anniversary performance.

See the full list of nominees and winners here.

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